FOMO And The Modern Screenager
In 2019, it’s expected that Millennials will outnumber Baby Boomers, which means they are quickly becoming the most powerful consumer group around (Pew Research). Millennials also represent one of the most challenging consumer groups to understand, not least of which is their suseptability to FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.
As Marketers, it’s our duty to comprehensively understand any audience we target. When we do this right, we also learn about their most intimate needs, wants, hopes and fears.
A consistent fear for most Millennials is the fear of missing out (“FOMO”): A pervasive concern that others are having a positive experience or benefit without them.
Understanding the Generations
Before we jump down the FOMO rabbit hole… First, let’s cover some definitions. I have always struggled to remember all the different generation names, let alone the date ranges for each (I mean… who can, right?)
So I did what any of us do when we wonder something… I Googled it.
Here’s a great table from Career Planner.com which defines each generation by name, and includes the respective age ranges (especially helpful when considering your buyer persona).
When comparing generations, we can see some stark contrasts… Especially with Millennials, who had a bulk of their childhood years take place before the Internet became mainstream.
They recall a life before technology ruled everything, yet they also came-of-age with smartphones and social media like second nature. Growing up in this unique instance in history, technology became a deeply engrained habit, with most Millennials feeling more comfortable with technology than without.
For more on the subject of human nature, and how it relates to Marketing, read my blog post about habit-formation.
Personal Brand Identities
Social media is a personal branding platform. These days, we often have multiple online profiles, and the combination of them all basically personifies us in “www” form. When we post positive things about ourselves, it feels good and we receive a feedback loop in the form of likes and comments from the people we care about most.
Then, of course there’s the concept of bragging rights. Millennials generally place a huge amount of value on events and memories, with notably less interest on physical items.
Socializing is often a high priority in a Millennial’s life. The photos and videos produced during these social encounters, becomes like currency, boosting their own online reputation and potentially triggering FOMO in others.
Instead of homeownership or fancy belongings, Millennials consider the social currency of the day (the thing that shows others how well you’re doing) is a memorable experience that, once posted, will garner a boatload of likes.
When viewing someone’s “highlight reels” online, it is common to draw comparisons to your own life. Most people avoid showing their low points. The constant barrage of braggadocious posts becomes overwhelming. Millennials are prime targets for feeling overwhelmed at being left out.
FOMO: Fear of Missing Out
We have all felt excluded, at one time or another. That is definitely NOT something unique to any generation. The important difference is one’s ability to recover from that feeling, and not let it consume their life.
Millennial’s are especially at risk of FOMO, having grown up with the since-failed parenting experiment deemed ‘Participation Trophies’. This approach suggested that all children should be rewarded, regardless of performance.
When kids grow up hearing constant praise independent of actual skill, this lowers the perceived standard of required effort. Doing so significantly disrupts the development of self-motivation. They don’t hone that internal desire to strive, and have trouble finding joy in working hard to achieve something.
Benjamin Sledge posted a great Medium article on the subject of Participation Trophies. He describes how the falsified feedback loop creates a dangerous combination of a “subconscious sense of entitlement” plus disruption in the development of resilience.
Rise of Short-Term Content
In terms of social media trends, we’re seeing a distinct rise in the popularity of temporary content (material that disappears after a certain expiration date/time). This Must-Act-Now approach creates a sense of urgency, and taps into the all-to-common FOMO (fear of missing out).
Instagram Stories are quickly becoming the most consumed content type on the platform (whether this is because of the internal algorithms, or just the inherent nature of what users want most, that’s still up for debate). This ephemeral style of storytelling is what some platforms, like Snapchat, are built on.
This method keeps users coming back for more. Habits become more deeply engrained with each additional view. Then of course, those habits are continuously reenforced in a viscous cycle.
For more on this subject, check out my other blog post: Humans are Hardwired to Form Habits
Marketing to Millennials
As mentioned in AdWeek’s recently published 5 Ways Marketers Can Successfully Leverage FOMO Amongst Millennials, there are some clear methods for tapping into this primal fear:
Displaying metrics, such as Likes, Views, and Comments creates a sense of popularity, and will entice others to join the conversation or purchase the same product.
Hotels.com does a great job highlighting the popularity of their offerings, across various online assets:
Special products, offers or time limits also creates a sense of exclusivity that will drive any FOMO’er to the shopping cart. But marketing teams should take caution, since being overly promotional can turn off a social media audience (And the more comfortable with technology, the more keen your bull**** meter).
We have a natural human tendency to want to win. When peers feel competitive, they are drawn to take action, especially when the achievement is associated with social status.
Keeping Up With Everyone
We all want to share our highlight reels, and we all want to feel included. Trends like the Ice Bucket Challenge, and #NoMakeUpSelfie capitalize on this social pressure, to garner new user generated content.
Making sure there are touch points throughout a user’s path, that catches their attention with FOMO-themed messaging, and encourages an activity in order to feel included.
Examples that can capture more leads include offer expiration dates, exit intent offers and in-screen popups at precise “micro-moments” when FOMO may be heightened.
Build Brand Connections
Regardless of the approach, if Millennials are part of your target audience, leveraging tactics that trigger FOMO can help drive the behavior you’re after and create lasting connections with your brand.
Do you recall feeling FOMO recently? If so, consider how that brand leveraged the above tactics to trigger it. Comment below to tell us about it!