Author: michellepizzo

Clickbait Culture

Clickbait Culture

In a few short years, digital content standards have shifted dramatically. I recall back in the early 2000s, things were just starting to turn. At that time, there was still the expectation that most articles be fairly well-sourced, and thoroughly edited. But that swiftly changed. […]

What’s In A Logo?

What’s In A Logo?

If you drive a freeway stretch for any length of time, you’re bound to run into a McDonald’s billboard. It’s a popular marketing channel for the global fast-food chain. Last year, they surprised the advertising industry with a campaign that literally took the arch out […]

FOMO And The Modern Screenager

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 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 and other limited content creates urgency and drives engagement.
Photo Source:

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:

Popularity Rules

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. does a great job highlighting the popularity of their offerings, across various online assets:

Hotels-com-FOMO-Marketing-Examples does a great job showcasing demand in several places.

VIP Access

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).

Me First

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.

The #NoMakeupSelfie trend generated over 400,000 posts of user generated content on Instagram.

Micromoments Matter

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.

Some great examples of FOMO marketing tactics in action.

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!

Featured Image by Ben White on Unsplash

Maverick Jack’s

Maverick Jack’s

Helping a popular local restaurant chain boost their marketing to a whole new level Client: Jack’s Prime & Maverick Jack’s Industry: Restaurant Served Since: 2016 The relationship started by designing menus for Jack’s Prime, the chain’s first area restaurant. When it came time for the […]



What started with copywriting support, quickly expanded into complete marketing strategy & implementation services. Client Name: TurboCourt Industry: Technology Served Since: 2014 Website Strategy, Development, Design & Optimization When I first engaged with TurboCourt, they were challenged with multiple logos, overlapping websites, different brand names, […]

City of San Mateo

City of San Mateo

An evolving digital marketing strategy, including social media marketing, paid search, email marketing, and other digital and print promotional materials.

Client: The City of San Mateo (City Hall)

Industry: Local Government

Served since 2015

Brand Management & Strategy

Serving a local government such as the City of San Mateo, it was important to ensure their branding stayed consistent across all online and print assets.

Leveraging a recently re-designed website, we replicated that branding throughout various materials, such as email headers, flyers, and banners.

The following is a snapshot of their pre-existing City Hall website, which we did not design, but used as a style guide for future materials.

NOTE: I did not design this website. I used it to inform the design of future marketing materials and assets.

Working alongside a graphic designer and with copy provided by City Hall, we created the following assets. Each campaign had unique objectives, but still remaining true to the overall brand for the City of San Mateo.

State of the City 2019 Flyer & Ad Design Production Management
Examples of various marketing materials, branded cohesively, including a community-wide e-newsletter header image.

Social Media Community Engagement & Management

Social media was the first area we had the opportunity to engage with at San Mateo City Hall. It was a really fun project to take on, because they started with a considerably small audience and little engagement.

Through various enhancements, we reinvigorated their social profiles & were able to increase their organic likes by 5x year-over-year!

The new engagement strategy included:

  • Creating a schedule of posts
  • Collaborating across City Departments & Teams
  • On-brand, high quality photos & videos
  • Engaging themed posts, such as trivia, local history, holidays, etc.
  • Optimized Hashtag strategy
  • Better Mentions
  • Increased use of emojis and colloquial language

We garnered considerable, new attention and were able to create lasting engagement with a variety of audiences, including: constituents, neighboring city officials, local businesses.

Examples of social media posts and prominent mentions generated.

We also worked internally with City Hall Department Leaders to build consensus around strategy. We then rolled out new training resources and created a system to gather, edit, approve and publish exciting new content and vital updates to the San Mateo community.

Community Engagement & Copywriting

Throughout all the projects over the years of serving The City of San Mateo, copywriting and copyediting have become a consistent factor. Special care must be given to ensure content is accurate, appropriate, and accessible.

Regardless of communications channel, engaging with the community was a top priority. Through monitoring comments, shares and direct messages, we are responding with thoughtful, accurate information and creating a connection with the audience.

