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‘Fear of Missing Out’ (FOMO) marketing appeals: A conceptual model



The ‘Fear of Missing Out’ (‘FOMO’) is a well-known concept in popular culture. Consequently, it has been co-opted and successfully utilised in commercial advertising appeals to initiate sales. However, academic research to date has focussed exclusively on FOMO as an individual trait leading to self-initiated FOMO-driven behaviours. By contrast, the success of FOMO sales appeals relies upon consumers’ responses; therefore, it is necessary to understand these response mechanisms. This is the first known academic research to investigate consumer response mechanisms in relation to externally initiated FOMO appeals. In doing so, this research develops an original taxonomy of FOMO appeals; establishes a thematic map of response elements; identifies theory relevant to individuals’ responses; formulates an operational response model; and proposes a future FOMO research agenda.
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Author(s): C. Hodkinson
Article title: ‘Fear of Missing Out’ (FOMO) marketing appeals: A conceptual model
Article no: RJMC 1234504
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RJMC 1234504
14 September 2016 Initial CE: SR QA: RR
VOL. XX, NO. XX, 123
‘Fear of Missing Out’ (FOMO) marketing appeals: A conceptual
C. Hodkinson
The University of Queensland Business School, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
The ‘Fear of Missing Out’ (‘FOMO’) is a well-known concept in popular
culture. Consequently, it has been co-opted and successfully utilised
in commercial advertising appeals to initiate sales. However, academic
research to date has focussed exclusively on FOMO as an individual
trait leading to self-initiated FOMO-driven behaviours. By contrast,
the success of FOMO sales appeals relies upon consumers’ responses;
therefore, it is necessary to understand these response mechanisms.
This is the rst known academic research to investigate consumer
response mechanisms in relation to externally initiated FOMO appeals.
In doing so, this research develops an original taxonomy of FOMO
appeals; establishes a thematic map of response elements; identies
theory relevant to individuals’ responses; formulates an operational
response model; and proposes a future FOMO research agenda.
This paper investigates consumers’ response mechanisms to external Fear of Missing Out
(FOMO) appeals; as such, it diers entirely from previous academic research in the area. Prior
research has generally focussed on individuals’ self-initiated FOMO-driven behaviours and
has treated the FOMO phenomenon almost as a personality trait leading to various behav-
iours. Examples of this approach include: mobile phone checking behaviour (Collins 2013;
Hato 2013), alcohol use (Riordan et al. 2015), use of social media (Przybylski et al. 2013),
Internet addiction (Kandell 1998) and rural tourism visitation behaviour (Hay 2013). Popular
press has echoed this line of academic research; consequently, FOMO is typically referred
to in a negative light, especially in relation to social media and smart phone usage.
The FOMO is a well-established phenomenon in modern culture and in the popular press.
As a result, commercial industries have also successfully exploited the concept via
FOMO-based advertising appeals. This commercial tactic has generated signicant sales
revenue within numerous product and service domains, which is subsequently the result of
consumers’ responses to externally initiated FOMO appeals. Yet, little academic attention has
focussed on consumer response mechanisms to FOMO appeals. This exploratory conceptual
paper is the rst to address how consumer behaviours develop in response to external FOMO
appeals. In doing so, this research develops an original taxonomy of FOMO appeals and a
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
FOMO appeal; response
model; consumer behaviour;
Received 2 July 2016
Accepted 6 September 2016
CONTACT C. Hodkinson
RJMC 1234504
14 September 2016 Initial CE: SR QA: RR
thematic map of response elements. Furthermore, the research identies relevant theory
associated with individuals’ response outcomes and establishes an operational response
model. To conclude, the paper oers a view of managerial implications and proposes a future
FOMO research agenda.
FOMO – unclear origins
A fear of ‘missing out’ as an element of human behaviour is rooted in historic origins. However,
the ‘FOMO’ nomenclature does not appear in academic research before 2010, specically in
the work of Voboril (2010). The popular press frequently states that the term ‘FOMO was
coined by Watson and Meyer in 1985’ (e.g. Batorski 2011), although the reference is not
locatable. Still other individuals such as McGinnis (2015) belatedly claim to have coined the
term. Whatever its origin, the concept became a popular culture meme that was originally
used to refer to a personal foible – often in a playful if slightly pejorative sense. Elements of
modern culture are often ‘commercially appropriated’ (McCracken 1986), which has also
been seen in the case of the FOMO concept. FOMO has been opportunistically adopted
within direct ‘call to action’ appeals that are particularly aimed at the youth market. While
calls to action are common in marketing, FOMO appeals are distinctive in that they call on
the consumer to directly address their internal hesitancy, or resistance, to assent to an action.
This is in contrasted with scarcity appeals, which attempt to raise concern in the consumer
by creating perceptions of limited supply or limited time deals. While the two appeals dier
markedly in their framing, in that one addresses the individual and the other the product,
both types of appeals potentially trigger the FOMO at an individual level.
The signicance of FOMO appeals in the marketplace
The ‘Fear of Missing Out’, known by the acronym ‘FOMO, is a concept embedded in popular
culture and the youth psyche. This is evidenced by the existence of some 106,000 FOMO-
related YouTube clips (accessed 22 February 2016). Similarly, a Google search for ‘FOMO
advertising campaigns’ (accessed 26 May 2016) yields some 203,000 advertising agency and
trade journal articles about FOMO advertising campaigns as a key to the youth market.
FOMO appeals have been used commercially to stimulate demand for youth and younger
adults’ products, including: beer, boutique clothing, feminine hygiene products and real
estate for young rst home buyers (e.g. campaign 2009–2010). The pro-
motion of travel campaigns appears to be the most common marketing application of FOMO
appeals. This is evidenced by the 15.7 million results yielded by a simple Google enquiry of
the terms ‘fear of missing out’ and ‘travel’ (accessed 22 February 2016). Additionally, the
advertising industry press is replete with articles on the success of FOMO travel promotions.
Examples include: ‘Winning with FOMO’ (Marketingmag, 2016), ‘Cruiselings: A New Breed of
FOMO’ (Travel Weekly, 2014) and ‘MTV and Flight Centre Create Travel “FOMO”’ (Mediaweek,
In summary, FOMO is a well-established phenomenon in popular culture that has been
appropriated successfully for commercial purposes, yet its use as an appeal has attracted
limited academic interest. Given that FOMO appeals are commercially viable and used exten-
sively within current commercial markets, there is a lack of knowledge and understanding
surrounding consumers’ responses to FOMO appeals. More specically, this nancially and
RJMC 1234504
14 September 2016 Initial CE: SR QA: RR
culturally signicant marketplace phenomenon is operating without a conceptualisation of
the response mechanisms that drive its commercial success. Hence, this exploratory con-
ceptual paper responds to the recent call by Yadav (2010, 2) ‘for conceptual articles in the
eld of marketing, related to concepts and theories, which are not well understood’, by
contributing further insight to enable a conceptualisation of the FOMO phenomena. The
current research utilises qualitative methods to explore elements of externally initiated FOMO
appeals and aspects of consumer response mechanisms in order to develop greater knowl-
edge of decision-making processes and consumer responses to FOMO-based appeals. This
is achieved through gaining an understanding of the circumstances under which the FOMO
phenomena manifests and how, when and by whom FOMO appeals are successfully
FOMO dened
While articles mentioning ‘missing out’ on a limited resource are evident in academic
scholarship (e.g. Bonabeau 2004), they typically have economic bases. However, specic
denitions of FOMO are rare in the extant literature. J. Walter Thompson (JWT ) Worldwide
(2011, 2012) dene FOMO as ‘the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re
missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or
something better than you’ (2011, 4). Whereas Przybylski et al. (2013, 1841) dene FOMO
as … ‘a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from
which one is absent’. ‘Missing out’ and temporal appeals have long been a part of personal
selling sales ‘closes’; however, in the case of an external FOMO appeal, they are an initiating
tactic. For the purposes of this research, an externally initiated FOMO appeal is dened as:
Any initiating appeal, whether in person or impersonal, in which FOMO ormissing outis
mentioned or specically implied. A second denition used in this research dierentiates
between commercial and non-commercial FOMO appeals. Again, for the purposes of this
research, commercial FOMO appeals are dened as: Any initiating appeal, whether in person
or impersonal, originating from an organisation, in which FOMO ormissing outis mentioned
or specically implied and the context of which is the stimulation of demand, usage or purchase
of a product.
Previous FOMO research
A summary of previous academic FOMO research is provided in Table 1 in Appendix 1, which
clearly shows that FOMO has been explored on a trait basis as exemplied by Przybylski
et al.s scale (2013).
