Tuesday 2¢: COVID, travel, and life: FOGO vs FOMO vs Cost

I’m sorry, but this COVID crisis seems to be an itch I just keep scratching and in this Tuesday 2¢ I talk about the juggling this new risk.


I know, we are all tired of the ill-informed and unqualified commentary on the current crisis, but consider my exploration of this here on my blog with you as a service that spares my fellow lockdown inmates (my lovely family).

Life going forward until we get vaccinated or immune or something is going to be living with the virus. The “new normal” or whatever you want to call it is going to be balancing a new risk with life and work that has to go on.

As marketers, we are going to need to be sensitive about where consumers are on that balance, the same as we as employers, bosses, parents, friends, sons, daughters (etc.). It seems our lives will be negotiating our feelings about risk, with those around us and society at large.

Travel for work or leisure, which seems to be getting a bit of focus as edge towards the summer, is an excellent example of this.

Those of us that have been fortunate enough to have careers that included a lot of let’s be honest, moaning about business travel are suddenly feeling marooned. And, almost everyone has become addicted to the availability of affordable travel for our leisure.

Changing Expectations

I think whatever is next for us all, we are going to have to adjust our lifestyles and expectations as health security becomes a more prominent part of our lives.

Working-class kids today have the expectation (or human right) of getting a Saturday job and with that cash, jump on a budget flight for a boozy week in Ibiza. For my parent’s generation for much of their early working-class life, international travel was a luxury. Their first holiday outside the UK was probably our first holiday abroad as a family – could we go back to that?

Luxury is space

Space, when you are traveling, is a mark of luxury; from the airline lounge, the seat at the front of the plane to the Mercedes whisking you to the upgraded room in your hotel. If we have to travel with social distancing, we will have to pay a premium, is that going to be the future of travel? Back to my parent’s time when it was a luxury?

Cost: Money

The boss of Ryanair states that he can’t economically fly planes with people spread apart for social distancing. I imagine that if you want to fly on a plane to Ibiza with a third of the passengers that flying would cost three times as much. I heard the same thing from a restaurant boss, if he spread his tables far apart enough to enable social distancing, he would have way fewer covers and therefore would need to charge £300 a meal. Is this the approach they will take?

Cost: Inconvenience

There is another cost to travel, it will become even more of an inconvenience. Like those inconveniences we had to adapt to when we thought terrorists would blow up the planes. How inconvenient could it get for us to stop?

Cost: Lives

It has to be said, but I’ll leave that there.

FOMO vs. FOGO vs. Cost

All of us will need to make decisions between the risk of catching and passing on the virus (or the fear of going out (FOGO)), fear of missing out on an experience we want to have, and how much it will cost.

Now clearly the CEO of Ryanair (or any budget travel provider) cannot change his model, and this morning he is bullishly talking about filling his planes in July. He bets that there are enough people where the cheap satisfaction of FOMO will win out over FOGO or the risks to his consumer’s health (that obviously will be mitigated as much as possible, but it’s a metal tube).

But will they?

Consumers will make individual choices, but will we simply go back to what we did?

Will people with certain behaviors that will help spread the virus, that were perfectly acceptable a few months ago, become social pariahs in the same way society has dealt with smokers, drink drivers, or sexists?

What about an employer that asks an employee to fly? Can employers make the FOMO vs FOGO vs Cost decision for them? And if individual employees make different decisions about this, will this lead to inequality in the workplace?

Ten years ago or so I went through a period after a LOT of flights of anxiety about flying, I had the genuine feelings that my employer was putting me at risk. A fear that was, of course unjustified, the taxi ride to the airport was statistically way more dangerous than the flight.

But a world with COVID-19 adds another risk or danger to factor into our decision to leave the house. And, this is going to be the balance for almost everything in our lives and the challenge for our leaders and us as leaders (and employers, parents, friends, sons, daughters (etc.)).

The risk is not going to go away; we just need to figure out how to live with it and each other.

(And a hat tip to Jane Scandurra’s piece in Rockstar CMO this month for the FOGO reference).