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Avoiding short termism and the fear of missing out

Written by James Gray on Thursday, 18 June 2020. Posted in Online, Sales & Marketing

The fear of missing out drives our purchasing habits, rivalries between competing brands, design choices, and much more.

Avoiding short termism and the fear of missing out

The fear of missing out drives our purchasing habits, rivalries between competing brands, design choices, and much more. In marketing, it takes many forms, from changing trends in copywriting to the use of emergent technology like AI or chatbots, and curated experiences - new, successful innovation is soon widely adopted into marketing practice, and the latest events are 

Whilst this is not always a problem, often driving the development and availability of new marketing materials far faster than they would otherwise be, there can be some issues in the rush to stay at the cutting edge - whether diving into new technology, or marketing campaigns around current events.

Short termism

Short Termism is the over-commitment to shallow time-frames and reactionary marketing applications reliant on either relevance or the most up to date experiences and topics - without considering long term goals, user expectations, or what success looks like.

Focusing entirely on the short term requires marketers to try to maximise value as quickly as possible without looking at wider effects, and needs a high level of churn in messaging, brand presentation and so on to stay relevant. By linking your activity to immediate events, you risk diluting brand positions, confusing potential users or attracting negative attention - particularly if your brand is less than relevant to events or your messaging misinterprets user feeling (Pepsi’s protest ads are a famous example).

This over-commitment requires immediate decisions on areas that should be given a much broader consideration - going digital vs traditional distribution, the use of bots and auto-responders to streamline customers vs a more hands-on approach, and so on. Responsibility for performance and longer term success after the initial campaign launch is often then also devolved and so ultimately forgotten.

An over-reliance on short-term campaign production limits the scalability and relevance of results to the parameters of that specific campaign. Being unable to extrapolate from long term data then prohibits learning for future campaigns, or the application of information to other areas of marketing. Snippets of success may look good at the time, but will start to suffer over a greater timeframe.

Fear of missing new technology

As the rate of technological change increases alongside the areas of innovation, there can be a fascination within marketing for being a part of the latest trend with the latest implementations. From apps to social media chatbots and the current automation holy grail of AI, the need to be part of the latest tech trends can be very hard to beat - regardless of how ready that new technology really is, or how feasible an implementation is in the long term. And as digitalisation and tech adoption adds new abilities, new expertise are also needed to fulfil their requirements. This can result in over-specialisation with a limited offering, and the fragmentation of responsibility within a project - with each specialised element working to its own KPIs, considerations of success and so on.    

Lack of consistency can cause big problems for any campaign, business, or brand - and picking new technology up too early can be an incredibly expensive mistake. Fear of missing out on tech, combined with short-termism, can result in fragmented campaigns that are difficult to quantify or base future marketing work on. This is not to say that short campaigns or technological innovation are not important - but they must be combined with long term vision and understanding for the greatest chance of success!

About the Author

James Gray

James Gray

James Gray is a classically-trained marketer with a passion for all things digital and an unequivocal love of data. He’s Head of Digital at Wonderful, and has crafted data-driven digital strategies for B2B and B2C clients. These include global brands such as Virgin and Mazda, as well as some of Britain’s market-leaders like LEVC and Deltic.

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