Addressing FOMO as a trait-based characteristic is a valid perspective as psychological
phenomena is often observed through individual propensities, dispositions and character-
istics inherent in human behaviour. Psychological scales, such as Przybylski et al. (2013)
FOMO scale, are devised to accurately measure dierent factors of individual variables
(e.g. traits, behaviour, emotions, motivation and/or attitudes). These scales can also be used
to determine individual dierences between people and among population groups.
In this regard, there are two trait-based theories that may be relevant to FOMO appeals
and individuals’ response mechanisms, as both paradigms relate to individual dierences
in propensities. The rst body of theory relates to self-control and its consequences (Keinan
RJMC 1234504
14 September 2016 Initial CE: SR QA: RR
and Kivetz 2008). In the FOMO context, this relates to the taking (or not) of opportunities,
the impact of those decisions and the role of regret in aecting subsequent decision-making.
The second theoretical resource is self-determination theory (SDT) (Deci and Ryan 2008a,
2008b) which addresses the relationship between controlled and autonomous motivation
and individual wellness. Both bodies of theory address the potential outcomes of individual
responses to FOMO appeals. Keinan and Kivetz’s (2008) self-control theory deals with
approach avoidance responses to stimuli which may lead to the activation of an individual’s
behavioural inhibition system (BIS) (Davidson 1993; Gray 1990) or their behavioural activation
system (BAS) (Davidson 1993; Depue and Collins 1999; Gray 1990). Keinan and Kivetz (2008)
apply this theory to self-indulgent consumption decisions, the possible development of
regret and the impact of such regret on responses to subsequent hedonic temptations. As
such, it has an immediate application to FOMO appeals and their potential outcomes. Related
to this is the concept that approach avoidance responses are also inuenced by fear and
that there are dierences in individual propensities for fear arousal. If an individual has such
a propensity for fear arousal, they are referred to as possessing ‘reactivity’ (Dillard and
Anderson 2004). However, FOMO is an unusual case in that if a genuine fear of missing out
is engendered by a FOMO appeal, then reactive individuals will tend to be driven to take up
the oer (i.e. approach) rather than to reject it (avoid). Alternatively, if fear is not an element
of an individual’s response to FOMO appeals, then SDT, as conceptualised by Deci and Ryan
(2008a, 2008b), is more relevant. SDT theory dierentiates between autonomous motivation
and controlled motivation. The former, autonomous motivation, comprises elements of intrin-
sic and extrinsic motivations. By contrast, controlled motivation consists of external regula-
tion, reward/punishment and internalised factors such as approval, shame avoidance,
ego-involvement and self-esteem. Given the social pressures that are often integral to FOMO
appeals, SDT is also relevant. This investigation of FOMO responses will clarify the applica-
bility of these trait-based theories.
In addition to the academic research, a large number of articles regarding FOMO have
appeared in the media. While many of these have been ‘opinion pieces’ or echoed the aca-
demic research, some of the articles have been authored by academically accredited psy-
chologists (e.g. Grohol 2011) and qualied sociologists (e.g. Turkle 2011, 2015). A common
theme of both academic and popular press articles on FOMO is the overuse of interconnec-
tivity. Examples of relevant research include the excessive and even compulsive use of smart
phones and/or social media and its negative outcomes. However, neither academic nor
popular press articles have considered FOMO-based advertising appeal responses, despite
their obvious presence in the marketplace.
The research questions
The trigger for this research was the observation of a campus travel poster displaying a
European holiday scene of young people partying with a greyed-out silhouette, representing
a missing person and the wording ‘FOMO? – Book now for Europe’ as a marketing ‘call to
action’. While the poster exhibited ‘visual rhetoric’ (Campelo, Aitken, and Gnoth 2011), its
core message of ‘missing out’ on potentially fun and memorable times is the nub of FOMO
appeals. Such appeals are ‘push force’ motivators (Kim, Oh, and Jogaratnam 2007) that are
presently utilised in commercial markets to promote action. This raises the broad research
RJMC 1234504
14 September 2016 Initial CE: SR QA: RR
(RQ1): What are the mechanisms of consumer response to an externally-initiated FOMO appeal?
A number of sub-questions based upon the consumer decision-making paradigm will
be used to guide this exploratory research; they are:
(RQ1a): How are externally initiated FOMO appeals made and by whom?
(RQ1b): On what occasions are externally initiated FOMO appeals made?
(RQ1c): What kinds of response are engendered in such FOMO appeal recipients?
(RQ1d): Do FOMO responses include fear as such?
(RQ1e): When does the FOMO phenomenon manifest itself?
(RQ1f): What are the potential outcomes of decision-making initiated by an external
FOMO appeal?
A ve-stage methodology was adopted for this exploratory research, which was approved
by the University ethics committee. Stage I: informal class-based focus groups with students
(to allow the researcher to obtain an understanding of the FOMO concept and its meaning
in youth culture). Stage II: formal protocol-based focus groups using a new student sample.
Stage III: parallel data analyses ((1) manual transcript coding and (2) independent coding
and analysis by another researcher, using textual analysis software). Stage IV: identication
and analysis of the response variables and Stage V: identication of relevant theory and the
construction of a conceptual FOMO response model.
The sample
Since young consumers commonly exhibit FOMO and are typically the subject of FOMO
appeals, it was appropriate to utilise a convenience sample of undergraduate university
students. A total of 56 students took part in Stage I, which comprised of three class-based
focus groups to provide the general understanding of the FOMO concept. This was initiated
by two simple questions: (1) ‘What is “FOMO? and (2) ‘What does FOMO mean to you?’ Rather
than dening the term, the students described a variety of situations in which a FOMO appeal
would initiate a decision. These responses and explanations were recorded in note form,
which subsequently provided the basis for the formal protocol for the Stage II focus groups.
For Stage II, a new sample of students was recruited from the wider student population
by oering an approved minor incentive. Students from a broad range of disciplines volun-
teered to partake in the focus groups. The protocol for these focus groups incorporated
open-ended questions, which were designed to investigate the respondents level of famil-
iarity with the FOMO concept, FOMO appeals and their initiation. Probing was also used as
a research technique to explore topics until no additional themes appeared (saturation). The
study-wide saturation of data was obtained after six focus groups (n = 34). The Stage II focus
groups were audio-recorded, independently transcribed and vetted for correctness by the
The data analyses
Content analysis is a widely employed qualitative technique (Hsieh and Shannon 2005),
which is utilised in many areas of social science. While content analysis has its limitations
RJMC 1234504
14 September 2016 Initial CE: SR QA: RR
(Tesch 1990), it is suited to concept development and model building (Lindkvist 1981), which
are the objectives of this exploratory research. To provide a degree of triangulation, two
parallel content analysis methods were operationalised. The rst was a ‘manual’ method in
which transcripts were read to obtain ‘a sense of the whole’ (Tesch 1990); then, the data were
reread word by word to identify key themes and concepts to devise a coding schema (Miles
and Huberman 1994; Morgan 1993; Morse and Field 1995). This iterative coding process
(Coey and Atkinson 1996; Patton 2002) proceeded until coding stability was established,
meaning that no new concepts were discovered by further rereading.
The manual coding process was undertaken by a single coder – the primary researcher.
This procedure was augmented by a parallel independent coding/analysis using the
Leximancer software-based textual analysis tool (Leximancer Pty Ltd 2014), which was
completed by a PhD-qualied consumer behaviour researcher. Leximancer uses a built-in
thesaurus to identify concepts within full-text documents, then clusters related concepts
into themes and provides a visual display of the data.
Focus group ndings
Findings from the two independent textual analyses were compared and contrasted. The
thematic diagram derived from the Leximancer analysis provided additional insights into
emotive and cognitive themes present in the pre- and post-decision phases of responding
to FOMO appeals. These two sets of results identied variables for inclusion in the FOMO
response model. The following themes were elicited from the anonymised focus groups
transcripts, which correspond with the set of sub-research questions as outlined below
(‘FG’ and an associated number refer to the relevant focus group).
(RQ1a) How are externally initiated FOMO appeals made and by whom?
While not all participants were aware of the FOMO acronym, virtually all respondents stated
that they had been recipients of commercial and non-commercial appeals, which specically
had ‘missing out’ as their motivation. Verbatim responses in relation to commercial appeals
… it’s denitely a tactic that you see used more often than you’re aware of’ (FG#4), ‘you fall for it
all the time’ (FG#4), and ‘travel agents usually do [use it]’ (FG#1). However, similar non-commercial
appeals appeared to be a regular part of a young person’s social life e.g. … you get it from your
friends and stu, you know, “come out with me, we’ll have a really time, “you’re going miss out”
and stu … it’s always there. (FG#3)
The respondents nominated commercial FOMO appeals as being initiated personally via
‘salespersons’ (FG#2), sta, or impersonally via ‘advertisements’ and ‘sales catalogues’ (FG#6).
