For Real Tho’: How Travel Marketers Think about #FOMO

At the Digital Travel Summit 2019 in Palm Springs, I had the opportunity to host a roundtable on the use of #FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in travel marketing.

FOMO is not new, of course.  It’s been a key ingredient in marketing campaigns since the dawn of Madison Avenue.  What’s changed is that social media’s pervasiveness has made FOMO a near-constant state of mind: an always-on reminder of what fabulous lives others (appear to) lead.

tim-trad-197273-unsplash

Shout out to Tim Trad for the FOMO- and fear-inducing image of Chicago’s Willis Tower Skydeck.

We know social media feeds aren’t a completely accurate picture of reality, but they do get our attention, elicit strong emotions…and plenty of FOMO.  According to Venngage, some 61% of young adults (aged 18-35) say that social media magnifies the FOMO they already have.

FOMO can be a strong driver of travel inspiration – I mean, who hasn’t enviously ogled photos of friends in amazing places?  So to start our session I used a quick 10-question survey to get an idea of how travel marketers themselves felt about it.

SURVEY SAYS!

Usually, I’ve found that surveys often tell us more about what respondents want us to think, rather than what they actually do.  So we could expect people will underestimate their own FOMO.  That seemed to be the case: on a scale of 0 (none) to 3 (extreme), our group of travel marketers came in at a 1 – minor FOMO.  Only 9% of respondents had major FOMO (a 2).  Nobody had extreme FOMO (phew).

Digging deeper into the results, we see social media’s FOMO power – especially when it comes to our friends.  45% of respondents indicated they were concerned about a FOMO-related scenario “all the time.”  The 4 questions that elicited the strongest indicator of FOMO were:

  • I sometimes wonder if I’m spending too much time keeping up with what is going on.
  • When I miss out on a planned get-together, it bothers me.
  • It bothers me when I miss an opportunity to meet up with friends.
  • When I’m having a good time it’s important for me to share the details online (e.g. via Facebook or Instagram)

NO MO’ FOMO?

Assured (somewhat) that our esteemed panel of travel marketers were not biased towards FOMO, we delved into the main question (to be explored more in a future post): can FOMO’s shiny marketing tactics coexist with a travel brand’s quest to keep it real and connect authentically with the largest consumer demographic, millennials?

It’s an interesting question because influencer marketing often asks consumers to be inspired by “real” images of Instagram models living curated lives against a constructed backdrop of branding, made to not look like branding.  It’s not authentic, and is arguably unethical – as seen with the Fyre Festival debacle (BTW, so happy that sweet lady got her money back).

I asked our panel of experts if they felt any tension or conflict between the need to show more authentic imagery and the need to create FOMO with swoon-worthy photos, at scale?

5 TAKEAWAYS: WHAT THE EXPERTS SAID

1.”Of course” FOMO plays a role, such as when travelers announce/post that they’ve “arrived” (both physically and metaphorically, I suppose).

2. Even though FOMO was important, it isn’t necessarily an overt marketing tactic.  More consideration is generally given to whether an influencer is paid or not.

3. Authenticity is seen as a much needed counter to more polished imagery.  One destination marketer had no issue using images of buses on a tropical island, or video of a local man cutting up coconut as a way to engage today’s travelers (vs. the proverbial stunning beach shot).

4. When it comes to influencers, many favored the use of “micro-influencers” vs. the more well-known ones…another apparent nod to authenticity.

5. For hotel marketing, it definitely works in terms of limited-time offers.  One hotelier shared how the same offer performed 2X better when its availability was reduced from 10 days to 48 hours.

GOOD FOMO MOJO

Every teachable moment needs a mnemonic: to use FOMO effectively and ethically, raise a PINT!

  • Permission-based
  • Inspiration not Perspiration (positive, not fear-based).
  • Non-manipulative
  • Truthful

FO’ MO’ INFO

Are you not entertained? Enjoy these related links to delve more deeply:

Using the Fear of Missing Out Ethically for Marketers – 60 Second Marketer

What’s Being Done to Save Wild Places from Instagram – Outside Magazine

Stop Hate-Selling to Your Customers – Rafat Ali (founder, Skift)

This is Marketing book by Seth Godin

Stay tuned for more on this topic.  In the meantime, don’t you wish you were here? 🙂

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