Have you ever been in a situation where you feel like you can’t miss something? Say PappaRich releases a new Malaysian curry chicken special for a limited time, or your friends are throwing a party. Almost all people experience this feeling called fear of missing out (FOMO).

Today, FOMO is a household term – even the Wall Street Journal uses it openly to describe what is a very primal and deeply rooted tool of social psychology and even emotional control.

However, many businesses in Malaysia don’t know how to use consumers’ fear of missing out to trigger their desire to make purchases – and most importantly, use it without causing negative consequences. 

In this article, we will be teaching you all there is to know about FOMO. Ready?


What Is Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

What is fear of missing out or FOMO? NIH’s international journal PubMed Central explained that FOMO is a phenomenon observed on social networking sites. The fear of missing out refers to the human behavior of being anxious or nervous when they are about to miss something.

The theoretical underpinnings for the concept were brought forward by Marketing Strategist Dr. Dan Herman who first identified the fear of missing out phenomenon as a social theory in 1996. 

He said that FOMO would become more widespread through social media apps, problematic smartphone use, and texting; it would be common among the masses to fear missing events and trends. And that’s exactly what we’ve observed in the past few decades.

Since the fear of missing out triggers insecurities, it has been linked to negative emotions and mental health issues, such as anxiety disorder,  depression and a sense of reduced life competency, especially in young people. Although FOMO isn’t considered a psychological condition, it can impact both the mental and physical well-being of people.   

The Psychological Impact of FOMO on Consumer Behavior

Since young adults are more exposed to social media’s pervasive influence, they are more likely to have the sense of experiencing negative emotions or “negative affect.” This makes their online vulnerability to the fear of missing out even bigger.

Psychological experts said that FOMO greatly affects public health since it is considered a constant companion of many individuals and a primary human motivation. This feeling phenomenon is further triggered by problematic social media use as people prefer sharing only positive aspects of their lives online.

Seeing the achievements of others can trigger people’s social anxiety and other negative emotions. FOMO can in fact be one of the behavioral correlates of mental health issues

According to previous research of the APA, publishers of the Psychological Bulletin “…FoMO has a significant negative effect especially in the education, social, economic and psychological lives of young people and young adults…”

The vicious cycle of wanting to acquire what others have just to achieve life satisfaction and avoid social engagement can impact people’s behaviors, such as their spending habits.

FOMO drastically affects consumer behavior in everyday life since this feeling can trigger the perception of missing out and customers’ compulsive behaviors

For example, college students could experience FOMO during concerts since they might think their college life will be incomplete without attending them. This idea of missing out on more fun college activities and social interactions may lead to decreased life satisfaction, if not achieved. Once they purchase the concert tickets, giving a temporary boost to their psychological well being.

The Psychological Impact of FOMO on Consumer Behavior

Using FOMO in Marketing Campaigns and Strategies

You already know that the fear of missing out can greatly impact consumers’ behavior. This means that FOMO is great for marketing and advertising campaigns since it can easily trigger urgency among customers. 

In the paragraphs below you will find some reasons why you should start using FOMO in your marketing tactics. 

Social Networking Exposure

Almost all people are now exposed to social networking because of Facebook, Instagram, and other online platforms. These give marketers great opportunities to take advantage of people who experience FOMO.

Not only can you trigger customers’ fear of missing out by unveiling exclusive and time-limited deals, but you can also start trends. This could foster better engagement since many of them wouldn’t want to miss online social events, helping your business create deeper connections with consumers.

Boosting Self-Esteem

Consumers’ desire to boost their self esteem is also another reason why FOMO-focused marketing campaigns are effective. While FOMO is strongly correlated to poor mental health, a FOMO campaign can be used to boost people’s well being, making them feel confident about themselves by rendering your products and services as gateways to new and unique experiences, or ways to avoid negative life experiences.

If customers are able to feel that they are having unique experiences that other people can’t have, then they’ll have more confidence and alleviate FOMO in an empowering way. Providing a platform for people to leave reviews for their exclusive experiences can also make them feel unique as everybody wants their opinions expressed and heard, especially if they’ve been a part of something special.


In some scenarios, the fear of missing out can be linked to people’s morality. These include helping in the worsening global warming and climate change crisis. Numerous environmental research stated that consumers who are eco-friendly respond positively to FOMO-focused marketing campaigns.

You can utilize FOMO to encourage consumers to buy products by launching eco-friendly campaigns, which they wouldn’t want to miss because of their sense of environmental responsibility.

Incorporating FOMO Triggers in Product Launches and Pre-orders

Aside from marketing campaigns, you can also utilize FOMO in product launches and pre-orders. All you have to do is know what triggers people’s fear of missing out.

Screen Time

Many consumers suffer from internet addiction because of problematic internet use. Those who spend more time on their digital devices are usually the ones seeing trends, events, and activities online. 

These can make them feel the fear of missing out as they might believe they’re not keeping up with the latest developments, making screen time positively correlated to potential sense of FOMO.

Social Media

Seeing other social media accounts posts about their hobbies, achievements — like academic performance — and other exciting experiences could trigger FOMO. 

This is because social media platforms tend to create a social context for comparison, which leads to peer pressure to keep up with others’ lifestyles.

Reference Anxiety

Consumers can experience reference anxiety whenever they compare themselves with other people in terms of accomplishments and lifestyle. This can lead to FOMO since people would feel the need to get rid of their inferiority.

Work Environment Changes

Another common FOMO trigger is work environment changes. When employees receive promotions or get invited to exclusive events, others will feel worse, like they are being left behind.

Incorporating all these FOMO triggers in product launches and pre-orders can lead to a distorted sense of being left behind. This could happen through social comparisons, online, self-evaluation, and professional work settings. Leveraging them in strategic product pre-orders and launches can definitely trigger consumers’ compulsive behavior.