However, non-commercial FOMO appeals comprised the majority of the examples cited by
focus group participants. Whether commercial or non-commercial in nature, in-person or
face-to-face appeals were seen as carrying more weight, e.g. ‘having a real person talking
to you is going to make a bigger dierence’ (FG#6). However, sales sta were regarded as
having a lower credibility than ‘signicant others, e.g. ‘my family and friends are always inu-
ential as well, like if they say to you – you know “come along” or … because you know, I think
that they’re people that you trust … I don’t nd the sales assistants trustworthy … (FG#5).
In terms of the mode of delivery of FOMO appeals, those initiated by friends or family were
RJMC 1234504
14 September 2016 Initial CE: SR QA: RR
commonly delivered face to face but they could also be delivered impersonally via telephone,
text messages or via social media, e.g. ‘Facebook invitations’ (FG#6).
The respondents’ views on FOMO appeal initiators and delivery modes were consistent
and were stated with conviction, especially the dierentiation between ‘commercial’ and
‘non-commercial’ FOMO initiators. Additionally, respondents further categorised FOMO
appeal initiators into ‘impersonal’ and ‘in-person’ classications. These ndings led to the
proposed typology of external FOMO appeal initiation, as shown in Figure 1 in Appendix 2,
which was derived from the dimensions of commercial/non-commercial and in-person/imper-
sonal classications. This yielded four combinations of external FOMO appeal initiator cat-
egories, as outlined below:
(1) Impersonal non-commercial: this category refers to appeals such as a friend issuing
a party invitation via social media that specically incorporates a FOMO appeal.
(2) Impersonal commercial: whereas, this category refers to an advertisement
initiating a ‘missing out’ appeal delivered by any impersonal communication mode
(e.g. advertising).
(3) In-person commercial: by contrast, this source of external FOMO appeal includes
general sales sta.
(4) In-person non-commercial: these FOMO appeals are typically seen as initiated by
signicant others, for example, close friends, parents and family members.
This taxonomy of external FOMO appeal initiators is original to the current research and
appears to be the rst of its kind related to FOMO appeals. It thus makes a signicant
contribution to the understanding of FOMO by: (1) acknowledging the mode of initiation
(i.e. personal/impersonal); (2) acknowledging the purpose (i.e. commercial/non-commercial);
(3) encompasses social event FOMO appeals – which are a common part of youth culture
and modern day life; and (4) provides the initial basis for developing a proto-model of FOMO
appeal for operationalisation.
(RQ1b) On what occasions are externally initiated FOMO appeals made?
Participants in the focus groups nominated a wide range of social events and unique expe-
riences as examples of non-commercial missing out appeals. Opportunities mentioned
included: music concerts, friend’s trips, parties, graduations, relative’s birthday parties and
even funerals. By contrast, commercial appeals were viewed as directly promoting goods
and services, including: new technology, low-volume fashion, ‘limited editions’ and particu-
larly travel packages.
(RQ1c) What kinds of response are engendered by such FOMO appeals in recipients?
Missing out on social events was strongly felt by recipients, especially when other individuals
known to the respondent were going to attend. Relevant quotations included: ‘you know,
what makes it worse is when other people you know are going and they always talk about
it’ (FG#5), ‘It’s not so much the event that you’re missing out on its the social experience
(FG#6). These quotations captured the essence of the felt pressures of ‘missing out’, which
accurately corresponds with the JWT denition cited previously. There was also a competitive
social element evident in some of the discussions, for example, ‘I think also there’s a compet-
itive factor. Like sometimes you’ll be like others are getting to do this and I’m not … there’s
a competitive feeling (FG#6). Inherent in these FOMO experiences (not FOMO appeals) were
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themes of: opportunity; limited supply; or scarcity – and the necessity to make choices. There
was also at times the spontaneous mention of opportunity cost’ – the core of FOMO appeals
in FGs# 4 and 6 – which showed that they realised that the choice of one course of action
necessitated missing out on another competing option.
(RQ1d) Do FOMO responses include fear as such?
The nature of FOMO itself was also investigated – as to whether it was actually a ‘fear.
Although some respondents (FG#5) felt it was a genuine fear, others felt that was overstating
the phenomenon: ‘it is an emotion but not really fear’ (FG#6 – which included some group
dissention). Some participants stated it was ‘more like a sinking feeling’ (FG#5), while others
saw it as a matter of degree, e.g. ‘I suppose it would depend on whether you actually wanted
to go to the secondary choice, as to how much of the fear of missing out you actually feel’
(FG#3). Some taxonomies of emotion reect this interpretation, for example Laros and
Steenkamp (2005) (based upon the work of Richins 1997) list ‘scared’, ‘afraid’, ‘panicky’, ‘nerv-
ous’, ‘worried’ and ‘tense’ as emotions lesser than but allied to ‘fear’. Other respondents saw
the FOMO as real and inherent, especially in relation to social events, e.g. ‘I felt that the social
factor of fear of missing out is just an everyday factor that you deal with’ (FG#2). In summar y,
FOMO was readily acknowledged as a negative emotional response to a choice situation, the
degree of which was variable and in the extreme could manifest as fear in some individuals.
Increased anxiety appeared more likely to occur in relation to social events. Thus, hence, in
relation to the theoretical bases for this research, in the absence of fear, SDT (Deci and Ryan
2008a, 2008b) appeared applicable in most cases; however, those ‘reactive’ individuals who
experienced genuine fear would have had approach avoidance (BISBAS) conicts triggered
in the mode described by Keinan and Kivetz (2008).
(RQ1e) When does the FOMO phenomenon manifest itself?
Opinion was sought on how the feeling of ‘missing out’ manifests itself. The predominant
opinion was that it is an emotion that follows cognition, i.e. emotions are elicited after the
actual consideration process in decision-making situations. ‘It starts o as a thought but
it can turn really emotional’ (FG#4); ‘I think it denitely stems from thought’ (FG#2); The
FOMO feeling is the result of thinking about the event, before the event’ (FG#4). In con-
rming the cognition-then-feeling process, there are evidently anticipative elements of
consideration as to how the individual will feel in the future about their decision. Additionally,
there was a common inference that the amount of time one had to consider the initial
decision, and also to consider the potential outcome, aected whether one might feel in
danger of ‘missing out’ (i.e. pre-event) or having ‘missed out’ (post-event). This was sum-
marised in the quotation ‘I think generally everyone is saying it’s how much time you have
to dwell on the issue’ (FG#3). This also implies that situational factors can aect the
responses to FOMO appeals.
On this point, there was uniform agreement, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the ‘fear’, stress
or concern manifested generally before the decision was made, i.e. in the pre-decision phase.
This response eect is illustrated by the following verbatim quote: ‘For me the fear factor is
sort … is like before youve made the decision, so I’m having a fear of making the decision,
whether to miss out, so I really can’t feel like I’ve had a fear after I’ve made the decision’ (FG#2)
‘because you’re making a conscious choice you can’t really be scared of the consequences
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(FG#2). On the basis of a number of these similar comments, it was concluded that
response emotions were generally exhibited during the pre-decision process while consid-
eration was being given to the importance of the decision, alternative possibilities and any
anticipated post-decision ramications. The respondents comments suggested that once a
decision had been made, while it often relieved the FOMO stress, lingering doubts about
the wisdom of a decision could remain.
(RQ1f) What are the potential outcomes of decision-making initiated by an external
FOMO appeal?
The primary post-decision emotions identied by participants were the negative emotions
of regret and disappointment. Notably, satisfaction – which Oliver (2014) regards as an
‘appraisal emotion’ was not mentioned by respondents (post-consumption and post-event
judgements will be addressed later). Guilt was also mentioned, e.g. ‘it’s not just the fear it’s
if you miss out – you can feel guilty about it as well …’ (FG#3). The mention of these three
emotions (i.e. regret, disappointment and guilt) is not unexpected as they are generally
regarded as closely related emotions in Plutchik’s taxonomy (Plutchik 1980). However, just
as there was regret at buying or taking an option or an action, i.e. ‘regrets of commission’,
also evident in the comments were regret and guilt at not acting, i.e. ‘regrets of omission’
(Leach and Plaks 2009; Zeelenberg et al. 2010). This is exemplied in the following
‘I’ve also had the regret of not buying’ (FG#5). Even though some respondents stated that they
‘had a no regrets policy’ (FG#6), others doubted that would always be true, e.g. ‘I think it’s easy
for people to say “I don’t regret anything I’ve done” – but if you’re really honest with yourself
you’d denitely have a few regrets’. (FG#2)
In contrast to the special consideration given to personal appeals from signicant others,
there was heavy cynicism towards commercial FOMO appeals delivered in person by sales
sta, e.g. Yeah it’s probably just a marketing tool [used] to inate people’s feelings just so
they can think, “oh I don’t want to miss out”’ (FG#4). Furthermore, some respondents felt that
regret could be ‘very easily paired’ with actions taken as a result of responding to commercial
FOMO appeals (FG#3). In some cases, the respondents specically identied the marketing
phenomenon of ‘buyer’s regret’ (buyer’s remorse), as in the example below:
I denitely think the two [i.e. FOMO and buyer’s regret] go hand in hand, but I think it’s because
the fear as an element of purchasing something, is a very short-lived sort of feeling and I think
especially once you have whatever it is, that you’re afraid of missing out on, you generally realise
that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. (FG#4)
This not only suggests that regret may be a post-decision feature of actions taken as a
result of commercial FOMO appeals, but that the ‘fear’ element of any FOMO appeal tends
to be extinguished by taking the requested action. Indeed, the option to rapidly remove the
highlighted discomforting emotion or ‘fear’ may be in part responsible for the FOMO appeal’s
commercial success. Others considered FOMO appeals to be consumer manipulation and
suggested tactics to oset such attempts. Generally, they thought that commercial FOMO
appeals were likely to be blunted by eective pre-purchase information search, e.g. … as
long as you’re a little bit educated in what it is you’re going to buy, that fear element doesn’t
really inuence you’ (FG#4).