In order to build this trusting relationship with a city government’s social profile, it was vital to convey a human tone, and avoid an overly promotional nature. This is applicable across all materials, from official flyers, to social media posts and the responses to comments, questions or critiques.

Post for #NationalPetLoversDay that garnered considerable engagement

Through consistent monitoring and responding, all incoming comments and messages received prompt response with friendly follow up as needed, leveraging relationships with City Officials to gather the accurate answers, depending on the request.

In the PetLovers post from above, since we were asking commenters to “give up” an asset (the picture of their own pet), we felt our responses back needed to match that level of commitment. Therefore, instead of just “Liking” each comment (which is what will happen if a comment required lighter lifting), each commenter received a personal, human-sounding comment back, usually gushing about their adorable animal.

High-quality engagement generated between our brand and the audience.

Need some help?

Contact me here! I’m currently available for freelance, contract, part-time or full-time positions.

The Gaming Appeal

The Gaming Appeal

Recently, we started incorporating trivia questions into our client’s social media strategy, and the posts are performing consistently well, boosting our engagement metrics. As wife to a self-proclaimed ‘gamer’, it got me thinking about why gaming is so appealing? The popularity of gaming is nothing […]

Tobias Mortgage

Tobias Mortgage

Collaborating with a local mortgage broker to update materials and optimize digital marketing efforts. Client: Tobias Mortgage Industry: Real Estate Served Since: 2015 Website Strategy & Development Collaborating with the business owner and a graphic designer, I helped manage the new website strategy, design and […]

What Coworkers & Clients Are Saying

What Coworkers & Clients Are Saying

I love working with others and collaborating to achieve a common goal. Below are some quotes from a few of the lovely folks I’ve had the pleasure to work with:

Rebecca Zito, Client for 3 years

“Of all the contractors I have worked with, Michelle is the one that has added the most value to my marketing program. Her efforts have made my job easier and enhanced San Mateo’s digital marketing presence.

Michelle is a valued member of the marketing and communications program that I manage for the city of San Mateo. She works closely on the design of the blog and we saw traffic grow.”

Justin Bagatti, Co-worker for 2 years

“Michelle Pizzo is a fantastic marketer with a great grasp of customer messaging. I love working with Michelle. She has the ability to collaborate with an idea and drive it to a campaign that describes the solution to a non-technical audience. Super detailed and follow-up driven, she has been awesome to work with!”

Mike Dolloff, Co-worker for over 4 years

“I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Michelle for several years and have always been impressed with her thoroughness and great work ethic.

She quickly earns trust and admiration from clients, and is able to collaborate effectively with all departments in the company to help improve business processes and productivity. Michelle is a critical asset to the company and a pleasure to work with!”

Professor Jordan Holtzman, MBA

“[Michelle is] one of the very best students I ever had.  Smart, articulate, enthusiastic.  And a super-nice person too!”

Michelle Porterfield, Technology Partner for 5 years

“Michelle goes above and beyond your expectations and will do whatever it takes to accomplish the task at hand. She is always ready to lend a helping hand and I look forward to our continued working relationship.”

Jeff Palazzo, Sales Director & Boss for over 3 years

“Michelle has a well-deserved reputation for being extremely detail-oriented… and is the person to give something to if you want to get it done!

Michelle has a deep understanding of what kind of marketing activities lead to sales results. Michelle’s endless energy, can-do attitude, and commitment to clients are infectious. I thoroughly enjoy working with Michelle.”

Want to learn more?

Contact me here! I’m currently available for freelance, contract, part-time or full-time positions.

Is ‘Boundaries’ a Four-Letter Word?

Is ‘Boundaries’ a Four-Letter Word?

As Mum to an energetic 6-year old, I’m constantly working on setting boundaries. The latest challenge is a phase many other parents face: backtalk. Most kids go through this as a normal child development stage during their journey towards independence. The challenge as parents, is […]