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Sanne van Kuringen

Published on

August 16, 2018



If a product is available in abundance, you may want to buy it, but you do not feel the urge to do so right away. But if something is scarce, you want it as soon as possible. According to Cialdini, former professor of psychology and marketing, this is caused by the fear of losing out. He described the principle of scarcity in his book as one of the seven influencing techniques.

If you want to apply this principle for your own brand, you can take an example from the monks of the Saint Sixtus abbey in Westvleteren, Belgium. They brew beer that you can not just buy in the supermarket or liquor store. You have to make an appointment at the abbey especially get the beer and then you can come to collect a maximum of one crate. It is therefore beer that you can’t just get at the store whenever you want. The supermarket chain Jan Linders made clever use of this. They took this beer to the shops and continued the principle of scarcity: customers were only allowed to buy a maximum of two bottles of this beer. The beer was sold out in no time.

Another good example is the Yeezy sneakers from Adidas. These shoes, designed by Kanye West, are very scarce because they can only be bought twice a year. In addition, only one pair of shoes is offered for each size, while some 75,000 people are ready to buy them at the end of their computer. This mismatch in supply and demand ensures that the shoes are sold for a lot of money, because people who misunderstand the lack of supply during the official sale still want to buy those shoes.

These are great examples, of course, but I can imagine that you do not have Kanye West in your contact list. Yet, you can also apply this scarcity principle to your campaign in a simpler way. Below are three examples that you can immediately apply in your marketing strategy:

Available up to and including

When companies send press releases, this often concerns a new product or new service. The focus is usually on what is so great about it and when it is available. The idea doesn’t work with every product or service, but sometimes you can experiment a bit with the influencing principle of scarcity in press releases. For example, communicate the product is only available in a limited edition or that it is a special edition. You can also indicate that it is only available for a limited period of time.

Full is full

After sending an invitation for a webinar or an event, for example, you want everyone to sign up as quickly as possible. But this does not always happen. When people receive an invitation, many think: “Later on I will check whether I have time.” In your invitation, please describe how many attendee spots are still available, such as: only 50 of the 300 spots available. It’s also helps to communicate when spots become available, due to cancellations, after the list is full.

This promotion is available for six days and three hours

The principle of scarcity can also work well online. Also indicate here if something has a limited edition, for example a webinar that is almost fully booked. Or a so-called ‘countdown clock’ that indicates when the registration period ends. The same principle goes for selling a product. Indicate how much is still available.

By testing and trying things out, you’ll discover if scarcity works as a technique for your organization. When using this technique, make sure you keep it simple and subtle. When it is applied everywhere it is no longer credible. For example, many are bothered by hotel websites and the fact that they says there is only one room available and at the moment fifteen people are looking at this room. It’s easy to not take these websites seriously because it looks like the seller is doing too much. So start with scarcity, but do not overdo it.

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