Online Business

How FOMO Damages Your Brand

December 1, 2020

In marketing, FOMO is used in a way to give you that sinking feeling that you’re missing out on something, and that there is a next level, there’s a next stage, there’s something else out there that you need in order to belong, in order to experience something better.

I'm Amie Finlayson!

I am the digital growth expert helping service providers to craft strategic offers and create courageous content that enables them to infinitely grow their online business. 

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FOMO. It means the Fear Of Missing Out.

In marketing, FOMO is used in a way to give you that sinking feeling that you’re missing out on something, and that there is a next level, there’s a next stage, there’s something else out there that you need in order to belong, in order to experience something better.

And it’s used by a lot of marketers and entrepreneurs I dare even say most so that they can kind of use fee as a motivation tool to make their audience buy.

In this episode of Good Authority, I discuss both sides of this:

  • a) how marketers use FOMO, and how if you’re a marketer, or you’re an entrepreneur, how you are currently using it and kind of better ways to move around that
  • b) how as buyers we can spot it; how we can see how other online entrepreneurs are using these fear-based marketing tactics to make their audience buy.

So there’s a little bit of us doing an analysis on ourselves as marketers, and then kind of looking at people who are doing it and using it in a way that isn’t ethical.

We’ve really got to take a look at why we use this marketing and why we want our audience to feel bad, essentially how FOMO marketing has been purposefully used to increase levels of anxiety and depression in order to influence a buyer decision.

What is FOMO Marketing?

When we think about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we have our physiological and safety needs met beyond that, then we just really want to be loved and accepted. There’s obviously other things that go into the hierarchy. But because we want to be as humans loved and accepted so much we want to be part of communities, we don’t want to feel like we’re an outsider.

Marketers know that and they use it to sell stuff to you that you either don’t need, you don’t want, or isn’t as good as promised. So there’s a lot of ways that people do this. And especially in the online business world, I always say if it seems too good to be true, it usually is that promising $10,000 worth of courses available for $100 or less, it’s more predatory than actually solving a problem.

How Marketers Use FOMO to Make You Buy

The analogy that is best to me is that it’s like a party that you’re missing out on that there’s some sacred, locked-away community, or there’s some inside jokes that you’re going to miss out on, or there’s some kind of transformation that is going to change your life and if you don’t invest in it, then there’s something wrong with you. You don’t belong, you haven’t invested and you haven’t been willing enough. You don’t have a good enough mindset you haven’t worked on yourself enough.

FOMO is used really to bring out that fear in you to make you feel unworthy, like you don’t belong.

Instagram is a prime example of this; a lot of people on Instagram, who are marketers or they’re strategists that work in the social media space, they love to encourage you to show up more. And if you aren’t showing up, there’s something wrong with you.

You don’t want to put your face on camera? How are you expected to grow an audience?

All of these things that are made to make you feel like you’re not good enough — and that the solution is to just invest in that course, of course. And a lot of people that are sharing this advice, and I’m going to be honest, I know that growing an audience on Instagram has been easier for me, who by society’s standards is accepted. People sharing this advice, a lot of them are young, they’re attractive, they’re white, they’re able-bodied. So their advice, of course, to show up does work for them and people that look like them.

But this is just not the way to build an online community to use these FOMO tactics that are so general that they only fit a certain type of person.

How FOMO Marketing Heightened in 2020

And then if we think about 2020, this year, there is real fear this year, of course, of the pandemic. And it’s been used by so many marketers and entrepreneurs to make buyers feel like they need to make an instant investment, or they’re gonna miss out.

They’re preying on fears, it’s opportunistic. And some examples of this, you’ve seen the word pivot so many times, I’m sure as I have, and this word has been something to make people feel that if they don’t take instant action, and they don’t change up their business model immediately. And they don’t buy this course. And they don’t do this. And they don’t spend that $999, that there’s something wrong with them that they’re not going to get through this year.

And there’s varying levels of how this is being used. But a lot of the time, if you boil it down, it is just selling panic. And I’ve seen that even at Facebook ads managers teach other people how to target vulnerable audiences.

Why It’s Not a Mindset Issue

And another way that this is used is mindset. Whenever I hear the word mindset, I really like to dig down deeper and find out what they actually mean. Mindset is important if it’s related to confidence in something that is holding you back from pushing forward with ideas.

But when it is something that is used to say that there’s something wrong with you, that the marketer is, or the entrepreneur, who’s ever trying to sell you something, is saying that there’s something wrong with your mindset. It’s a mindset issue.

You could be like me with my growth mindset, but you’re not. There’s something there that you’re lacking, that you think wrong.

If that’s the way they’re marketing to you, and you’re feeling that you’re missing out, that you need to invest — mindset is used as a way to actually make you feel really bad about the way that you think. It’s FOMO in action, it is the fear that you’re missing out on something because you’re not good enough and you don’t belong and you don’t think right.

Marketers use this in the way that they have this authority. We trust their authority so blindly; we trust the numbers and the stories that they share, and we trust it over our own authority.

