Odds are that you have experienced scarcity marketing before, but you may not have known what it was at the time. Scarcity marketing is a strategy that capitalizes on a prospect’s fear of missing out on an item. This is based on the psychological principle that people tend to want what is in demand and hard to get. We all want what we can’t have. All of those signs advertising “last chance!” or “Get it while you can!” are great examples of scarcity marketing. Let’s take a deeper look at the scarcity marketing tactic to find out if it’s the right strategy for your business.
A deeper look: what is scarcity marketing?
Okay, we already know that scarcity marketing plays off an important emotion; fear. FOMO, fear of missing out, plays a big role in scarcity marketing. Most people experienced FOMO at one point in their life, whether it be missing out on an event or something else. Scarcity marketing can work a few different ways, but when it comes down to it, it’s the idea of limiting the supply of a product to make your target audience feel that if they don’t act right now and make that purchase, they will miss their chance. This could be through restricting availability to a certain time frame or decreasing production of the item, though most often it is done by doing both of those things.
Examples of scarcity marketing
Scarcity marketing is applicable across so many industries and can be used on any scale. You don’t have to be a huge world-renowned company for this tactic to be successful. Let’s look at some real-life success stories using scarcity marketing.
Offering a product during a particular season and no other time of the year is a great example of scarcity marketing. Think Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte or McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. These are such popular items because you can only enjoy them during certain times of the year, people can’t help but go and partake in the madness that is the PSL.
McDonald’s has really taken advantage of this tactic, not only with their St. Patrick’s Shamrock Shake but also with their limited-edition Szechaun sauce. In 1998, McDonald’s released a limited-edition Szechaun sauce alongside the release of Disney’s Mulan. Once film promotion was done, the sauce was taken off the menu and most had forgotten about it… Until Rick and Morty mentioned it in one of their episodes. This sparked a huge conversation online about the sauce, which McDonald’s of course took advantage of and brought back the sauce for one day only and in limited quantity.
It is human nature to collect things. This could be anything really, such as clothing and apparel. Some people collect just what they need and no more, others collect everything they desire. Collect is another spin on “scarcity.” If a brand uses this word, it implies demand, value, etc. This encourages those that are in the collection mindset to add this item to theirs.
Nike Air Jordan
If you are living and breathing in 2022 you are likely aware of Jordans and their limited drops. People camp out for days and even weeks for drops. One individual, Rolo Tanedo Jr., spent over a decade tracking down and purchasing every publicly released original Air Jordan from the 1s to the 14s. Tanedo spent $1,000 on some of these pairs of shoes, even encountering one for sale on eBay for $10,000. Jordans have played a big role in turning the resale market into a $2 billion industry. Talk about a successful use case of scarcity marketing.
While human nature is wired to collect resources and things that will help us survive, it doesn’t stop there. There is also this need to distinguish yourself. A company offering something unique and exclusive triggers the desire to stand out. Think collector’s editions of everyday items.
Though Pinterest is widely used these days, that was not always the case. Back when Pinterest was first established, it was an invite-only platform. Pinterest launched in beta in March of 2010, though it was not until mid-2012 that it opened up its registration to anyone with an email address. The exclusivity of the platform helped create buzz while they worked out the kinks to eventually allow for the millions of users it has today.
Should you use scarcity marketing for your business?
Scarcity marketing will look different for every business and service it is being used for. It doesn’t have to be used on such a large scale to elicit a response like the examples you read about above. The great thing about scarcity marketing is that it can be used across a variety of different industries, from food to clothing and apparel and technology. When it comes down to it, we all want what we can’t have. If you can create that feeling around what you are selling, you are likely to generate some interest that will only grow.