FOMO vs. inspiration. What serves your brand better?

Dan Salva
3 min readJun 2, 2022

I’ve always held that an inspiring message is more powerful (in the long run) than a fear-based message. But I have struggled with proving it beyond my personal experience. That’s what made a study from mntm research encouraging. Here’s an excerpt:

“How do you hook an audience’s attention and get them to take action? Open your commercial with a fear-based message, a highly effective emotion for driving website visits (49% better Visit Rate than the overall average). This approach, however, does result in 55% lower CVR (conversion rate) than the overall average, so if your goal is conversions, steer clear of fear-based creative.”

The study went on to detail how commercials that opened with a more joyful message still had a strong visit rate, but they also had a higher conversion rate.

Fear will get you attention — but at a price

FOMO (fear of missing out) has proven to get people to click. But I’ve always wondered at what cost? People will click to make sure they aren’t inadvertently doing harm to themselves. Or simply missing out.

But what exactly have we created by using this method to get them to click through? We have put them in a defensive posture. They are trying to stop something bad from happening. If you have any experience in selling, you know that this is a less-than-optimal time to engage someone (and that’s putting it nicely). This explains why we see the results the study highlights. With FOMO, we get people to click. But the conversions aren’t there.


Inspiration wins — but it may not be readily apparent

Too many organizations equate getting clicks with success. But if those clicks are driven out of fear, they really aren’t great clicks.

Of course, leading with an inspiring message will most likely draw fewer clicks than the FOMO message. But that’s okay. Because those clicks will convert better. It makes sense. Nobody likes buying out of fear. We may do it grudgingly. But we usually aren’t happy about it. On the other hand, we like to be inspired to buy. It makes us feel good.

Dan Salva

Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail.