Jose Palomino

“FOMO” is in the Dictionary, and Millennials are in the Market

August 9, 2016


For years, websites like Urban Dictionary have been providing outlets for the continued synthesis of language — call it, “liberal linguistic development.”  It’s a more recent phenomenon that pseudo-words like FOMO (“fear of missing out”) are making it into the pages of more legitimate language authorities, like the Oxford English Dictionary.

The OED defines FOMO as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.” Many people — myself included — find themselves skeptical of this new phenomenon. But it’s a clear marker that we (boomers) are no longer entirely in control — the Millennial generation is slowly starting to hold more and more sway over language — even in an official capacity.

A Brave New World

Similarly, Millennials are developing more and more sway in the marketplace. Forbes reports that the estimated 80 million Millennials in the United States — about a quarter of the entire population — has a combined purchasing power of $200 billion. And beyond their current influence, Millennials are the ones who will be defining the state of the market in the future.

Many companies are preoccupied with thinking up new ways to market their product to Millennials — whether it’s over social media, with flashy new packaging, or by undercutting their competitors’ prices. What a lot of people don’t realize, though — what I didn’t realize until recently, and what you probably never considered — is that Millennials don’t trust advertising.

Millennials Are Just People

A meager 1% of Millennials surveyed by Forbes said that they are “influenced at all by advertising.” Whether that’s actually true or not is besides the point. The fact that they believe it’s true is what’s telling. They’re keyed into the idea that most advertising is just a “spin,” and what they’ve come to value above marketing is interaction and authenticity.

Sure, they may be a strange new breed of person — they prefer social media over face-to-face business interaction and they speak in slang that is slowly overtaking traditional English. But at their core, they want to know that they can trust the product that you are selling.


Now, I make the above observations with tongue somewhat in cheek. The fact is that every older generation tends to view the next one as “other” to some degree.

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

~Attributed to Socrates by Plato (about 470 BC)

I think the best bottom line on this point is something Pixlee CEO Kyle Wong called his “untold secret” of marketing to Millennials: “Remember that Millennials are also people.

The Importance of Trust

Millennials are recreating the marketplace the same way they are recreating language. They don’t trust advertising. Instead they trust word of mouth — blog posts, suggestions from friends, and genuine (online) interaction with the brands and companies they are buying from.

With $200 billion in purchasing power, many companies have a healthy FOMO as far as the Millennial market is concerned. But remember — even if your product is the coolest, shiniest new version on the market, and even if your social media campaign is second to none — Millennials are not some massive, faceless entity that you must convince all at once to buy into your brand.

They’re people, you know. Like you and me.

Remembering that your target market are indeed individuals is key. Think of them as individuals, who want to trust and interact with you. They are not some faceless entity — don’t treat them like one. If your company markets to Millennials, ask yourself these questions.

  • Do you think of Millennials as valuable customers? Or as a demographic that you just have to deal with, but don’t want to?
  • Have you adapted your marketing methods to appeal to Millennials’ habits?
  • Has your company actually interacted with Millennials? Through social media, in person, etc.

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