The Fear of Missing Out: How to Harness the FOMO Effect in Marketing

The Fear of Missing Out: How to Harness the FOMO Effect in Marketing

Nadeem Manzoor, Director of Innovation & Analytics | January 18 2024

Have you ever scrolled through Instagram or TikTok and felt like the entire world is having fun? The average person spends 151 minutes a day on social media. Because of this, we are incredibly aware of how others are spending their time. 

In a world where social connections and shared experiences are an important part of our daily lives, the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) has become a powerful psychological force that influences our choices– personally and professionally. As we scroll through social media and platforms like Instagram and TikTok, the desire to be a part of something exclusive or to not miss out on the latest trend or experience has never been more recognizable. 

Can you relate to these scenarios?

You’re scrolling through social media, seeing your friends posting pictures from an epic weekend in Vegas while you sit at home in your pajamas. Next, you scroll across a limited-time offer that will tick away in 24 hours. Finally, your favorite influencer just got new sneakers and claims everyone “has to have them.” Each of these scenarios can induce a little uptick in uneasiness and anxiety. These are examples of FOMO, a phenomenon deeply ingrained in the human psyche. 

FOMO has become an important driving force behind some of the most successful marketing campaigns. In this article, we look at its roots in human behavior and strategic ways marketers can tap into the power of FOMO to create compelling and irresistible experiences for consumers.

What is the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is not a trendy phrase, but an actual psychological phenomenon when individuals feel anxious or uneasy that they are missing out on an experience.

In today’s digital age, where social media provides a window into everyone’s curated highlight reels, our awareness of FOMO has been heightened, and it drives individuals to feel the need to constantly play “catch up.” 

FOMO was around long before the term was even invented or social media around. For years, marketers have employed FOMO-inducing tactics to encourage consumers to act. We all remember the era of TV infomercials where you had to rush to the phone to take advantage of a limited-time deal that seemed too good to pass up.

At its core, FOMO is deeply rooted in our innate human desire to belong. Marketers can tap into this fundamental need for social connection, creating campaigns that inspire individuals to act, rather than regret failing to act later. 

Strategies for Creating FOMO-Inspired Marketing Campaigns

FOMO is an incredibly useful tool for social media marketing. In fact, 60% of millennials said they make active purchases because of FOMO and 40% of people claim to spend money on something once a year just to post it on social media. 

There’s no denying that FOMO is driving people’s spending habits. FOMO marketing acknowledges this fact and uses it as leverage to capture the attention of consumers, ultimately getting them to react and buy. 

Before we dive into leveraging FOMO, we should point out that this tactic should be used responsibly. FOMO’s impact lies largely in its ability to trigger negative emotions. 

A study from Citizens Relation found that 39% of people felt envy and 21% felt sad or disappointed. You need to have the right intention when formulating your approach. 

If consumers feel pressured or misled, it can lead to negative perceptions of the brand. Plus, being over-the-top with your approach can cause customers to become skeptical and reduce the effectiveness of strategies over time. 

Drive Urgency with Limited-Time Offers

Have you ever purchased something out of a flash sale, even when you don’t really need it? Urgency tactics are an effective way to drive sales as many consumers do not want to “miss out” on the best deals.

Ruggable recently ran a mystery flash sale marketing campaign, creating a sense of urgency as individuals fear missing out on the opportunity if they don’t act quickly. The “mystery” part of the sale adds another layer of FOMO as consumers are enticed to access an exclusive event that is unavailable to the public. Finally, not disclosing the offer’s details piques the consumer’s interest a    nd entices them to click and learn more. 

Another excellent marketing tactic that drives urgency is countdown timers. Countdown timers inspire consumers to act immediately to avoid missing out on savings. 

Show Something is in Demand with Scarcity Tactics 

Have you ever been on a clothing website and seen a message that says, “Only 5 Sweaters Left in Stock” or “1439 Pants Purchased in the Last Hour?” Showing that something is in demand encourages people who have some level of interest to continue exploring and take action. Knowing they may lose out if they delay can provide motivation to make a purchase.

When prospects are browsing for a product, create a pop-up that shows others are making the very same purchase. Often, this is just the extra little bit of motivation someone needs to complete their purchase.

Create Exclusivity 

Humans are hardwired to want to belong, so naturally, people want to be invited to join exclusive groups. These groups can create loyal customers while activating the fear of missing out. Customers will feel special about being offered an exclusive discount, only available to members. And the others? They would suffer from FOMO.

That’s why loyalty programs are so effective. By offering exclusive benefits and discounts to program members, brands make customers feel special. The exclusivity of these offers heightens the FOMO for those not part of the exclusive group and motivates individuals to sign up. Plus, it can encourage people to provide valuable information about themselves, like a phone number for text alerts and e-mail for sign-up, that they otherwise may not have provided.

