Prior to the pandemic, the Philippine apparel and footwear retail industry registered stellar sales, closing at P184.9 billion in 2019 (Euromonitor, 2020). Global fast fashion brands such as H&M and Fast Retailing, which owns the brand Uniqlo, thrived in the country and were poised to open more outlets. The success of these companies is attributed to their appeal to Filipino consumers, especially the younger generation, who want to keep up with the latest fashion that is aligned with international trends. The ubiquity of internet access and the widespread use of social media have bolstered demand for these products. It is common to see posts in social media platforms with the hashtag #OOTD (Outfit of the Day), featuring various designs and brands of clothes worn at school or at work. No wonder there is a certain level of pressure to join the bandwagon and that feeling of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) to keep up with the fashion trends.
Herman (2011) defines FOMO as an “emotional reaction resulting from the attitude of having options open to us — in high regard.” According to Herman, three factors result in the FOMO experience: 1.) the consumer’s awareness of a plethora of attractive options to choose from; 2.) the consumer’s conceived ability to use as many of the options that he or she would like to; and, 3.) the conceived ability to exhaust the consumer’s reference group. FOMO arises when consumers believe that they are not able to, say, buy a specific brand of clothes or try new restaurants that people whom they consider as important are able to.
FOMO has been linked to increased television viewing habits. Conlin et al. (2016) show how FOMO predicts the propensity of people to watch shows on social media and television so that they can talk about them with their friends and become part of a cultural conversation. Moreover, Saavedra and Bautista (2020) have proven that FOMO motivates Gen Z consumers people (born between 1991 to 2002) to purchase masstige brand apparel. Silverstein and Fiske (2003) define “masstige luxuries” as products that are subject to luxury buying behavior. These products are considered expensive for mass consumption but are affordable compared to high-end brands.
The recent successful campaigns of advertising giant Ogilvy capitalized on social media trends, such as the do-it-yourself Dalgona coffee and ube pan de sal (breakfast buns made with purple yams), in promoting its clients’ brands. The agency launched a campaign for mothers to use the Tang juice drink to make “Dalgona Fruity Shake” for their kids. Similarly, it positioned Eden Cheese as the perfect choice for baking delicious ube “cheesedesal.” These social media advertising efforts immediately gained traction as consumers posted their versions of the fruit shakes and ube cheesedesal and urged their friends to post their versions as well. The cycle of engagement continues because the people tagged in the post want to be part of the clique. This is the power of FOMO, which advertisers and marketers may find beneficial to leverage for their brands.
While FOMO has its negative side when people succumb beyond their capacity to the pressure of following trends, it can also be a positive driving force to perform productive activities. In the educational setting for instance, the mode of learning has shifted primarily to online platforms. Given this set-up, students should have the discipline to submit their requirements on time. Perhaps educators can show a running percentage of students who have submitted their homework and inspire those who have not submitted yet by delivering a message that they should not be left behind. In the workplace, the FOMO concept can likewise be used to encourage employees with annual targets, such as sales and marketing personnel, to achieve their goal as a team.
Clearly, management can use FOMO as a powerful motivating factor to inspire desirable behavior.
Reynaldo A. Bautista, Jr., DBA, is the director of the Center for Business Research and Development and an Associate Professor in the Marketing Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University.