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Results of the parallel thematic analysis
A thematic diagram derived from the Leximancer analysis of the transcripts is shown as
Figure 2 in Appendix 2. Each sphere is labelled in uppercase to identify the theme it repre-
sents, whereas the concepts which comprise the theme are shown in lower case within the
same sphere. The size of each sphere in Leximancer’s thematic diagram indicates the relative
importance of each theme, with larger spheres indicating a greater importance in the dis-
course. Additionally, the proximity of spheres to each other indicates the level of interrelat-
edness. Thus, spheres in close proximity to each other represent closely related themes,
whereas spheres more distant from each other are less related. Considered in the light of
the consumer behaviour information search and decision-making paradigm, the thematic
diagram provides insight into cognitive and aective elements present in the pre- and
post-decision phases of FOMO appeal responses. As illustrated in the thematic diagram,
‘missing’ is the predominant theme. This is closely interlinked with ‘opportunity’ and the
emotive response ‘feel’ – this includes emotions evident in the manual analysis. Together,
‘missing’, ‘opportunity’ and ‘feel’ form an emotive cluster related to the pre-decision phase of
FOMO as mentioned in the transcripts. By contrast, the limited (i.e. nite) resources of ‘time
and ‘money’ were of minor concern, but were more closely related to the emotive cluster
than ‘thought’ (i.e. cognition), which was a more distant concept of lesser importance.
However, the thematic diagram does not reveal the processing order, that is whether cogni-
tion preceded emotional response. The theme ‘things’ related to objects of desire, desire
itself (i.e. ‘wanted’), the people involved and the decision occasion, e.g. ‘sales’ and ‘place’. The
theme ‘buy’, which is associated with the post-decision phase of FOMO, relates not only to
looking at the subject item but also to the potential negative post-decision emotive outcome
of ‘regret’ (i.e. buyer’s regret), which is in close proximity. Thus, while the thematic diagram
is consistent with the manual textual analysis, it provides three additional ndings. First, it
conrms the signicance of emotive responses to a FOMO appeal in the pre-decision phase.
Second, it suggests a subordinate role for cognition in the FOMO decision process and, third,
it conrms the potentially negative emotive consequences of the post-decision phase.
Theory identication and response model development
Themes derived from these two independent textual analyses contributed to identifying
relevant theory on which to construct a conceptual model of the FOMO response mecha-
nism. The rst two components of the model are the aective and cognitive responses, which
relate to the topic of the FOMO appeal.
Order eects: aect versus cognition
Since Holbrook and Hirschman’s (1982) and Hoch and Loewenstein’s (1991) appeals for
research into the role of emotions in consumer behaviour, there has been more research
into how aect inuences consumer choice (e.g. Garbarino and Edell 1997; Luce 1998; Luce,
Bettman, and Payne 1997). Considerable debate has occurred as to whether aect or cog-
nition occurs rst in consumer choice. Zajonc (1980, 1984) posits that emotions precede
choice, whereas Lazarus (1982) contends that cognitions are the rst element of choice
processes. According to LeDoux (1989), feelings can certainly inform cognitions and
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vice versa. The rm view of the FOMO focus group participants was that in FOMO situations,
cognition preceded aect. This notion is represented in and supported by the thematic
diagram, in that cognition is a distant concept from the emotive cluster – comprising the
pre-decision phase.
Cognitive appraisal theory
Cognitive appraisal theory (CAT) (Bagozzi, Gopinath, and Nyer 1999; Johnson and Stewart
2005) supports both the participants’ views and the thematic diagram because CAT proposes
that a stimulus promotes an initial cognitive appraisal. As a result of this, an emotion is
generated which in turn aects consumer behaviours including decision-making processes
and post-purchase and/or consumption judgements. As such, CAT appears to have consid-
erable explanatory value in relation to FOMO-type choice situations because outcome desir-
ability is the basis of the decision-maker’s dilemma. However, while CAT proposes that
cognition precedes emotion, the general order of processing can be eected by individual
and situational variables.
Individual variables may govern general cognitive processes and processing order, such
as an individual’s level of perceived risk, their need for cognition and preferred decision style.
For example, the preference for a spontaneous style of decision-making can be independent
of the situation. By contrast, other individual variables such as memory and specically
previous experience may give rise to an immediate aective reaction before any cognition
takes place. For example, in a FOMO situation, the response to an invitation from an individual
one abhors could induce instantaneous negative aect. It is essentially an approach avoid-
ance reaction based upon memory, preceding events and often pre-established attitudes;
therefore, it is important to take into consideration. Thus, while cognition may typically be
followed by aect in FOMO decision-making situations, individual variables may trigger an
immediate aective reaction.
Additional situational variables that may aect the decision phase include mood, the
availability of cognitive resources and the social situation. Moods are generally regarded as
being transient and having only a temporary eect on a person’s disposition (<20 min;
Gardner 1985). By contrast, the availability of cognitive resources was found to have a pro-
found eect on decision-making. In cases where cognitive resources were limited, Shiv and
Fedorikhin (1999) found that ‘aective reactions rather than cognitions tend to have a greater
impact on choice’; however, when ‘the availability of processing resources is high, cognitions
related to the consequences [emphasis added] of choosing the alternatives tend to have a
bigger impact on choice compared to when the availability of these resources is low’ (278).
Such is the case with FOMO-type decisions where the anticipated consequences of a decision
are paramount. What the consumer is doing when considering the anticipated consequences
of an action is constructing an expected utility model that takes anticipated emotions into
account (Zeelenberg et al. 2010; for a discussion, see Mellers et al. 1997). Given the challenge
of making decisions in response to FOMO appeals, it appears the availability of cognitive
resources is desirable. In addition, outcomes from the focus groups suggest that considerable
cognitive resources are typically applied to considering the potential consequences of the
decision alternatives. The availability of decision-making cognitive resources can also be
aected by situational variables such as tiredness, alcohol and time pressure. Furthermore,
social pressures may remove the opportunity for consideration of a response to a FOMO
appeal, such as when pressed in public to accept an invitation.
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Agency theory
Agency theory also oers some explanatory value because when individuals are faced with
competing choices, they generally attempt to achieve the most desirable personal outcome.
As such, those individuals are engaged in decision-making circumstances under risk or uncer-
tainty. At this point, readers with an econometric bent may see the work of Kahneman and
Tversky (1979) as relevant. However, the objective of this research is to develop a consumer
behaviour-based behavioural response model, rather than an econometric one. Therefore,
the works of Frijda (1987); Roseman (1984) and Smith and Ellsworth (1985) are relevant
because their research deals with the individual’s emotive response. Collectively, this work
suggests that the level of uncertainty inherent in a decision inuences how an individual
feels about it. In particular, ‘high levels of uncertainty are strongly associated with emotions
of hope and fear’ [emphasis added] (Watson and Spence 2007, 497). Thus, the greater the
level of uncertainty there is about the outcome of a decision situation, the greater the level
of fear that may be felt and the greater the level of hope an individual will feel to achieve the
best outcome. Bell (1982, 1985), Loomes and Sugden (1982, 1986) and Zeelenberg et al.
(2010) posit that ‘possible future emotions are taken into account when determining the
expected utility of dierent courses of action’ (531). It is generally accepted that when indi-
viduals make decisions, they seek to avoid regret, which is an unpleasant emotion.
