Tag: psychology

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

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 […]

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 […]

Humans are Hardwired to Form Habits

Humans are Hardwired to Form Habits

After recently reading Neale Martin’s book titled “Habit: The 95% of Behavior Marketers Ignore”, I got to thinking about our digital habits. Specifically… regarding human habits:

Why do we continue using digital devices so much, even though we complain about them?

The Main Reason is two-fold:

Humans are hardwired to form habits. And habits are inherently hard to break.

Martin’s book explores why our brains are pre-wired to form habits, and explains how product teams often misunderstand the consumer’s decision-making process. More specifically, teams often ignore the importance of habit.

Over 90% of behaviors are driven by the unconscious mind.

Let that sink in for a minute… over 90%! This means the vast majority of our activities are done while our brains are on ‘auto-pilot’ mode. When teams loose sight of how habits drive consumer behavior, major missteps can occur.

Consider the recent example of Snapchat’s 2018 UX Redesign flop. The popular social media platform made headlines when its 2018 app redesign garnered negative publicity from celebrities and lost them 3 million users.

Without warning, Snapchat launched a complete overhaul of their user experience, leaving even the most savvy ‘snappers’ in the dark, with no helpful onscreen instructions or pre-launch announcements. (SOURCE: The Verge). 

Below we explore the concepts of the conscious and unconscious minds, why our brains are designed to create habits, and the roles of each mind in our decision-making.

A Matter of Survival

To understand how and why our brains build habits, we must leap back in time.

As homo sapiens evolved, the act of creating habits was actually a matter of survival.

It was imperative for homo sapiens to establish a regular food source, to recall which vegetation is poisonous, and to settle into a childrearing routine.

All of this ensured survival-of-the-fittest. And through that evolutionary process, some 200,000 years later we have the well-honed, habit-building machine called our modern-day human brain.

Flash forward to present day, with The Internet of Things, it’s clear why we have so quickly and so easily formed a digital addiction.

Our brains are naturally inclined to form habits. It’s part of our DNA.

As digital devices become increasingly enmeshed in our daily life, we reenforce these habits even faster and stronger.

Human Habit-Building

Sigmund Freud compared the entire mind to an iceberg, where the conscious mind is what we can see above the surface. This represents only a small 10% of the entire “iceberg” and is called the Executive Mind.

Picture the Executive Mind like the CEO calling all the shots (or so it thinks ;-). It drives our awareness and our conscious thought.

The remaining 90% of our mind is referred to as the Habitual Mind because it is where our habits are stored and reenforced over time.

Both minds are always with us, yet the unconscious is in ‘auto-pilot’ mode.

Because our Executive Mind is only 10%, it occupies precious real-estate in our brain. In order to free up that 10% powerhouse for complex pursuits, it’s constantly seeking to automate decisions that can be delegated over to the unconscious mind. 

In other words, to remain available for new experiences, thoughts, ideas, activities, our conscious brain is continually trying to “habit-ize” tasks and pass them off to the Habitual Mind. Because of this, consumers develop favorite brands, familiar TV channels, frequented stores, etc. 


This explains why some stores become massive successes and others flop. If a shopping experience is too complex, it will overburden the Executive Mind, and result in frustration, abandoned carts and other negative customer experiences. Getting started must be easy, and the customer’s journey flawless. This is how a human habit starts to form.

Omega vs. Delta Moments

We are creatures of habit. We dislike changes to our routine, which are known as our ‘Omega rules’. 

SIDE NOTE: Read our FOMO blog to learn about a habit-driven fear many suffer from today.

An Omega rule (human habit) represents a mental checklist we use regularly to stay productive and help make everyday decisions.

Often these rules are related to mundane or casual topics, and do not involve a strong emotional component.

Changes to our routine causes a disruption in our habitual pathways which is a Delta Moment. Here, the habitual auto-pilot mode switches off, and our oh-so-precious Executive Mind engages.


For Marketing Teams seeking to acquire new customers, we want to encourage situations where a Delta Moment can occur. On the flip side, if our goals are to retain existing customers, we want to nurture our customers’ Omega rules by making it easy to continually and expansively use our product or service. 

Nielsen Pyramid of Delta Vs. Omega Moments in Consumer Behavior-Human-Habit

Delta Moments are when conscious evaluation occurs and a customer is open to new choices. Because of that, Delta Moments occur at different times, for different segments, product categories and brands.

Understanding the nuances of your customer’s purchasing process, decision-making and habits are critical for Marketing and Product Teams.


Human habits, NOT conscious intention, drive at least 90% of our behavior. Our brain is constantly seeking efficiency of the minds. Make it easy for consumers to choose your brand, and to keep choosing you habitually.


Acquiring new customers requires catching their attention when they are likely to experience a Delta Moment, veering away from their habitual routine. 

How do you see consumer habits effecting your business? Comment below! I’d love to hear your experiences. You can also contact me here.

Featured Image by Anna Dziubinska on Unsplash