FOMO Marketing: How You Can Win The Attention Economy

6 Tactics to Win the Attention Economy...

21 Nov 2018 5940 Views

Written by Sarah Featherstone

fomo marketing

FOMO, the age-old hair-ripping feeling of missing out on the fun. It frightens consumers, by thrills marketers. Only successful brands are able to identify this phenomenon as an opportunity in gaining attention and mobilising action.

Marketers can win the attention economy by enabling 6 simple tactics to active consumer FOMO, find out how you can win.

The Digital Era: The Fight For Attention

In an information-rich society, capturing elongated consumer attention to generate sales revenue is one of the biggest challenges for marketers. Quantity over quality has previously been the modus operandi, demonstrated by the rich and intrusive media surrounding social places (Crawford 2015; Deighton & Kornfeld 2009). This socially invasive marketing deployed by many, has resulted in a fight for consumer attention, highlighting what is referred to as ‘the attention economy’ (Leinbach-Reyhle, 2016).

Simon (1969) addresses the enigma of attention economics. In his paper ‘Designing Organisation for An Information-Rich World’ he writes:

“… the wealth of information means a dearth of something elsea scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” (Simon, 1969, p. 6)

This statement highlights the imbalance of attention and information, a problematic concern in the wake of Web 2.0 which has afforded more noise to an already noisy market. Hennig-Thurau, Hofacker & Bloching (2013) liken Web 2.0 and social media to a dynamic, chaotic game of pinball. But marketers are not only competing with the interactivity of other brands for consumer attention, they are also competing with benign entertainment.

Considering this proliferation of information and the diminution of attention, how can marketers capture the rare, scarce and valuable resource of attention?

Turn Down, >Turn Down, Not Up: Understanding What Consumers Value

olume on marketing does not attract attention, instead it creates resentment (Lantz, n.d.). This was proven by viewers negative reaction to Go Compare’s repetitive TV advertisement, where the audacious opera singer was seen as aggravating (Burn-Callander, 2015). As brands relinquish marketing control to consumers in Web 2.0, value is created through consumers activate participation and the strong interconnectedness (Hennig-Thurar et al., 2013). Kelly (2008) has identified 8 value creating intangible characteristics for this digital application.

kelly 8 intangile characteristics for digital application

Figure 1: 8 Intangible Characteristics for Digital Application (Kelly, 2008)

Creating value is a precondition for obtaining attention. A recent trend which not only attracts but mobilises consumers, is FOMO Marketing. A strategy aimed at activating anxieties and encouraging action. 

What Is Fear >What Is Fear Of Missing Out (A.k.a Fomo)?

t (FOMO) is an intoxicating mixture of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation arising from a fear of missing opportunities (Oxford Dictionary, n.d.). FOMO in the digital era is largely driven from viewing and connecting with social media. Reportedly 56% of the surveyed population in the US note they have FOMO stemming from social networks (Statistia, 2013).

FOMO has been well established in popular culture often used in jest (Hodkinson, 2016). It is explained by Anita Sanz (a clinical psychologist) as an ancient fear driven by a lack of information, of which threatens an individual’s survival (Quora, 2015). FOMO has been epitomised with the digital era, and is now largely driven by the overload of information on social media.

Consumer anxiety empowers marketers to capitalise on a call to action (Hodkinson, 2016). By triggering psychological stress, consumers are encouraged to addresses their hesitancy or resistance, and mobilise action (Hodkinson, 2016).

Fomo Marketing:>Fomo Marketing: Activating Fear And Seizing Attention

on YouTube, 263,190 posts on Instagram, and 4,320,000 hits on Google, FOMO demonstrates its significance. Hodkinson (2016) explains that FOMO is being used through commercial activity to stimulate the market into action, applying the trend through advertising. FOMO has recently appeared in advertisements, for example Kona Brewing Co., and Bodyform.

Correlated to the attention economy, a reoccurring theme throughout FOMO is scarcity. Social proof aids this theme by reassuring consumers that limited supply of a product, must mean it is wanted and desired by others. Where limited supply is visible to the consumer, they are instantly driven to act or risk missing out. Reactive purchasing is common place in FOMO marketing, generating significant sales revenue (SKULocal, 2017).