Work Environment Changes

FOMO in Social Media Marketing: Live Events, Flash Sales, and Contests

Social media marketers use FOMO triggers in their live events, flash sales, and contests. By using the fear of missing out, these social media marketing strategies can trigger a sense of urgency among customers.

Live Events

Using live events to launch new products can provide a real-time experience that customers wouldn’t want to miss. Because they want to avoid social exclusion, they would likely attend your live events, which can increase social interaction and social media engagement. A missed event is a missed opportunity.

While the event is happening, make sure to post status updates so viewers who are considering whether or not to come can get a glimpse of the experience they’re missing out on.

Flash Sales

Flash sales on social media platforms also create urgency among customers. Businesses can post time-sensitive discounts and offer exclusive order access to limited products. 

By boosting social media usage, flash sales can trigger FOMO as consumers will strive to avoid missing out on exclusive deals and hence on experiencing negative feelings.


Another FOMO-inducing marketing strategy on social media sites is contests. 

By offering exclusive prizes within a specific timeframe, you can make consumers more engaging. Since they fear social exclusion, they’ll most likely participate in your online contests.


Crafting Compelling FOMO-driven Content and Copywriting

Crafting compelling FOMO-driven content focuses on the desire of consumers not to miss exciting experiences. As a business owner, you must stay continually connected with them through a broad range of social media sites.  This will ensure that your content fills their need for social relationships and social connections.

Here are the steps on how to use your copywriting skills to create compelling FOMO-focused content.

Value Proposition of Product or Service

Before you can trigger consumers’ fear of missing out, you must provide your product’s value proposition. This will let them know what makes your services and products unique from what competitors offer.

Create Urgency

To induce FOMO among consumers, your content needs to create a sense of scarcity or exclusivity. By limiting the availability/access and providing offers for a short period, you can more easily manage FOMO and trigger their sense of urgency.

Social Proof or Testimonials

Once you activate their sense of urgency, you must trigger their FOMO when it comes to social comparisons. Sharing social proof and testimonials on a social network site will make them feel like they are being left behind by other consumers who already tried your products. This is key in managing FOMO.

Compelling CATs

In the last part of your content, you can also create urgency by including clear and compelling CATs (call to action). 

To create a sense of urgency and FOMO, you can use words such as “today,” “now,” and “don’t miss out.” Make sure to include incentives and other bonuses that customers wouldn’t want to miss.

Addressing FOMO Ethically and Responsibly in Marketing

In today’s problematic internet realm, you must address FOMO ethically and responsibly to maintain your consumers’ well-being. Before you launch FOMO-driven marketing campaigns, further research must be conducted to understand its impact on psychological and emotional health

Instead of emphasizing scarcity excessively, you can create marketing campaigns that genuinely excite customers. You can also focus on inclusivity instead of exaggerating exclusivity. 

By using positive FOMO-driven marketing campaigns, your business will not contribute to customers’ worsening social networking or social media addiction. You can even help them improve their well being through experiencing FOMO, making your business an ethical and responsible one.

Case Studies and Examples of Successful FOMO Marketing Campaigns

According to Eventbrite‘s research, almost 70% of millennials — 7 out of 10 — experience FOMO. Because of their fear of missing out, around 60% of these young consumers make impulsive purchases. This means that they’ll buy anything just because they feel like being left behind.

This is why many businesses use FOMO-driven marketing campaigns. Here’s a brief overview of some of the successful FOMO-inducing marketing programs of big companies.

black friday

Supreme (Collaborations)

Streetwear brand Supreme is very popular for its limited-edition and exclusive collaborations. Its marketing strategy triggers FOMO by creating a cult-like social group of customers that many consumers want to be included in.

Macy’s (Black Friday sales)

Black Friday sales are one of the best examples of FOMO-focused marketing campaigns. Macy’s is one of the brands that uses it. By offering limited-time promotions and deals, Macy’s creates a sense of urgency among its clients, while raising awareness about new products.

H&M (Limited-Edition Collections)

Just like Supreme, H&M is another clothing brand that creates a sense of scarcity and demand. It triggers consumers’ fear of missing out by offering limited-edition collections that are usually offered for a short period.

Starbucks (Frappuccino Happy Hour)

Starbucks also triggers the fear of missing out by launching its Frappuccino Happy Hour. This promotion usually lasts for a few days and is offered typically during afternoons. Frappuccino Happy Hour’s discounts and seasonal drinks create a sense of urgency among consumers.

Nike (Nike’s Membership)

Nike’s Membership is another great FOMO-inducing marketing tactic that creates social comparison. This subscription service gives members early access to new product releases and exclusive discounts. Members feel like they are experiencing something unique, while non-members would feel like being left behind in the latest trend.

AirAsia (Limited Super Deals)

This Malaysian airline company offers exclusive limited deals on flights and hotel bookings. They support their offers with alluring visuals and personalized messaging to create a sense of urgency and attractiveness.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the fear of missing out?

Fear of missing out or FOMO is a phenomenon that is usually observed on social media platforms. It involves two processes: first is having the perception of missing out and the second is making a compulsive behavior to get rid of FOMO.

Is FOMO a mental disorder?

As of the moment, FOMO isn’t a diagnosable psychological condition. However, it can still greatly impact your physical well being and mental health. Some people might experience it more intensely due to deeply rooted issues and could benefit from mental health support.

Is FOMO just jealousy?

FOMO is more complicated than jealousy. Unlike jealousy, FOMO is likely to trigger compulsive behaviors among people. But, the fear of missing out still involves a deep sense of jealousy and affects self-esteem.