On the basis of the preceding discussion, it is reasonable to conclude that both cognitive
and aective elements should be included in any model of FOMO appeal response mecha-
nisms. It is now appropriate to further explore cognitive issues that were identied in the
analysis of the focus group data, which include opportunity cost, perceived scarcity and
Opportunity cost
The Oxford English Dictionary (accessed 18 December, 2015) denes ‘opportunity cost’ as
‘the loss of alternatives when one alternative is chosen’. This is described by Buchanan (2008)
as the evaluation placed on the most highly valued of the rejected alternatives or opportu-
nities. Prior research suggests that individuals often neglect their opportunity costs (Becker,
Ronen, and Sorter 1974; Jones et al. 1998), which are only considered ‘when they perceived
immediate resource constraints’ (Spiller 2011, 595). However, individuals who are the subject
of FOMO appeals, or who are ‘reactive’ and genuinely suer from a ‘fear of missing out’, are
only too well aware of the opportunity costs associated with rejected options, especially
when social events are under consideration.
Larrick, Nisbett, and Morgan (1993) propose that individuals who consider opportunity
costs tend to obtain more desirable life outcomes than those who neglect them. This sug-
gests that individuals who habitually consider opportunity costs are trying to optimise rather
than maximise their consumption, for example, they may seek to choose the best party to
attend rather than to attend both. In the FOMO context, an individual is attempting
to optimise their net benet by considering two elements. The rst is the perceived
(i.e. anticipated) benets inherent in taking their preferred option, whereas the second is the
anticipated combined detriments caused by not taking the other option(s). Because the
outcome of any choice is uncertain (i.e. the decision is made under uncertainty), the original
decision could be regretted. In addition, the greater the level of uncertainty under which
the decision is made, the greater will be the levels of hope and fear involved and the greater
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opportunity there may be for regret. These mechanisms explain why the respondents in this
research were concerned with regret and attempted to avoid future regret.
Therefore, in response to FOMO appeals, it is likely that there will be an assessment of
the likelihood of future regret (i.e. anticipated regret) when making the decision.
Regret and anticipated regret
Regret is a negative conscious emotional reaction to a past event or action, or at times relates
to personal inaction. It is the feeling that occurs when an outcome is imagined as being
worse than would have occurred, had one made a dierent choice at that time (Mellers,
Schwartz, and Ritov 1999). Regret for things that one has done (i.e. regrets of commission)
is more common than regret for things one has not done (i.e. regrets of omission) (Gilovich
and Medvec 1995). Above all, regret is the result of a past decision. As such, on most occa-
sions, one can do little to remediate the cause of a specic regret. However, sometimes, it is
possible to remediate regrets of omission, although it is rare for specic lost opportunities.
For these reasons, individuals generally seek to avoid regret where possible (Loomes and
Sugden 1982, 1986; Zeelenberg et al. 2010). Marketers know this and the memory of regrets
of omission, caused by over self-control in the past, may give rise to strong emotions (Keinan
and Kivetz 2008). Emotions have powerful eects on choice (Mellers, Schwartz, and Ritov
1999); thus, among considerations regarding choices, individuals may anticipate emotions,
i.e. ‘anticipated aect’ (Schwartz 2010) associated with a particular choice or course of action.
Shih and Schau (2011), among others, arm that anticipated regret is ‘… an emotion integral
to consumer decision-making’ (242). As an example, Ritov and Baron (1990) cite the case of
parents avoiding vaccinating a child because of the slim chance of vaccination complications
– the probability of which is much lower than that of death from the actual disease – the
objective in this case being the avoidance of a future regret of commission. Thus, anticipated
regret is often a component of an individual’s deliberations and is particularly related to the
felt discomfort of FOMO-initiated decisions. Furthermore, the reection on past personal
regrets, and the longer term regrets of other choices, may make consumers more likely to
‘select indulgences’ (for an extensive discussion, see Keinan and Kivetz 2008).
‘Scarcity’ refers to an insuciency or a shortness of supply. Time is a scarcity-related concept
and the perception of time as a scarce personal resource, in relation to discretionary activities,
may force individuals to choose one activity over another. In the world of consumers, per-
ceived scarcity is more common than genuine scarcity. The ‘scarcity eect is a powerful social
inuence principle used by marketers to increase the subjective desirability of products’
(Jung and Kellaris 2004, 739); hence, marketers often seek to establish perceptions of scarcity
via claims of exclusivity, excessive demand or often, ‘never to be repeated prices’. Perceived
scarcity value, or perceptions of the uniqueness of an opportunity, may make ‘missing out’
appeals even more eective. Both commercial and non-commercial FOMO appeals are spe-
cically designed to motivate consumers to seize a particular opportunity and are therefore
a ‘call to action.
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Post-decision or post-event outcomes
A FOMO response model would not be complete without consideration of post-decision,
post-consumption or post-event outcomes, as acts of consumption are generally followed
by some form of ‘post’ responses or judgements. It should be noted here that in contrast to
the pre-decision and decision-making phases, situational variables have little relevance to
post-decision considerations. This is because whereas a decision may have to be made under
time or social pressures, an individual is generally free to consider the ramications of their
choice for the rest of their life. The FOMO pre- and post-decision processes are similar in that
they typically have both cognitive and aective elements, which may be aected by personal
variables. Cognitive deliberations may include attribution judgements as to the cause/
responsibility for the outcome. These judgements may be aected by personal traits, such
as a tendency for inner (or outer) directedness. Similarly, other cognitive judgements may
be made regarding the source and credibility of the FOMO appeal initiator, the potential
consequences of FOMO decisions or preceding scarcity judgements.
Such judgements are not straightforward, as individuals may reconstruct their expecta-
tions in the light of an actual outcome – judgements with the benet of ‘hindsight’ (Oliver
2014). This can happen when consumers feel strongly, after the fact, that they knew a neg-
ative outcome would occur but hoped that it would not’ (239). Such is the case with FOMO
when the decision is made under high levels of uncertainty and hope. By contrast, post-
decision aective responses may range from happiness/joy (i.e. positive valence) through
satisfaction to regret/guilt (i.e. negative valence). Satisfaction is an ‘appraisal-based emotion
(Oliver 1980, 2014) resulting from deliberated consumer action, in which pre-consumption
expectations were exceeded (and vice versa for dissatisfaction). Hindsight may also involve
the re-visitation and reassessment of the ‘anticipated regret’ and other aective responses
that preceded the original decision, while post-event cognitive and aective responses may
lead to an individual’s judgements and learning from the FOMO-initiated episode. No matter
how successful or enjoyable the taken option was, he or she may be unable to reconcile the
regrets of omission due to not taking the other option (for a discussion, see Carmon,
Wertenbroch, and Zeelenberg 2003).
Conclusions regarding externally initiated FOMO appeals
It was concluded that externally initiated FOMO appeals engender signicant commercial,
cognitive and emotional responses in recipients. Although there may be positive outcomes,
such appeals appear to impose signicant cognitive and aective load upon those who are
targeted. The pre- and post-decision discomfort that is frequently felt may be explained by
SDT, which is based upon psychological needs. Deci and Ryan (2008a, 2008b) contend that
in all cultures, an individual’s well-being is based upon achieving competence and autonomy,
which is consistent with their concept of autonomous motivation. Most importantly, exter-
nally initiated FOMO appeals are by denition a function of ‘external contingencies’ and
therefore involve other entities, individuals and social situations. Because of this, responses
and potential outcomes such as social approval, shame avoidance, ego-involvement and
self-esteem are apparent. These elements comprise controlled motivation, as dened by Deci
and Ryan’s (2008a, 182), which they posit as being anathema to well-being. This may explain
the discomfort felt by FOMO appeal recipients and the often unsatisfactory outcomes of
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FOMO appeal-driven decisions. In the light of this realisation, the focus group transcripts
were word-searched. It is noteworthy to highlight that in all of the focus groups, positive
words such as ‘happy’ and ‘satisfying’ were not once mentioned in relation to the outcomes
of FOMO appeal-driven decisions. Therefore, it appears that once an external FOMO appeal
has been framed, the consumer is in a ‘damned if you do’ or ‘damned if you don’t’ situation,
with fortuitous outcomes a relatively rare occurrence.
The FOMO response model
The preceding identication of response elements and the discussion of relevant theory
provide a basis for the conceptual model of responses to a FOMO appeal. The FOMO response
model diagram is shown as Figure 3, Appendix 2.
Pre-decision inuencers
The model commences with the initiation of an external FOMO appeal. The consumer’s
responses to the FOMO appeal are aected by his or her trait-like personal variables, which
may be considered as pervasive inuencers of both pre- and post-decision judgements.
Given any individual’s personal susceptibility to FOMO itself, their responses will be aected
by: their level of perceived risk, need for cognition, preferred decision style, propensity to
consider opportunity costs, inner and outer directedness and their tendency to optimise or
maximise consumption. The pre-decision phase is aected by situational variables of lesser
duration, including social and time pressures, the range and complexity of decision options
and availability of cognitive and time resources.
Pre-decision responses
Within this hierarchy of inuencers, there is a range of possible cognitive and aective
responses; however, the model does not assume which occurs rst. Among possible cognitive
responses are: appeal, source, credibility judgements, assessment of the goods, services or
event options and their scarcity, level of uncertainty inherent in the decision and the con-
sideration and anticipation of possible consequences of the decision and their importance.
