Scare Tactics and FOMO:

How to Avoid Clever Marketing Tricks and Keep a Level Head in a Spending-Surge Season.

Benjamin Franklin said:

“Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.”

We’ve all been there. The moment we acquire that which we want or need, it is replaced by the next best thing. Instead of feeling a sense of gratitude or accomplishment in such acquisition, we feel duped, less than, and insecure about our purchasing habits.

Whether or not we realize it, we are all subject to marketing strategies and tactics~ everything from our choice of milk to how technology fills our life~ serve to define us and our spending profile. We may even begin to feel as Franklin implied, that we are creating a vacuum. And especially now, in a season full of splurge-worthy sales, when it seems that every day is filled with a must-have mentality for the acquisition of that next-best-thing, is the very time we need to guard our mind and money, so as to avoid the proverbial rabbit hole of debt.

Advertisers use clever marketing strategies to create emotions within us that lead to Fear Of Missing Out, or even in extreme cases, a sense of harm or doom, if we do not purchase whatever idea they might be selling. These are called ‘scare tactics’, and are noted such because it works by taking away our power of reason. As succinctly stated by the University of Melbourne,

“Ads that tap into our emotional reaction to an issue, rather than just our rational or informational needs, are called “fear appeals.” They are named this way to jump-start us into action. They aren’t just about scaring or shocking us for the sake of it- it’s about using that fear to encourage us to change.”

Common examples of this might look like: ‘Don’t miss out’, Get it before it’s gone’, ‘Flying off the shelves’. These buzz words create a sense of panic in our brain leading us into an irrational, fear-based decision, rather than a rational, thoughtful need. Even if the item is a planned purchase, clever marketing can trick us into spending too much or spending in an untimely fashion.

Another ‘fear tactic’ of marketing that exploits Fear Of Missing Out is the ‘Buy 3, Get 1 Free’ type sale. Okay, do you really need 4 of the thing, or is it really just a way to trap you into overspending? You may rationalize that you are getting something for free, and while that may be true, you’ve also just been duped into spending triple on the one item you set out to purchase. Marketing tricks like these may temporarily fill a void with a ‘new purchase’ kind of joy, but that joy is quickly replaced by regret and fear when our budgets are not feeling the normal flex of living within our means.

So how can we avoid the traps of FOMO, overspending, and keep a level head? Cicero said:

“Frugality includes all the other virtues.”

Frugality, or the careful management of material resources and money, may seem a purely rational quality, borne out of checks and balances. But it is more than a mere mathematical exercise. If we don’t develop gratitude for what we already have, the ledger will never have enough zeroes, and we will find ourselves in constant want. Conversely, if we practice gratitude, learn to live within our means, make thoughtful purchases which require both saving and denial, then we are getting close to the algorithm as quoted by Cicero. Virtues help us to feel appreciation.

Gratitude helps us to make peace with missing out. We exercise gratitude when we take stock of what we already own, make lists for what we really need, and learn to use sales to our advantage rather than a paved road to debilitating debt. As George Lorimer wisely stated:

“It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t LOST the things that money can’t buy.”