What Is FOFO and Do You Have It?

How P&G and L'Oréal managed the fear of finding out in times of uncertainty

Marketers suffer from FOFO because they do not have a clear and reasonable path forward. Getty Images
Headshot of Greg Paull

Marketers have been suffering from FOFO (Fear of Finding Out) for a long time.

A term familiar in the medical community to describe the psychological barrier that stops people from seeking medical advice for worrying health conditions, FOFO is the complete opposite of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

What drives FOFO is twofold. First, it deals with a sense of increased responsibility. There are few places to hide when every ad and action is publicly scrutinized. The economy has made it clear that we cannot go back and change the past. The best recourse is to act for the future.

The playing field has flattened in the sense that no one has the advantage of knowing what the future holds.

Secondly, marketers suffer from FOFO because they do not have a clear and reasonable path forward. Once you find out that your organizational structure, agency model, media spend or digital strategy is not in great shape, what do you do? Can you even afford to investigate further? With budgets already crunched, what’s the point of starting a process you can’t follow?

FOFO that your marketing team or agency model is bloated

Marketers are realizing that work can be produced with fewer resources. Restructuring and streamlining might feel like a struggle at first, but marketing leaders are getting innovative. Some are also finding that certain agency partners can deliver far more than expected.

Procter & Gamble has embraced FOFO in the last two years by breaking its model, changing its corporate structure and changing agency relationships in place for over 50 years through Fixed and Flow, in-housing and pushing holding companies to work together.

FOFO your money is in the wrong places

Transparency will outlast any trend. Savings, no matter how minimal, count these days, and finding leaky pipes and fixing them might mean having that little bit extra to increase engagement and drive revenue. Recent boycotts and freeze of spend on social media will give marketers a chance to go back to zero and have a benchmark for comparison.

Unilever has embraced FOFO recently by being a leading voice on Brand Safety and Diversity and pushing its global marketing communities to be better at appropriate content.

FOFO you’re not planning for what’s next

The playing field has flattened in the sense that no one has the advantage of knowing what the future holds.

L’Oréal has embraced FOFO by radically changing its talent pool, forcing every marketer and potential candidate to sit a digital test, hiring 3,000 new digital talent and pivoting to ecommerce with online engagement better than anyone else.

There’s a diversity in treatments and remedies. Sometimes a complete rehaul is necessary as it might be the fastest and most cost-efficient way for marketers to get their house in order.

Here are three things to do if your marketing team is showing signs of FOFO. Think of them like stages in a recovery program.

Confront your FOFO

Be open about the risks to your marketing continuity. If you find yourself repeatedly asking questions like, “Why are we experiencing these issues again?” it’s time to schedule a checkup. Find an expert who has qualified experience and shows a genuine desire to help and keep an open mind.

Bring in your finance and internal audit teams as active stakeholders to help you hold marketing accountable. There is no C-suite job waiting for any marketer unless they can prove the value of their investment.


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Greg Paull is the principal and co-founder of R3.