03/24/2015 04:42 EDT | Updated 05/24/2015 05:59 EDT

#FOMO: Why Corporations Should Have it

Young emotional happy teenage couple taking picture on grass in city park

A relatively newly-named phenomenon, Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO), has become a powerful communications insight. While the premise of FOMO may be similar to "Keeping up with the Joneses," social networks have created drastically different forces and outcomes, giving FOMO a much more influential effect.

Having reviewed a number of studies about millennials from both sides of the border in North America, I recently worked with one of our research partners to investigate the power and opportunity that FOMO can have on marketing. Interestingly, all generations are experiencing FOMO and more than a third are making reactive purchases because of it. But here's the three insights that rose to the top from my perspective.

Millennials use FOMO to Live life, not Witness it

Largely because of FOMO, the millennial generation is living larger than any generation before it. The combination of real time access to other people's experiences and a desire to not be left behind, millennials are cramming more into their lives. Events, trips and parties are by far the leading drivers of FOMO with the 18-30 group (56 per cent), and this generation are most likely to make a reactive purchase due to FOMO (68 per cent). If anyone could be in two places at once, this generation would find a way to make it happen and would gladly sacrifice sleep to do it.

On the flipside, FOMO seems to have caused Millennials to adopt a new meaning for jealousy and envy. This group has created themselves a social license to admit and profess their jealousy and envy of what their friends/social network are experiencing.

FOMO Drives Parents' Decision Making

It's no secret that parents are more time starved than singles, but in our FOMO study, we discovered they are using their FOMO to inspire and crowd source their decision making. Looking at like-minded and similar families from their network, parents today and are researching through FOMO - by seeing an experience or a product that serves another family well, and using the endorsement to get in line for the same thing. Canadians with kids were the most likely to cite both consideration and purchase intent due to their FOMO, and they also expressed the most positive emotions. The insight that sharing the experience (not the advanced planning of the purchase/experience) causes other families in their network to act, could be one of the single most powerful insights for marketers today.

Higher Income = More FOMO & More Reaction

While it seems counter-intuitive, the more you can afford, the more you experience FOMO. The higher income levels (HHI of $75-100K, $100-150K and $150K+) all experience more FOMO and experience more positive emotions because of it. While they also experience FOMO due to social recognition and interaction, this group makes higher reactive purchases and are willing to share a post with the intent to create FOMO (26 per cent). Obviously this insight is derived by the desire to maintain or acquire status in their networks -- and it makes them Keep Up With the Joneses more than the rest of Canada.

So, how can companies leverage FOMO, without being predatory? They already understand the need to engage in the digital lives of their customers, which are very different than the physical lives. People act differently when they're behind a screen.

Fact is, FOMO should be a supplementary approach and it's attained differently by demographic. If it is inspired and considered throughout the customer journey at the right communication points, then your audiences will thank you for it. If you drive it too far, you will be blamed for the social disease and they will cut you out!

The need to be careful is an understatement. But understanding FOMO and how it engages Canadians of all kinds is paramount in playing a meaningful role in the digital space. It's not trivial or a fad, by any means. Take my advice -- get to know FOMO, or you'll soon be suffering from it.