To ignite FOMO, marketers should utilise personal delivery as much as possible (Hodkinson, 2016). This can be operationalised using influencers and User Generated Content (UGC) to support the sharing of experiences on social media (Smith, Fischer & Yongjian, 2012).

fomo marketing delivery

Figure 2: FOMO Marketing Delivery (Hodkinson, 2016)

In summary, below I have defined 6 tactics which can ensure you win the attention economy:

6 tactics to win the attention economy

Figure 3: 6 Tactics to Win the Attention Economy (Author’s Own)


Being online is a prerequisite for marketers to engage in FOMO tactics. Web 2.0 affords marketers with an abundance of tools that enables consumers to interact with brands. Buzzfeed and Dunkin Donuts have created visual appeal by using viral marketing, such as videos, allowing users to feel a part of the moment, evoking a sense of wanting to be there (DeMers, 2016). Marketers should ensure their target audience are well connected online, in order to view and share the experience. Brands must enlist dedicated teams manage a brands social media presence.


Marketers are able to activate FOMO and gain attention by creating urgency. This effective method can be enabled through creating campaigns which suggest there is limited supply, either of the item itself or time. An example of this is Nike, who use scarcity of time by attributing a time limit to free home delivery on their website. Consumers as a result are incentivised to act within the time frame provided, or miss out on the opportunity. Visually displaying depleting stock levels, or statements of “until stocks last” can also create a sense of urgency. The infamous bakery Dominique Ansel creates FOMO by insisting consumers pre-order their Cronut® 101 by a specific date, or risk missing out. Marketers should be cautious here, as companies who over use and exploit this tactic run the risk of losing authenticity, and create distrust. 


Activating FOMO through consumers personal connections is the strongest way to attract attention, and encourage action (Daugherty & Hoffman. 2014; Chu & Kim. 2011). Encouraging participation of UGC is a strong way to amplify a brands connection with consumers, and their personal networks, in an authentic way.

red bull twitter feed free drink

Figure 4: Red Bull Twitter Feed (Red Bull, 2017)

Companies such as GoPro have leveraged UGC through their GoProAward campaign, also rewarding these contributions. Similarly, Red Bull also engages their consumers through UGC and through discussion, offering complementary products. This tactic not only enables FOMO through consumers extended network, but aids in increasing brand awareness, loyalty and attracts new customers. 


Exclusivity naturally engages and drives a feeling of anxiety. Additionally, it increases loyalty and provokes a consumer need to be within the in-crowd. The Starbucks gold card has become a symbol of true dedication towards the brand. In return Starbucks affords consumers with a personalised card and application, making the benefits of the programme tangible (Heyken, 2017).

starbucks instagram feed gold reward card

Figure 5: Starbucks Instagram Feed (Starbucks, 2017)


Millennials are said to be hypervigilant, and always seeking information. Well timed notifications sent directly to their mobile devices can entice consumers to act immediately. These notifications can include suggesting the items in consumers online carts are about to be sold out. Or in the case of AdEspresso prompt users to allow push notifications, enabling them to be continuously notified and up-to-date with news.

Figure 6: AdEspresso Notification Prompt (AdEspresso, 2017) 


Experiences are valued far greater than material objects. This is particularly true for millennials as 72 percent of the surveyed population have confirmed this statement (Saiidi, 2016). Marketers should entice consumers away from their mobiles and create unmissable events, where consumers will naturally want to share their experiences. Broadcasting these through social media drives consumers to engage with the experience, unwilling to miss out on the opportunity. M&M recently launched their new caramel flavour by turning Times Square New York into an Augmented Reality (AR) game. Consumers had to use their phones to play, which also encouraged them to share their experience through social media (Adams, 2017).

m&m times square new york arcade

Figure 7: M&M Times Square (Adams, 2017)

Implications And Tho>Implications And Thoughts For The Future:

erful in attracting attention and mobilising consumers. Deploying these tactics demonstrate how marketers can win the attention economy.

