FOMO: What Amazon Knows Will Supercharge Incentives

FOMO: What Amazon Knows Will Supercharge Incentives

August 27, 2015

You glance at the clock in the corner of your computer screen.  Midnight already.  Where did the time go?  You were writing a proposal for work, but you got distracted looking at a Facebook album that your friends uploaded of their vacation.  You were invited, but couldn’t go, because you had that thing that you couldn’t get out of.  Each picture makes you more anxious than the last. 

Look at the view from their hotel room…  oh, they went SCUBA diving… and saw a wild manatee… wait a minute, are they eating gelato with Tom Hanks?!  All the makings of a truly once-in-a-lifetime adventure that can’t possibly be duplicated.  All memories that have been banked. And all of it happened without you.

That’s exactly the emotion we want to generate with an incentive travel program… But more on that later.

Technology has changed the way we operate, the way we communicate, and the way we work. As part of that evolution, marketers have a new and powerful tool in the media marketing arsenal that can’t be bought.  It’s a little something commonly referred to these days as “fear of missing out,” or FOMO for short.

Andy Przybylski – a University of Oxford scientist and research fellow – reported on FOMO in a 2013 study published in Computers in Human Behavior. He found that the concept didn’t originate with the internet, but that the use of social media now gives us a perspective on other people’s lives that never existed before.  We check in on what our friends are doing at any time with the click of a mouse or a swipe of the finger. It is a blessing and a curse.  It gives us a skewed social yardstick we constantly use to see if our reality measures up to the image that our friends put out there on Facebook and Twitter.  And with the arrival of the smartphone, the FOMO phenomenon is magnified.

Some of us are more swayed by FOMO than others.  In fact, along with Przybylski, researchers from the University of California and University of Rochester found that individuals with a high level of fear of missing out were consistent with those who are alpha players, such as high-level executives and top-performing salespeople. In other words, exactly the audience for a sales incentive program…

Retail giant, Amazon knows all about FOMO and uses it to their advantage.  They generate excitement for epic electronic shopping days, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Millions of customers from around the globe spend hours stalking, er, browsing the site for the best deal on the latest gadgets, limited edition toys, and must-have fashions.  They have no idea what might be featured, but flock to their screens in hopes of snagging the items on their wish lists.  It’s all-consuming and—like that gelato you missed out on —we hunger for it.  What’s more, Amazon knows how to keep the FOMO going year round with individually-focused selling tactics.  For instance, their Gold Box Deals are available for one day only and can sell out at any time.  Daily Deals are advertised on the site by a timer that informs shoppers as to how much time is left for them to make a purchase of a featured item.  And the use of Internet cookies allows the site to use your previous searches to make recommendations toward specific items. The now-or-never marketing never ends!

It’s brilliant.

FOMOIT? (Fear of Missing Out on Incentive Travel)

Similarly, the power of incentive travel programs is also based around the concept of FOMO.  The very essence of incentive travel programs is the experience that they yield.  Often, these experiences are only possible in the destination that is selected for the program, and are highly desirable because of the culmination of creativity, elegance, limited accessibility by the public, and of course, a certain je ne sais quoi… Dinner atop the Eiffel Tower?  Yes, please!  A private cooking lesson from a foremost Italian chef?  When in Rome! 

Leverage FOMO in Your Existing Marketing Strategy

Like Amazon, consider using FOMO as a tool. Build excitement around your products and services by focusing on individual experiences potential guests won’t want to miss and be sure to spread the word with social and digital media. Forge a mystery, sparking interest by disclosing information in spurts.  Tease memorable and exclusive experiences that can’t be replicated.  Hinting toward a celebrity guest, a surprise announcement, or a once-in-a-lifetime adventure are great motivators.  If you give all of the information to the potential winner upfront, they will weigh their options and decide whether earning the incentive is worth it, so it’s best to keep the details under wraps. By not disclosing the details, you keep the ball in your court.

Be careful not to over-promise and under-deliver.  Once a guest has been let down, they are unlikely to forget it.  Be sure you have all the makings of a truly unmissable event or program.  For instance, Amazon recently flipped the script by marketing “Prime Day,” in celebration of their company anniversary. It was billed as a unique chance for great deals.  For weeks beforehand, marketing on the site, which garners roughly 85 million impressions per month, teased the shopping extravaganza, creating FOMO for faithful fans. In an unexpected turn of events, the response was widely and unequivocally that it was a letdown. Unfortunately for shoppers, the quality and draw of the deals was just not up to expectations.

FOMO is Contagious

An added bonus of FOMO is that it’s contagious.  Program attendees can take advantage of their well-deserved bragging rights by breeding FOMO from wherever they are enjoying their earned incentive travel program.  They do this among their networks by live tweeting and posting regularly from the height of their zip line, the base of their hot spring, and the sandy throws of their beachfront cabana.

Winners of this year’s program feed into the fear of missing out on the next trip once they’re back in the office with stories to tell.  If used correctly, FOMO will inspire employees to feel that they must earn the next trip, because if they don’t they will miss out on the best entertainment, the most inspiring speaker, the most lavish hotel accommodations, the coolest gift, and rarest of all, one-on-one downtime with high-level executives that could bolster real connections back at home.

When paired with a quality incentive travel proposition, FOMO can be powerful. It can move a person to do things they ordinarily might not do. Motivation is key, and it’s up to you to provide it and to make a program truly unmissable.  Think ahead to your next incentive program.  Communicate with strategy, creative marketing, and a dash of FOMO.  Follow Amazon’s lead.  Time is running out; don’t let it happen without you.