Lululemon is a brand known for its rarity of discounts. When a 25% discount unexpectedly appeared in customers’ email inboxes, it created a lot of excitement. What’s the catch? To redeem the promotion, individuals had to sign up for lululemon’s Essential Membership Program. They made the promotion feel extra special by discouraging people from forwarding the email and intensifying the FOMO for those not part of the exclusive club.

Strategic Influencer Marketing Collaborations

As we touched on before, social media and FOMO go together like peanut butter and jelly. This is because social media is deeply intertwined with people’s desire to belong in a group. When influencers share, purchase, or talk about a specific product or service, the FOMO effect is amplified, as individuals fear being left out of the latest trends and conversations.

Partnering with influencers is an effective tactic and strategic move to create buzz around your product and drive says. Social media influencers have spent their time building authentic relationships with followers on platforms like Instagram, YouTube and TikoTok. As a result of their authenticity and vulnerability, they hold unique positions as trendsetters and opinion leaders. It’s almost comparable to a friend providing a product recommendation. Influencers have built strong and engaged followings, and their endorsement positions your offering as a must-have, driving followers to act. 

The magic of influencer marketing lies in the influencer’s ability to craft narratives that resonate with authenticity and reliability. Their content becomes more than a promotional tool – it's a genuine source of entertainment and information. This genuine connection between influencers and their audiences creates a powerful emotional impact, creating trust and loyalty.

Brands can score big when it comes to influencer marketing. In fact, new careers have popped up dedicated to influencer marketing as brands see how impactful it can be to boost brand visibility, drive customer loyalty, and increase their bottom line.


One of the greatest marketing successes in recent history comes from Stanley, a 110-year-old company that saw a massive surge in popularity thanks to its strategic influencer campaign. 

Before its viral social media campaign, Stanley was known for its rugged outdoor gear and mainly targeted workmen and outdoor enthusiasts. However, by collaborating with young female social media influencers, the brand resonated with a new audience and established a deep connection with consumers. Today, the Stanley Quencher is a viral, sought-after water bottle, establishing itself as the leading drinkware brand in North America.

The Quencher’s influencer program, scarcity, and strategic drops of new colors and limited editions fueled a sense of FOMO among consumers. Social media, especially TikTok, played a pivotal role, with the hashtag #StanleyTumbler amassing over 10 million views. Stanley effectively tapped into the FOMO culture, creating an intense demand for their products.

Leverage User Generated Content

While leveraging social media influencers who dedicate their time to crafting content and endorsing products is an effective marketing strategy, brands shouldn’t overlook the value within their own customer base. 

Encouraging customers and the broader audience to generate and share content related to the brand on social media is a powerful trust that can boost brand visibility and loyalty. In fact, 92% of consumers turn to people they know for referrals above any other source, while 79% of people say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions. 

What makes user-generated content particularly impactful is its reliance not on content from celebrities or influencers, but on the influence wielded by your own customers within their circles. When someone from your audience base generates user-generated content and shares it with friends and family, the resulting recommendation carries even more weight, making it a highly effective aspect of your marketing strategy.

Starbucks encourages customers to share their experiences on social media using the hashtag #Starbucks. In return, the brand will use this content across their social media accounts and marketing materials to showcase real customers enjoying their beverages.

GoPro, a brand known for its action cameras, relies heavily on UGC. Users share thrilling videos and photos captured with their GoPro devices, and the brand can feature this content across its websites and social media, creating a community of adventure-seeking content creators. Just a hashtag #GoProFamily is enough to get featured.

Source: GoPro Instagram

To incentivize users to share pictures on social media, brands can consider hosting a giveaway or contest. You can then repurpose for FOMO marketing across marketing materials. Plus, UGC content is extremely cost effective and maximizes ROI.

The Final Word on FOMO Marketing

The Fear of Missing Out is a powerful marketing force that can drive sales, increase conversion rates, and be impactful for direct-to-consumer e-commerce brands. This phenomenon taps into our hardwired desire to be part of exclusive experiences and opportunities, creating a sense of urgency that drives action.

The key to unlocking the potential of FOMO lies in targeting the right audience with compelling offers. Whether it’s running a limited-time promotion, organizing a UGC contest, or enlisting the help from a popular influencer, there are many ways to cultivate a bit of FOMO to inspire action. And remember, avoid overusing FOMO tactics and be sure to be transparent about the terms of promotions to build a strong, lasting relationship with your audience. 

Searching for more ways to boost your bottom line? Contact the experts at Function Growth. We harness behavioral science to grow direct-to-consumer brands that consumers love. Get in touch with us today to find out how you can grow your business.