Is Ethical FOMO Marketing Even Possible?

People are having fun without you.  

That pervasive idea lies at the core of Fear of Missing Out – or FOMO, as it’s more commonly called. Apprehension at being left out of the loop. Anxiety at missing out on a fun party or cool event. The constant concern that other people are having rewarding, fulfilling lives – and you aren’t. 

It’s a phenomenon that’s never been more widespread, largely thanks to social media. That isn’t a good thing. As noted by Psych Central, social media-induced FOMO can lead to some extremely unhealthy behaviors – it’s one of the many reasons that social media use has been directly linked to both depression and loneliness.  

People see the carefully-curated online lives of the people they follow and obsess over the fact that their own lives aren’t as exciting. They struggle with intense anxiety about not being a part of important events in the lives of their friends and family.  They feel sad about missing out on fulfilling life experiences. 

Envy. Jealousy. Sadness. These are emotions you do not want people to associate with your brand. Yet if you’re careless with how you leverage FOMO, they will – and many might dismiss your brand altogether for being so manipulative. 

See, modern consumers have been saturated with so many marketing messages that they’ve developed a very keen sense for when a brand is being disingenuous. If you’re being deceitful or manipulative with your marketing, it won’t take long for people to figure it out. At this point, you’re probably thinking that using something like FOMO in your marketing is, by definition, manipulative.

Is it even possible to be ethical with it?

Yes and no. 

FOMO marketing is all about creating a sense of urgency and exclusivity. The trick lies in achieving that without being disrespectful towards your audience. There are a few ways you can accomplish this, and most involve not actively trying to create a fear of missing out. 

  • Limited-time deals. Special sales, limited free shipping, early-purchaser discounts, and so on.  People won’t miss out on acquiring your products altogether – rather, they’ll miss out on a good deal. 
  • Exclusive offers for mailing list subscribers. People like feeling as though they’re on the ‘in’ with a brand – and the knowledge that they’re missing out on such a privilege will inevitably drive up subscriptions. 
  • Generate and produce consistent, compelling content.  The notion that they might miss out on the latest blog post or video will keep people coming back to your site. 

At the end of the day, emotional manipulation has no place in marketing. Today’s consumers are savvy enough that it no longer works. But perhaps more importantly, it shows a certain level of contempt for your customers that no business should ever display.

You cannot, after all, build a strong relationship with your audience if you hate them – and that’s what marketing is ultimately about.

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