These aspects do not come without their limitations. The fight for attention in the digital era will remain a concern for marketers as more company’s flock to online spaces. Additionally, consumers distain for invasive marketing efforts will result in more internet users installing ad blockers, to prevent advertisements from encroaching into their person space. Therefore, marketers need to be able to establish a balance between these methods, or they run the risk of being regarded as obvious and manipulative. It is imperative that marketers always provide value to the consumer, remembering their attention in scarce.


Adams, P. >References:Turns Times Square into an Interactive ‘ARcade’ for new flavour, Available Online: [Accessed 20 November 2017]

AdEspresso (2017). Notification Prompt, Available Online: [Accessed 18 November 2017]

BodyformChannel (2017). Blood, Available at: [Accessed 22 November 2017]

Burn-Callander, R. (2015). The Most Annoying Adverts From The Past 15 Years, Available Online: [Accessed 22 November 2017]

Chu, S. & Kim, Y. (2011). Determinant of Consumer Engagement in Electronic Word-of-Mouth (eWOM) in Social Networking Sites, International Journal of Advertising, vol. 30 no.  1, pp.47-75, Available through: Lund University Library website [Accessed 20 November 2017]

Crawford, M. (2015). The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction [pdf] [Accessed 15 November 2017]

Daughterty, T. & Hoffman, E. (2013). eWOM and the Importance of Capturing Consumer Attention Within Social Media, Journal of Marketing Communications, vol. 20, no. 1-2, pp.82-102, Available through: Lund University Library website [Accessed 20 November 2017]

Deighton, J. & Kornfeld, L. (2009). Interactivity’s Unanticipated Consequences for Marketers and Marketing, Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 23, no. 1, pp.4-10, Available through: Lund University’s Library website [Accessed 1 November 2017]

DeMers, J. (2016). 5 Awesome Examples Of Brands Using Live Video Fro Marketing, Available Online: [Accessed 20 November 2017]

Henning-Thurau, T., Hofacker, C., & Bloching, B. (2013). Marketing the Pinball Way: Understanding How Social Media Change the Generation of Value for Consumers and Companies, Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 27, no. 4, pp.237-241, Available through: Lund University Library website: [Accessed 1 November 2017]

Hyken, S. (2017). The Best Loyalty Programs Go Beyond Rewards, Available Online: [Accessed 19 November 2017]

Hodkinson, C. (2016). ‘Fear of Missing Out’ (FOMO) marketing appeals: A conceptual model, Journal of Marketing Communications, Available through: Lund University Library website [Accessed 5 November 2017]

Kelly, K. (2008). Better Than Free, Available Online: [Accessed 15 November 2017]

Konabrewingco (2017). Kona Brewing Co. “FOMO”, Available at: [Accessed 22 November 2017

Lantz, J. (n.d). 8 Strategies to Survive In The Attention Economy, web blog post available at: [Accessed 15 November 2017]

Leinbach-Reyhle, N. (2016). 8 Ways To Gain More Attention For Your Business. Available Online: [Accessed 22 November 2017]

Oxford Dictionaries (n.d.). FOMO, Available Online: [Accessed 15 November 2017]

Red Bull (2017). Red Bull Official [twitter]. Available from: [Accessed 20 November 2017]

Quora (2015). What is the Psychology Behind FOMO? Why is it so Powerful? And What Type of People are the Most Sensitive to it? Available Online: [Accessed 15 November 2017]

Saiidi, U. (2016). Millennials are Prioritizing ‘Experiences’ Over Stuff, Available Online: [Accessed 22 November 2017]

Simon, H. (1969). Designing Organizations for An Information-Rich World [pdf] Available at: [Accessed 15 November 2017]

SKULocal (2017). How Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) Impacts What Consumers are Buying, web blog post available at: [Accessed 22 November 2017]

Smith, A., Fischer, E. & Yongjian, C. (2012). How Does Brand-related User-generated Content Differ across YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter? Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 26, pp.102-113, Available through: Lund University Library website: [Accessed 1 November 2017]

Starbucks (2017). Starbucks Official [Instagram]. Available from: [Accessed 20 November 2017]

Statistia (n.d). Percentage of U.S. Social Networkers Who Are Afraid of Missing Out on News on Social Networks as of June 2013, Available Online: [Accessed 20 November 2017]

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Students from the International Marketing and Brand Management program at Lund University are the contributing authors for the BrandBase blog.