By contrast, the possible aective responses, which may vary in magnitude, include:
approach/avoidance reactions based upon history, memory, previous positive and negative
experiences, hopes and fears regarding decision outcomes and the potential range of emo-
tions anticipated for various outcomes (often including anticipated regret).
Following the initial cognitive and aective responses, consideration is then given to the
potential outcomes of the decision. These incorporate net assessments of the anticipated
pay-os and detriments, including potential resultant emotions associated with taking a
certain course of action. Such considerations will involve weighing anticipated ‘feelings’ of
‘missing out’ versus participation in each of the options under consideration to arrive at a
decision. However, a decision is not always reachable; the reasons for this include the avail-
ability of cognitive and time resources. If these resources are lacking or if the decider
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experiences indecision or procrastination, the passage of time and the occurrence of future
events may either remove one of the options, eliminate the need to make a decision or it
may mean that the event(s) pass with non-participation by the decision-maker.
Post-decision and post-event responses
Inevitably, some post-decision and post-consumption judgements will be made. Again, it
is not inferred whether cognitive or aective responses occur rst, although CAT suggests
that cognition may precede emotion. Post-decision emotive responses can be positive or
negative and may include: joy, happiness and satisfaction, disappointment, regret or guilt
or even emotive indierence to the outcome. Cognitive responses may include attribution
judgements and reconsideration, or revision of the pre-decision assessments that led to the
choice being made. These may include a revision of scarcity perceptions and the anticipated
consequences of the overall decisions situation. Considerable interaction and iteration may
take place between the emotive and cognitive post-decision judgements. Unlike the pre-de-
cision phase, the time available for consideration of an outcome is unlimited. Collectively,
these post-event processes may lead to global judgements and learning that may be applied
in future FOMO situations as suggested by Keinan and Kivetz (2008).
Managerial implications
An improved understanding of FOMO appeal responses provides the opportunity to enhance
the eectiveness of FOMO as a purchase trigger. While the current application of FOMO
appeals is evidently successful during the pre-purchase phase, this research suggests that
there are further opportunities to stimulate demand during the consumption and post-con
sumption phases. This is especially the case where social participation or group consumption
and peer pressure may be present, and particularly so when services and experiential con-
sumption are involved. Such an approach might also oset the evidently lower credibility
of commercial FOMO appeals, as there is an opportunity to stimulate during and post-event
feelings of ‘missing out’. While the purchase opportunity may have passed the stimulation
of regret, judgements in non-participants might make recipients more sensitive to FOMO
appeals in the future, thus making these types of appeals increasingly eective in the manner
suggested by Keinan and Kivetz (2008). Such post-event tactics are rarely seen in advertising;
therefore, an enhanced multi-stage FOMO strategic marketing approach would seem to be
the natural partner for the existing initiatory FOMO appeals.
General limitations include the fact that exploratory research was conducted only in Australia;
thus, the results may be more generalisable to culturally similar English-speaking countries
than to others. Also, the sample was exclusively university students; while the age group
matched the target market for FOMO appeals, the subjects’ level of education is not typical
of the general population and thus it may have aected the subjects’ responses. To strengthen
these ndings, it would be benecial to replicate the research with a more representative
sample. Similarly, a cross-cultural exploration of FOMO appeals and responses among young
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14 September 2016 Initial CE: SR QA: RR
consumers may also be warranted. Methodological limitations include the use of a single
coder for the manual coding and the recruitment of samples from a single university.
Future research directions
FOMO appeals are already of signicant commercial importance as they are an entrenched
and successful form of marketing appeal among young consumers. Thus, the topic is a worthy
area of academic research, which would benet from the talents of researchers with a diverse
range of skills. Further research in the area could add value to the FOMO concept, which has
to date only been used to initiate demand. A better understanding of the phenomenon and
in particular the ‘post’ FOMO appeal response would be valuable. There are two major
research domains that are particularly signicant for extending this body of knowledge.
Firstly, research in commercial contexts that have existing campaign tactics could provide
an opportunity for real-life eld experiments to test the eectiveness of specic associated
promotional initiatives. The online environment particularly lends itself to testing the eec-
tiveness of FOMO appeals by the random allocation of dierent ‘treatments’, for example,
advertisements and stimulus materials. This would be most eciently operationalised and
controlled by working with retailers that already use FOMO campaigns extensively and who
target student or youth markets.
The second major area for research is that of academia where laboratory experiments
could be conducted to investigate three elements of FOMO appeals, specically: (1) the
types of FOMO appeal; (2) the initiators of the appeal; and (3) the products involved (i.e. the
good or service). Such experiments would lend themselves to a factorial design. In addition,
recipients of FOMO appeals could also be a focus of research or used as an additional variable
for experiments. Thus, research could be undertaken into correlations between individual
characteristics and the eectiveness of a particular appeal or a range of appeals. In which
case, demographic, psychographic or personality-like factors could be explored such as the
‘Big Five’ personality types (Costa and McCrae 1992). Finally, analysis methodologies, such
as Structural Equation Modelling, could be used to develop improved FOMO operational
models. Additionally, since purchase decisions are the focus of FOMO appeals, it is especially
recommended that the phenomenon be investigated using discrete choice experiments.
The preceding research suggestions deal specically with FOMO appeals and responses,
which are such somewhat mechanistic. However, there are wider aspects of FOMO appeals
that could be researched. The rst is the ethics of FOMO appeals. If some individuals are
susceptible to fear appeals (i.e. are ‘reactive’), the question remains: Is it ethical to advertise
to them as they could be considered a ‘vulnerable population? In addition, FOMO appeals
themselves can have a negative impact on some individuals. Furthermore, in terms of mar-
keting philosophy, FOMO appeals could be regarded as maximising consumption in a similar
manner to the post-war sales concept, which has now been discredited. These considerations
continue the uniformly negative characterisation of FOMO and FOMO appeals. By contrast,
it is also possible that FOMO has positive aspects, for example, positive benets may accrue
to individuals if a FOMO appeal prompts them to have new and positive experiences, which
were previously denied due to excessive self-control. Since the FOMO concept is now well
established both in the psyche of younger consumers and in the commercial environment,
there are many avenues of research for academics to validly explore.
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Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author.
Notes on contributor
Chris Hodkinson is a senior lecturer in the University of Queensland Business School. He is a Consumer
Behaviour specialist, and marketing and social researcher holding both a research masters and a PhD in
consumer behaviour. His academic consumer behaviour research interests include adventure tourism,
impulse buying, consumer privacy, consumer behaviour in teaching and learning and elements of
popular culture. Chris has also been consulted extensively for industry deriving marketing strategies
from his consumer behaviour research.
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Appendix 1
Table 1. FOMO-related academic studies.
Author(s) Research topic FOMO-related behaviours/variables
Alt (2015b) Link between maladjustment and social media
engagement found to be indirect, with
FOMO found to have a robust mediating role
Aberrant behaviour; social media engage-
Alt (2015a) Investigation of the relationship between
FOMO, social media engagement and
academic motivation. High level of FOMO
found to correlate with high social media
Social media engagement; academic
Carbonell, Oberst,
and Beranuy
Sociological, psychological and functional
issues surrounding cell phone use and
addiction. Cell phone characterised ‘a catalyst
of FOMO’ leading to compulsive use
Cell phone addiction
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Author(s) Research topic FOMO-related behaviours/variables
Cheever et al. (2014) Overuse of wireless mobile devices. Psychologi-
cal dependency and anxiety assessed. FOMO
discussed in relation to social media access
Overuse of wireless devices; dependency;
and Douglas
FOMO found to be an antecedent of
concentrating on one’s smart phone instead
of talking to the person in company
(phubbing). Internet addiction, FOMO and
self-control predicted smart phone addiction
Internet addiction; ‘phubbing’; self-control
Collins (2013) FOMO predicted habitual/compulsive phone
checking behaviour but did not predict the
frequency of checking. Neuroticism and
anxiety were found to be predicting factors
Compulsive phone checking; neuroticism;
Elhai et al. (2016) Correlation found between the level of smart
phone usage and the level of stress
(including FOMO) induced as a result of a
period of smart phone deprivation.
Problematic smart phone use was most
correlated with anxiety, need for touch and
Smartphone usage; problematic usage;
Gökler et al. (2016) Development of a Turkish version of Przybylski
et al. (2013) FOMO scale
FOMO scale adaption – Turkish culture
Hato (2013) Development of a FOMO-related scale to assess
Compulsive Mobile Phone Checking
Behaviour Out of a Fear of Missing Out
Compulsive phone-checking behaviour
Hay (n.d.) Rural tourism trends: FOMO as a driver of
millennials’ selection of rural tourism pursuits
Selection of rural tourism destinations
Hetz, Dawson, and
Cullen (2015)
Enquiry as to whether students studying
abroad experience FOMO. FOMO was
experienced but in addition students found
to be attempting to induce FOMO in others
Overseas study; attempts to create FOMO in
Kandell (1998) FOMO as a driver of Internet use and Internet
Internet use and addiction
Lai et al. (2016) Neurobiological correlates of FOMO in
response to social exclusion inclusion cues.
FOMO associated with sensitivity towards
social inclusive experiences
Sensitivity to social inclusion/exclusion
Przybylski et al.
The first study to create a scale to measure indi-
vidual differences in FOMO and examine the
behavioural and emotional correlates of
FOMO in a sample of young adults
Development of FOMO scale
Riordan et al. (n.d.) Precursors of student alcohol consumption
investigated. FOMO found to be related to
quantity of alcohol consumed and the
number of negative alcohol-related episodes
Alcohol consumption; negative alcohol-re-
lated experiences
Trnkova, Nguyên,
and Madeira
Mobile phone usage level found to correlate
with FOMO-based anxiety
Mobile phone usage and anxiety
Appendix 2
In-person Impersonal
Sales staffAdvertisement
Significant other Social media
Figure 1. Taxonomy of external FOMO appeal initiation.
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Figure 2. Leximancer thematic analysis of the focus group data.
Figure 3. FOMO response model.
Mono for print
colour online
... FOMO is an increasingly evolving concept in consumer behaviour, mainly in social media marketing (Zhang et al., 2020). FOMO explains the anxiety social media users feel when they perceive their peers are doing, experiencing, or possessing something rewarding while they are not (Hodkinson, 2019). Consumers experience FOMO when they perceive that missing an experience poses a psychological threat. ...
... FOMO has been used in travel promotions, stimulating demand for beer, boutique clothing, feminine hygiene products, and real estate for young first-time home buyers (Hodkinson, 2019). However, there is limited research on how to leverage FOMO effectively and in what circumstances will it positively affect consumer purchase intentions. ...
Full-text available
Purpose Short-term changes in consumers' shopping behaviour due to the Covid-19 pandemic have been studied, but not the long-term effects. This study fills this gap by exploring the long-term changes in consumers' retail shopping behaviour, due to their experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Design/methodology/approach Qualitative data were collected from one hundred fifty-nine respondents, and grounded theory approach was applied for interpretation. Gioia thematic analysis method, open coding, and axial coding were used for analysis. Findings Individuals who positively approached their experiences during the Covid-19 demonstrated increased pro-sustainable and pro-environmental self-identity, resulting in sustainable consumption and a shift to online shopping. Individuals having overpowering negative experiences demonstrated heightened fear of missing out (FOMO), loss aversion, and rumination. While shopping, they demonstrated herd behaviour and shifted to online shopping. Research limitations/implications This study highlights emotional and psychological mechanisms influencing long-term changes in consumer shopping preferences post Covid-19 pandemic. The generalizability of the findings is limited due to the study's exploratory nature and the sample size. Originality/value This study contributes to shopping behaviour literature by uncovering novel constructs of self-identity, loss aversion, FOMO, and rumination as antecedents to long-term shopping behaviour changes post-Covid-19. It provides a new conceptual model of consumers' shopping behaviour, which may be empirically validated.
... FoMO, öz düzenleme teorisine dayalı olarak başkalarıyla sosyal anlamda uyum sağlamak için dışsal ve/veya içselleştirilmiş uyarıcılar tarafından yönlendirilen bir özellik olarak ele alınmıştır (Kim vd., 2020). İtibar, saygı ve neşe gibi diğer tüketici güdülerinden ayrı olarak FoMO, korkuya dayandığı için tüketicileri zorlamakta, kaygı ve stres gibi unsurlarla harekete geçirmekte ve davranış konusunda güçlü bir dış güdü olarak işlev görmektedir (Hodkinson, 2016). İletişim ve insan ilişkilerinde önemli bir güç haline gelen dijitalleşme ve sosyal medya, tüketicilerin davranışlarına, dolayısıyla da işletmelerin pazarlama program ve faaliyetlerine yön veren önemli bir güç haline gelmiştir (Kılınç, 2021:147 sağlayabilmek ve arttırabilmek amacıyla yapılmaktadır (Tashakkori ve Teddlie, 2010;Creswell, 2013;Flick, 2014;Baltacı, 2018). ...
Full-text available
Today, the development of mass media has caused people to spend a lot of time on social networks, while it has also led to an increase or formation of the fear of missing, which is a kind of psychological anxiety called FoMO (Fear of Missing Out). This fear directly or indirectly affects human behavior.The marketing world has begun to examine the effects of FoMO on purchasing behaviors. In this study, the determination of the factors that activate or increase this anxiety and their effects on purchasing behaviors in individuals with FoMO have been investigated with a qualitative method. It has been interviewed with 41 participants face-to-face by using the purposive sampling method and in-depth interviews were conducted with 30 participants who were determined to have FoMO by asking questions on the FoMO scale. Certain themes such as the need to belong, conspicuous consumption and the perception of scarcity emerged from the data analyzed descriptively.It has been understood that these themes increase or trigger FoMO in individuals and positively affect their purchase intentions.It is thought and recommended that businesses should carry out the marketing messages they want to convey to their target audiences in order to increase their sales, taking these facts into account.
... Various mechanisms, including random rewarding [163,169,170], fear of missing out (FOMO) [171], the "privacy paradox" [172,173], or the need to access essential goods provided in a multimonopolistic market [139], may promote acceptance of "take it or leave" conditions through 'all-in' consent [174][175][176][177]. Such phenomena may be particularly important considering that the possibility of current technologies evolving into a whole Internet of Things (IoT) intelligent environment (the so-called Internet of Everything [IoE]) [178]. ...
Global concern about problematic usage of the internet (PUI), and its public health and societal costs, continues to grow, sharpened in focus under the privations of the COVID-19 pandemic. This narrative review reports the expert opinions of members of the largest international network of researchers on PUI in the framework of the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action (CA 16207), on the scientific progress made and the critical knowledge gaps remaining to be filled as the term of the Action reaches its conclusion. A key advance has been achieving consensus on the clinical definition of various forms of PUI. Based on the overarching public health principles of protecting individuals and the public from harm and promoting the highest attainable standard of health, the World Health Organisation has introduced several new structured diagnoses into the ICD-11, including gambling disorder, gaming disorder, compulsive sexual behaviour disorder, and other unspecified or specified disorders due to addictive behaviours, alongside naming online activity as a diagnostic specifier. These definitions provide for the first time a sound platform for developing systematic networked research into various forms of PUI at global scale. Progress has also been made in areas such as refining and simplifying some of the available assessment instruments, clarifying the underpinning brain-based and social determinants, and building more empirically based etiological models, as a basis for therapeutic intervention, alongside public engagement initiatives. However, important gaps in our knowledge remain to be tackled. Principal among these include a better understanding of the course and evolution of the PUI-related problems, across different age groups, genders and other specific vulnerable groups, reliable methods for early identification of individuals at risk (before PUI becomes disordered), efficacious preventative and therapeutic interventions and ethical health and social policy changes that adequately safeguard human digital rights. The paper concludes with recommendations for achievable research goals, based on longitudinal analysis of a large multinational cohort co-designed with public stakeholders.
... According to Herman (2019, as cited in Zhang et al., 2020, FoMO is a fearful attitude of not being able to exhaust available opportunities as well as the fear of missing out the potential joy of achieving it. According to Hodkinson (2019), the youth market is developing tools that take advantage of this fear and the inner indecision conveyed by young people. ...
... A kimaradásérzés (Fear Of Missing Out, továbbiakban FOMO) egy aránylag új kifejezés, ami csak a 2010-es években jelent meg a hétköznapi és az akadémiai közegben. A FOMO nem más, mint az attól való félelem, hogy kihagyjuk az elérhető lehetőségek kihasználását és ezzel lemondunk a velük társított pozitív érzelmekről (Hodkinson, 2019). A FOMO-érzéshez a szakértők gyakran társítanak egy erős szociális aspektust, azaz, hogy egy személy a társaihoz, környezetéhez, más emberekhez képest marad ki valamilyen élményből. ...
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Consumers face a range of messages during online shopping or accommodation reservations that aim to speed up their decision-making process. However, there is a fine line between sales promotion messages that support consumers in making the right decision and ones that exert psychological pressure. The first goal of this paper is to review current literature on sales promotion messages that use psychological pressure, especially those relying on cognitive biases. The second goal is to present a study that measures the impact of various applications of such messages during online reservations. By using eye-tracking and electrocardiography, the authors studied the physiological signals of 12 participants, during a lab-based usability study. Based on the results, the authors propose that the inappropriate use of the sales promotion messages is not recommended for companies, as these are detrimental to the long-term loyalty of potential customers.
