5 tips for Marketers to manage a Customer’s Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

A man surfs the internet in Beijing on June 15, 2009. The designers of controversial Internet filtering software that China has ordered shipped with all new computers said they were trying to fix security glitches in the programme in the latest blow to the plan to include the filtering software with all PCs sold in China from July 1, which has been criticised overseas and even in China as a bid at mass censorship and a threat to personal privacy. Researchers at the University of Michigan who examined the software last week said it contained serious security vulnerabilities that could allow outside parties to take control of computers running it via remote access. Chinese authorities have a history of blocking sites that feature porn or politically unacceptable subjects such as the brutal crackdown on Tiananmen pro-democracy protests in 1989 and the banned spiritual group Falungong. AFP PHOTO / Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

How would you feel if your internet suddenly stopped working? You wouldn’t be alone if your response was ‘anxious’ –  as many as 64 per cent of global citizens feel anxious if they can’t get online, as revealed in our Tata Communications Connected World II survey report. This number is 62% in the UK and rises to a whopping 82% for India. As a marketer, the survey results offer me quite an insight into people’s behavioural associations and emotional connections to the Internet. (You can find out more about the survey in The Independent or Times of India among other media sources). Internet use and dependence have risen to a point where the ‘Fear of Missing Out’ or FOMO, often associated with modern technologies and social networking services, has become a global phenomenon.

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Kevin Systrom, the co-founder of Instagram, once said that no one likes to perform in a vacuum and the internet has truly changed the way we function. As technologies evolve and adapt, there is a huge potential for the internet to affect different aspects of life, economy and society. Over 2.5 billion people are connected to the Internet today, that’s a third of the world’s population. We are at a unique stage where “Digital Immigrants” have adapted and embraced the digital world and the GEN Y’s and Z’s – “Digital natives” who have grown up in the digital era and know no other way. Forget using a GPS, they are comfortable in using Twitter feeds & trends to gauge traffic in the road ahead and navigate with Google maps!  It’s surprising what people would give up before giving up the Internet. For me chocolate and TV would for sure go first!

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FOMO, Fear of Missing Out, is both a cause and an effect. For instance, people who have FOMO check social media more often, which only increases their FOMO. As responsible marketers, it is important for us to help our customers to break through the information overload and manage their FOMO. Below are the 5 things to keep in mind for all marketers:-

  1. Understand FOMO to understand your customer
    As Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels) says in the popular Television series ‘The Newsroom’ – “First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one”. FOMO is natural, real and here to stay. Marketers need to accept & understand FOMO to understand what matters the most to their customers. The “carpet bombing” approach is often a major cause of FOMO.


  1. Providing the right information at the right time
    FOMO is built on the fear of missing out on information at the right time. As marketers it is important that when we communicate, we ensure the three R’s of Reason, Relevance and Richness in the content. Equally important is that this content is provided at the right time to the customer to have a truly wholesome end-customer experience.


  1. Choosing the right medium

While the content and timing are important, it is necessary that we keep the medium in mind – users expect the same experience no matter what device (laptop, Tablet, smartphone, etc) or source platform (twitter, website, an app, etc) they choose. It is therefore essential that marketing communications address these whether for Digital Immigrant or Natives.


  1. Stay in touch with your connected customer

FOMO implies that customers end up being hooked for more information. It also provides an opportunity for marketers to stay in touch with their “always on” connected customer. Identify your customer’s journey to identify the right time to communicate your messages.


  1. Build balanced stories

Finally, it is imperative to know the difference between creating excitement and creating panic among customers. Brand stories and campaigns need to strike the right balance that makes customers come back for more.


If you managed to read it this far I have succeeded in putting some of the above lessons to practice! The internet has been pivotal in the context of human history – its importance is only going to increase with its evolution and marketers will need to evolve with it


Julie Woods-Moss (CEO – NextGen Business and Chief Marketing Officer at Tata Communications Ltd)


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“Thinking Aloud” reflects the emerging trends and varied outlook of the rapidly evolving internet and communication sector. An IAMAI publication, this is a part of the market education initiative of the association.

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