YMS 2019: Learning About FOMO, JOMO, and FOBO in London

April 24, 2019

Youth Marketing Strategy is a marketing conference in London focused on 16 to 24 year olds, otherwise categorized as Gen Z. Marin has been a sponsor of this conference for several years now, and it’s designed as a touchpoint for advertisers and brands looking to connect with a younger audience.

So what generalizations can I spring on you after spending two days attending sessions and speaking at YMS? Quite a few....

Boning Up on Acronyms

For starters, I can now explain that FOMO, JOMO, and FOBO are considered real “things” for Gen Z inhabitants:


  • FOMO - fear of missing out
  • JOMO - joy of missing out
  • FOBO - fear of being offline

I took extra care with my notes to make sure I didn’t screw those definitions up, and I’m rock solid on the first two—but I did start to question whether FOBO was a fear of being online or offline. But I’m guessing that both work equally well.

The Evidence-Based Angle on Gen Z

Like any event that’s geared up to categorize a whole group of people based on their age, many of those present (vendors and speakers) will inevitably turn to survey data to find insight and make points that are worthy of a pithy slide or memorable visual. Turning to surveys is really the only way you can get away with sweeping generalizations about an entire group of people based on their age.

Skepticism aside, I did scribble down some interesting facts that were appended to Gen Z for the benefit of advertisers and companies selling products to people in that group. I’ve cherry-picked some compelling points to share from a UK study of Gen Z respondents, which was presented by Mark Walker, CRO at Attest:

  1. Gen Z consumers don’t buy from brands who reflect their stance on social issues as much as Millennials (at least yet—they’re under 24 so there’s plenty of time for convictions to deepen and causes to take root).
  2. Some advertisers can take solace from the finding that Gen Z finds personalization and ad targeting helpful rather than creepy, at least in comparison to older generations of consumers.
  3. On the other hand, advertisers shouldn’t celebrate just yet. Gen Z is more likely to pay for an ad-free experience rather than suffer ads in return for a free service.
  4. You won’t be surprised to hear that gaming consoles and streaming TV services are heavily over-indexed for Gen Z consumers in the UK.
  5. If you’re in the product review business (and who isn’t these days), rejoice! Gen Z is particularly sensitive to (and presumably swayed by) negative online reviews. This also applies to PR firms, since bad news or negative coverage about a particular brand can be very detrimental to sales among Gen Z buyers.

Advertising Overdrive/Overload

In addition to the nuggets of Gen Z consumer data, I did find an old marketing quote that still rings true in a clever Opinary presentation:

“Most people ignore advertising because advertising ignores most people” – Bob Levenson

Ed Harvey, Head of UK Brand Partnerships at Opinary, also made the point that we’ve reached near saturation point for advertising, and the average digital native from Gen Z see 4,000 to 10,000 ads per day. Not surprisingly, engagement rates are very low as a result of all that noise, just 0.09% on Facebook and 0.05% on Twitter.

Big Strides in Retail

I also listened to a lively discussion about innovation in retail where Shakeel Sanghera from Nike made some excellent points about how people will always want the social, connected experience of high-street shopping. It’s something you just can’t recreate in an online setting, but it is possible to merge online and offline in meaningful ways for consumers.

For example, why not pre-order your next pair of Air Jordans online and arrange an in-store visit to try them on (to make sure they’re in stock in your chosen size and color)?

It was also noted that people are less impetuous when online shopping—which means they spend less per visit than in-store. Online customers tend to know exactly what they want and go right to the Shopping tab in a search engine or on Amazon to find it. There’s less browsing behavior online, and people aren’t inspired to try on random items and keep their partner waiting in the changing room for hours.

gen z

The summary of this discussion ended on a sensible note—for retail and beyond, technology should remove barriers and friction for consumers and ultimately be helpful. It won’t replace the warmth and social aspect of shopping with family or friends, but it can save you from waiting hours in a store for the perfect shoes, only to be told that your size is out of stock.

The Incredible, Shrinking Patience

One final anecdote before leaving the world of Gen Z—Michelle Capp, Client Partner of Retail at Facebook, made the excellent point that technology has made us all very impatient, with Gen Z’s digital natives perhaps the most influenced.

Take hailing an Uber for example. If we see that a ride is going to take more than five minutes to arrive, our instinct is to cancel it and look for quicker alternatives. Remember that just a few short years ago, people would happily call a taxi the night before for a ride to the airport. How times have changed with technology advances, for Gen Z and all of us.

Brian Finnerty

Marin Software
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