... Budnick et al. (2020) have also suggested that workplace FoMO has a different construct from other contextual FoMOs and that it predicts work burnout and excessive message checking behavior. As can be seen, in the conceptual development process, the number of publications on FoMO is increasing rapidly day by day in different fields, and it has become a researched phenomenon in various fields, such as psychology Wegmann et al., 2017), communication (Conlin et al., 2016;Maxwell et al., 2021), marketing (Hodkinson, 2019;Zhang et al., 2020), tourism (Sigala, 2019), sports (Larkin & Fink, 2016;Yim et al., 2021), business (Budnick et al., 2020;Tandon, Dhir, Islam, et al., 2021), computer science (Beyens et al., 2016;Roberts & David, 2020;Rogers & Barber, 2019), and education (Alt, 2015;Rozgonjuk et al., 2019). ...
Fear of missing out (FoMO) is a psychological construct that recently emerged in the age of social media. This study aims to provide an overview of the progress on FoMO research and offer a future research agenda based on FoMO-related scientific articles published. We carried out this aim using a two-stage methodological approach, based on an initial pool of 314 peer-reviewed articles in the Scopus database: (1) co-citation analysis, a bibliometric analysis technique, with a subset of 103 articles to show how FoMO research develops intellectually; and (2) a systematic review to discuss clusters that emerged after co-citation analysis. Results of the co-citation analysis uncovered four clusters: (1) social media, (2) negative affectivity, (3) problematic social media use, and (4) problematic smartphone use. We discuss the content of each cluster in the context of central themes, key theoretical influences, and characteristic methodological approaches. We also present a future research agenda based on this discussion. In conclusion, this study provides an up-to-date overview that can assist researchers in understanding and designing future FoMO research and for practitioners to improve the well-being of society or users.
The purpose of the paper is to examine the influence of the mediating role of consumption-oriented social networking site (SNS) usage on fear of missing out (FOMO) and social comparison. This descriptive study was conducted amongst a sample of 737 SNS users in India. Structural equation modeling was done to test the hypotheses. Analysis revealed that FOMO enhanced consumption-oriented SNS usage and social comparison orientation. Results also showed that consumption-oriented SNS usage partially mediates the relationship between FOMO and social comparison orientation. This study is pioneering in conceptualizing and testing a theoretical model linking fear of missing out, consumption-oriented SNS usage, and social comparison. In the context of social networking sites users between the age group of 18 to 45 years, implications concerning fear of missing out and social comparisons which are triggered in the presence of consumption-oriented SNS usage is elaborated, thus striving to fill the gap within the existing literature.
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For many people, watching social media causes them to associate their own lives with what they see or read, which in turn causes individuals to feel that they are missing something in some way. This situation, which is called the fear of missing out, is especially associated with social media usage practices in the literature. This is because social media tools have made it easier than ever to stay informed about the variety of social activities online or offline that might interest a person. At the same time, social media users, who use social media extensively due to the fear of missing the news, may engage in impulse buying. From this point of view, the aim of the research is to analyze the relationship between the fear of missing out on social media use and impulsive buying behavior. In this direction, the conceptual framework of the research is the use of social media, the fear of missing out, and the impulse buying behavior. A questionnaire was used as a data collection tool in the research and a total of 262 participants were reached. The analysis of the collected data was carried out with SPSS 26, AMOS 20 and PROCESS 4.0 programs. As a result of the analyzes, the mediating effect of social media use was determined on the relationship between the fear of missing out and impulsive purchasing. When the mediating effect of social media is evaluated, it is seen that it has a low mediating role. Ethics committee approval was obtained from Kocaeli University Social and Human Sciences Ethics Committee in order to carry out the study, according to the election numbered 29/03/2022, 203589
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An individual sees approximately 3000 ads per day and the number is not likely to reduce anytime soon. Hence we explore the various effects of advertising strategies employed on the individual. It addresses the various forms of advertisements that an individual is exposed to in their day-today lives as well as effects of the various persuasive psychological techniques on the psyche of the individual. These include the use of color, heuristics, emotional conditioning and personalization in advertisements. It also illustrates the positive as well as negative effects these strategies can have on the thoughts and behavior of an individual. The positive benefits of the advertisement include the societal, social, economic, cross-cultural and National benefits. They can challenge social norms, raise awareness on thought provoking issues and create positive role models as well as give opportunity to human creativity in the fields of comedy, drama and music. However it can also induce FoMo (Fear of Missing Out) and lead to promotion of stereotypes, development of negative body image and unhealthy habits, as well as create unrealistic expectations. All these negative effects can lead to severe environmental, behavioral, mental and economic problems. To counter these negative effects the paper proposes several techniques like increasing representation of racial minorities and LGBTQ community in advertisements, promoting body positive campaigns, showcasing anti-stereotypical scenes and stories in advertisements and using conditioning to propagate healthier lifestyle choices among the population.
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A growing body of consumer research studies emotions evoked by marketing stimuli, products and brands. Yet, there has been a wide divergence in the content and structure of emotions used in these studies. In this paper, we will show that the seemingly diverging research streams can be integrated in a hierarchical consumer emotions model. The superordinate level consists of the frequently encountered general dimensions positive and negative affect. The subordinate level consists of specific emotions, based on Richins' (Richins, Marsha L. Measuring Emotions in the Consumption Experience. J. Consum. Res. 24 (2) (1997) 127–146) Consumption Emotion Set (CES), and as an intermediate level, we propose four negative and four positive basic emotions. We successfully conducted a preliminary test of this second-order model, and compare the superordinate and basic level emotion means for different types of food. The results suggest that basic emotions provide more information about the feelings of the consumer over and above positive and negative affect. D 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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The expected utility hypothesis of behaviour towards risk is essentially the hypothesis that the individual decision-maker possesses (or acts as if possessing) a ‘von Neumann–Morgenstern utility function’ U(·) or ‘von Neumann–Morgenstern utility index’ {Ui} defined over some set of outcomes, and when faced with alternative risky prospects or ‘lotteries’ over these outcomes, will choose that prospect which maximizes the expected value of U(·) or {Ui}. Since the outcomes could represent alternative wealth levels, multidimensional commodity bundles, time streams of consumption, or even non-numerical consequences (e.g. a trip to Paris), this approach can be applied to a tremendous variety of situations, and most theoretical research in the economics of uncertainty, as well as virtually all applied work in the field (e.g. optimal trade, investment or search under uncertainty) is undertaken in the expected utility framework.
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Smartphones allow people to connect with others from almost anywhere at any time. However, there is growing concern that smartphones may actually sometimes detract, rather than complement, social interactions. The term “phubbing” represents the act of snubbing someone in a social setting by concentrating on one’s phone instead of talking to the person directly. The current study was designed to examine some of the psychological antecedents and consequences of phubbing behavior. We examined the contributing roles of Internet addiction, fear of missing out, self-control, and smartphone addiction, and how the frequency of phubbing behavior and of being phubbed may both lead to the perception that phubbing is normative. The results revealed that Internet addiction, fear of missing out, and self-control predicted smartphone addiction, which in turn predicted the extent to which people phub. This path also predicted the extent to which people feel that phubbing is normative, both via (a) the extent to which people are phubbed themselves, and (b) independently. Further, gender moderated the relationship between the extent to which people are phubbed and their perception that phubbing is normative. The present findings suggest that phubbing is an important factor in modern communication that warrants further investigation.
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Objective: To examine associations between Fear of Missing Out (FoMO), alcohol use, and negative alcohol-related consequences among college students. Participants: Participants were two samples of undergraduate students ages 18 – 25 (Study 1 n = 182; Study 2 n = 250). Methods: In both studies, participants completed the Fear of Missing Out Scale (FoMOs) and the Brief Young Adult Alcohol Consequences Questionnaire (B-YAACQ) in which they reported the number of negative alcohol-related consequences experienced over the past three months. Alcohol was measured retrospectively in Study 1, and prospectively in Study 2 using a 13-day Internet daily diary. Results: Across both studies, higher FoMOs was associated with experiencing more negative alcohol-related consequences but not overall higher alcohol use. In Study 2, higher FoMOs was also associated with consuming a higher quantity of alcoholic drinks per session. Conclusion: To reduce alcohol-related harm within the college student population, it may be important to address social factors such as FoMO that may drive people towards riskier behavior surrounding alcohol use.
The concept of opportunity cost (or alternative cost) expresses the basic relationship between scarcity and choice. If no object or activity that is valued by anyone is scarce, all demands for all persons and in all periods can be satisfied. There is no need to choose among separately valued options; there is no need for social coordination processes that will effectively determine which demands have priority. In this fantasized setting without scarcity, there are no opportunities or alternatives that are missed, forgone, or sacrificed.