How FOMO Damages Brand Reputation

And obviously, by now you probably can guess why FOMO is bad enough unethical because it relies on you having low confidence. And even if you don’t have low confidence, you may have moments where this marketing is going to get you right at the right time. Maybe something bad happened that week. Maybe you’re not feeling as good about your offer because you’ve just released it and you haven’t had anyone bite at it yet. Or maybe you’re just feeling a little bit left out.

But it’s really that expectation versus reality. Is this program really going to solve a problem for me or is this marketer creating a problem in my mind that didn’t previously exist?

When we think about buying behaviors and the way that a lot of people buy, it can be really impulsive. People sell things based on your human nature, they want you to buy something that you’re never going to use. And they use pricing as a way to do that a lot.

Tip #1: Question Your Pricing Model

You see $7 products, $27 products, even $97 products, they are marked down from outrageous prices on the sales page once $2,000, once $3,000. But now you can get it for $27.

It’s infomercial type stuff, but we accept it in the online business world. And there’s just a better way to do this.

So firstly, with being a marketer, you need to know exactly what you’re selling and who it’s not for. So if you’re just selling something to anyone who has that kind of impulsive nature by and you’re doing that by your pricing, you don’t care if they finish the course you don’t care who comes into your programs, it’s going to hurt you down the line.

And you don’t want to take advantage of a marketing message that targets those impulse buyers and just targets fears. And if you’re doing that with cheap offers, with funnels, or you’re doing it on your sales page, if you’re doing it in your Instagram Stories, you’re trying to make people feel bad about what they don’t know, it’s going to hurt you down the line.

A way to kind of combat that is to think about the language that you’re using, you can’t guarantee that someone will achieve what you can. And you really need to centre on that and sit with that.

Tip #2: Make Credible Claims

When you are making these bold claims these wild claims with no context, if you’re using percentages, if you’re using your money and income… even if you have an earnings disclaimer on your website or on the sales page, making these bold claims sets up your program for failure. And I would even encourage you to do a Google search of the synonyms of fear, or if you have a thesaurus at home, do that.

Think about the way if you are using language words that are related to fear or if your even the sentences that you read or the sentences that you speak on Instagram stories, if there’s some kind of trigger behind them to make people think in a kind of negative light about themselves, and are you giving them false hope.

There’s the opposite side, if you’re not praying into their fears, you’re giving them some kind of hope that there’s something better the grass is greener on the other side. But is the grass greener on the other side? Or you’re just trying to make people feel like if they don’t invest in your program, that their life isn’t going to be as good, their business isn’t gonna be as good? That if they don’t invest, then they’re not serious about their business.

It’s all about community and belonging. I when I say those words, I want them to mean really great things. But marketers twist them so much, and it’s something that is used to make other people feel left out. No matter how good you are as a person, if you are kind of marketing the idea of community, and you’re trying to make people feel like they belong, there’s going to be the opposite side where you make people feel like they don’t belong.

Ask yourself the question: How do I make people feel is this the true reality of my program?

Tip #3: Challenge Pre-Built Community Trust

Think about and be more aware of people who have done something once. So it could be something like Instagram Reels. But think about people who have done something once, whether they’ve started a business, and then they try to teach it straight away.

Think about the way that it is used in kind of a predatory nature to make people feel like they can achieve that same instant result. And a lot of the time these instant results don’t come down to a strategy, it is something that just happens. But if someone is trying to teach something straight away, I would seriously look into that kind of fear that they’re creating that you can do it too if you buy so and so.

And then also be aware of those with large social media communities, which may seem like a targeting thing that I’m saying, but can they just grow a following? Or are they real results?

So really a big following can be my amount of following (6,000), it can be 10,000, it can be 100,000. But if someone has a big following, and they have people that already trust them, ask yourself, why dp they trust them?

Are they just really great at building community? Are they really great at showing their amazing lifestyle? Are they really great on camera? Or is there something tangible there?

Tip #4: Use Relevant & Timely Testimonials

Another part of being a buyer is you’re going to look at testimonials, but not all testimonials are created equal.

The ICC Code for Ethical Marketing and Advertising states that if your testimonials aren’t timely or relevant, they shouldn’t be used to manipulate your buyer into making a decision.

So that’s for both marketers and buyers. If you’re a marketer, and you’re using testimonials that aren’t relevant, they’re super old. It’s obviously going to sway someone’s decision into buying your program.

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The marketers and entrepreneurs that we trust, on good authority — had to pop that one in there — want you to feel like you don’t belong.

If you don’t feel like you belong — you’re more suseptible to buy.

Just to recap this episode: Firstly, you do belong. No program or course is going to give you that, because you’re already whole.

  • Marketers make money off and try to make you feel like you’re left out.
  • FOMO marketing is often used to make everyone feel bad — but the solution doesn’t take into account class, race, gender or disability.
  • 2020 showed us what’s already been there and THEN HEIGHTENED IT.
  • Some programs aren’t as good or effective as the marketing is. Sit with that one.
  • Your language and messaging matters — it’s not a mindset issue, it’s a marketer knowing you have fears & a voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough.
  • Adjust your own lenses to be critical of marketers — especially when they have a lot of followers which doesn’t directly correlate to how they can help you.

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