What is FOMO, and how is it used to inspire millennial travelers?

Posted September 21, 2016 in by

You’ve felt it while watching a long Snapchat story from the front row at a Beyoncé concert or scrolling through the candid photos of your travel-blogging former college roommate. It’s the slightly uncomfortable feeling that your experiences are not quite measuring up. Are you truly dissatisfied? Is it insta-envy? Or are you experiencing the symptoms of what marketers and millennials have dubbed FOMO?

FOMO, or the fear of missing out, was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. It refers to the feeling of “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere.” While the paranoia that someone, somewhere is having a better time is not new, this blend of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation is flaring up more often while skimming social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. No longer are we simply worried that our friends are having fun without us. The proof that they are is practically live-streaming to our mobile phones.

Fear of missing out is a powerful emotion that can directly influence decision-making. And while this influence reaches into everyday purchasing decisions, FOMO naturally lends itself to the highly visual world of travel marketing. Understanding what motivates travelers is key to keeping your travel brand relevant in a market that is quickly becoming dominated by millennial shoppers. So how can travel brands leverage FOMO to inspire the millennial traveler?

Question them
When it comes to travel, millennials are on the hunt for a meaningful experience that they can share online. They are interested in new adventures with friends and experiences that take them outside of their comfort zones. Use online marketing to reach them in the research phase of travel planning, before a destination decision has been made. Challenge them to question their next trip destination and inspire them to dream big.

This example from Ecuador travel on TheClymb.com suggests the traveler “meet the locals” over a powerful and beautiful mountain scape image. This aligns with the idea of millennial travelers immersing themselves in local culture and creating that memorable, one of a kind experience. The strong “Last Chance” call to action prompts an immediate response by creating a feeling that time is running out.

Reference social media

Millennials will often imagine or play out the scenario of sharing an experience with friends on social media before embarking on a trip. Leverage their imagination and motivate them to see the possibilities by referencing social media in your marketing. This tactic lends itself to travel marketing. A beautiful destination is naturally Instagram-worthy, and so even very subtle social references will get the minds of your millennial market racing toward their next shareable travel moment.

A strong call to action like the example below from Adventure.com prompts the viewer to imagine what is possible, what experiences could they find while traveling and how will it feel to share that experience with their network.

Inspire them to share envy-worthy stories

Social media creates the opportunity to share authentic, in-the-moment experiences with the world. Use this to inspire millennials by embracing the idea of the everyday VIP. Communicate that your brand is human and going above and beyond to focus on the details for their trip. They’ll happily talk up your brand if you give them an experience worth sharing.

TheClymb.com features an inspirational travel blog called “stories”. They use visuals and descriptive writing to highlight personal stories from TheClymb members who have ventured across the world.



Don’t forget the digital natives

Digital natives are the always-sharing, tech-savvy generation who grew up broadcasting their day-to-day lives through platforms like Snapchat, Yik Yak and Instagram. While authenticity is important to millennials, it is paramount to digital natives. They gravitate toward brands that tell authentic stories through highly visual mediums and make them feel like they matter. Those individualized experiences are what will keep them sharing and coming back for more.

Make the experience about them with customizable trip options like the example below from JetSetter.com and showcase past travelers who are willing to share their experience with authentic testimonials.


We may not want to admit it, but everyone has fallen victim to the fear of missing out. FOMO marketing is used effectively across the media landscape but has some of the most potential in travel and tourism marketing. Understanding what creates FOMO and how to leverage it can make your marketing efforts timely and relevant, engage your audience, and create fans for life.

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