The Psychology Behind FOMO and Why It Works

September 20, 2020 Mihaela Lica Butler

“Social selling expands on the age-old basics of getting to know your customers and meeting their needs.” 

Jon Ferrara, CEO, Nimble

Age old basics, as this pioneer and innovator of digital customer relationship management (CRM) so aptly suggested in this quote, are at the core of successful marketing. There’s nothing more basic than human instinct and inclination. This is where FOMO – or the fear of missing out – plays a huge role in getting digital conversions.

In the travel and hospitality sector the notion that someone else is getting that stellar “experience,” when you are not it’s an immensely powerful motivator. For hoteliers, the proper use of FOMO can be the difference between operating a good business and a spectacular business. The following report illustrates the underlying psychology behind FOMO and helpful hints as to how to apply these principles.

The Chemistry of FOMO

For us to grasp FOMO as a tool, it’s vital to understand the basic fear reflex as a primal motivational element. A poignant practical example we found exists in this Psychology Today article by Robert Evans Wilson Jr., who tells us fear is not just “a” motivator, but the most powerful motivator of all. To quote the author:

“Fear is a primal instinct that served us as cave dwellers and today.  It keeps us alive because if we survive a bad experience, we never forget how to avoid it in the future. Our most vivid memories are born in Fear. Adrenaline etches them into our brains.”  

This is not to suggest that hoteliers should create campaigns to terrify potential guests. Keep in mind that pressure selling can put you in hot water. However, the psychology of fear as a motivational tool is constant across a range of degrees and types of fears. The “degree” of FOMO we are discussing falls into the realm of discomfort instead of panic, at least for most people.

FOMO, leveraged to get people to book rooms, for instance, falls somewhere in between the discomfort that complacency elicits and outright envy. If we quantify FOMO correctly, the real power of the fear principle comes into view. Showing people how they are missing out on a “genuine value” is honest, and the truth is as powerful a motivator as fear.

To put this into a practical example, each of us has a friend, colleague, or relative who’s experienced something we have not. People are doing incredible things all around us, all the time. We see the trail of their experiences on TV, on YouTube, or on Instagram, and then we associate our own existence and feelings with perceptions we formulate. Put simply; we react by ignoring or giving in to the FOMO.

So, in marketing, the task is to tap into this universal human trait to get people to move in the right direction. The key is to motivate people to walk outside their comfort zone without driving them away with sensationalism and buzzwords. People can easily be motivated to push their boundaries but are less likely to respond positively to a perceived threat. Clinical psychologist, Anita Sanz touches on this in answering a question at the Quora community that was republished in Slate Magazine.

It turns out that there is a biological explanation for the FOMO response. Sanz explains by pointing to a specific part of the brain that controls this fear reflex:

“That specialized part of the brain is a part of the limbic system, the amygdala, whose job it is to detect whether something could be a threat to our survival. Not having vital information or getting the impression that one is not a part of the “in” group is enough for many individuals' amygdalas to engage the stress or activation response or the “fight or flight” response.”

Reading such reports takes us a long way toward understanding “herd mentality” and why social media and trends are so powerful these days. At the end of the day, the reason Facebook and Instagram are so popular is the fear that we will be left out. Thus, the world’s fascination with Facebook is biological, hardwired into our existence, at least in a way. This is the power all those Silicon Valley geniuses tapped into. The good news for hoteliers is the best strategies for leveraging FOMO can be emulated and duplicated over and over again.

Why We Use FOMO for Hotels?

With the psychology behind the complex in view, some FOMO statistics will help us understand its efficiency. Recent data tells us that FOMO is most effective when targeted for millennials. This Everbright study reveals that almost 70% of millennials demonstrate extreme anxiety over the fear of missing an experience. Furthermore, equally convincing research tells us that 60% of those millennials affected make reactive purchases:

“For millennials, FOMO is not just a cultural phenomenon, it’s an epidemic. Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) millennials experience FOMO. In a world where newsfeeds and social media broadcast what friends are experiencing, the fear of missing out propel millennials to show up, share and engage: a driving force behind the experience economy.”

With these kinds of numbers as a guide, hotel marketers are left with a two-dimensional task of just putting the offers in front of potential guests. However, as massive as this advantage is, the fact other demographics are similarly affected is promising indeed. Other research shows that more than half the people using social networks “suffer” from some degree of the FOMO.

The Fundamentals for Fomenting FOMO

Now that we understand the powerful, almost primal power FOMO can bring to our marketing efforts targeting various groups, some simple strategies for hoteliers are in order. First of all, hotel owners with one or one hundred properties do not have to reinvent the wheel. By emulating practices the OTAs (for instance) have already patented, the smallest hospitality concern can capitalize on the “shortage value” that is central to stimulating purchasing behavior.

Creating this sense of scarcity that urges potential guests to book more quickly should be built into all your hotel’s digital properties. From the website to the booking engine, Facebook to Twitter and email marketing there needs to be a cohesive nodule of FOMO. Installing this nodule is one of the easiest ways to create a successful FOMO effort. As an example, you can ask your booking engine provider to tag some room categories with FOMO messages once specific room categories reach pre-defined occupancy levels. Examples of texts you can use include:

  • Available for the first 20 reservations
  • Only 1 day remains
  • 15 people are watching this room type now
  • Only 5 rooms of this type left for these dates

Any marketing campaign based on FOMO fundamentals will, naturally, be replicated and supported across the hotel’s brand footing in social media, ads, content distribution, and PR as an integral component of communication.

Where content and buzz are concerned, the list of selling slogans is almost endless, but the takeaway for hoteliers marketing with FOMO is simple: experiences sell better than “things” in the digital/social world.

This is true mostly because of the amplification of communication through the internet and mobile have delivered to people across all demographics.  Now that we have a template for a successful FOMO campaign, stepping up your game is the next logical step – the soft-sell FOMO approach.

Smart FOMO Marketing

We’ve mentioned the adverse effects of overdoing FOMO briefly. The fear instinct being a negative reaction often leads to conversion failure when buyers are turned off. Smart marketing with FOMO demands a multifaceted approach powered by the soft-sell.

Instead of pounding potential guests over the head with their own fears, the best marketing endeavors assuage the FOMO. In other words, instead of causing people to panic attacks over what they will miss in their lives, campaigns need to offer to solve the problem.

Smart FOMO marketing should involve communicating information that helps potential customers finding their solution. This is about subtlety versus the steamrolling strategies some use. For instance, instead of SPAMMING an email list with the constant “Don’t miss out!” message, create informative content to distribute your owned, earned, and paid media. Simply put, just give your potential hotel guests what they need – brand yourself as T.H.E. solution.

This strategy is known as providing the guest with a “content lifeline” that binds them to your brand. This takes us into “brand storytelling” – a topic we will cover later on. For now, the potential of the right FOMO marketing plan is straightforward. If your hotel is not remedying the traveler’s fear of missing out, you need to reevaluate your overall marketing plan.

credit here https://www.visualistan.com/2017/11/fear-of-missing-out-fomo-infographic.html

 

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