Scarcity marketing: Does it still work?

By Jacob Baadsgaard

These days, everything seems to be about ease, convenience and availability. With a few clicks, you can get almost anything (groceries, clothes, transportation…you name it!) sent to your home.

If people can’t get what from one business, another option is just a few more clicks away – so why wait?

In this climate, it seems like scarcity marketing should be a thing of the past. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. As it turns out, having so much surplus makes people much more competitive over limited resources. So, if you do it right, scarcity marketing can actually be an incredibly powerful way to sell your products or services.

With all that in mind, let’s talk about scarcity marketing and how to use it effectively with today’s “I want it now” consumers.

How scarcity marketing works

Scarcity marketing is based on one very simple, primal principle: fear motivates people to act. This can be fear of almost anything: fear of missing out, fear of social embarrassment, fear of inadequacy…you get the idea.

Take the Disney Vault, for example. For decades, Disney has locked away its classic movies for years at a time. Then, every so often, they open the vault and re-release certain titles — for a limited time. If you want a copy of your childhood favorite film, you have to buy during that period or you’ll miss out.

It’s a simple strategy, but it’s so well-designed and executed that every “new” release draws in the next generation of buyers. And, as a result, the Disney movies maintain a special, almost sacred place in the American household — all because of scarcity marketing.

The secret to Disney’s success is the fact that when things are always available, they become a commodity. As humans, we take the commonplace for granted. However, when something is only available for limited times or in limited quantities, it becomes special. We care a lot more about things that are hard to get or replace and that makes those things more valuable to us.

Putting scarcity to work for you

As it turns out, two-day shipping and other services that indulge the “I want it now” side of the market have actually increased the effectiveness of scarcity marketing. People simply aren’t used to limited supplies or having to wait for something, so scarcity has an even bigger impact than used to.

This is good news because it means that you don’t have to be a giant company with a decades-old brand to make scarcity marketing work. Here are a few ideas.

Create high-quality products

Anyone who’s ever tried a DIY project knows that quality takes a lot of time and effort. As a result, we all naturally recognize that quality and quantity have an inverse relationship: the higher the quality, the less you can produce.

Whether or not that actually plays out at scale, that’s how we all believe things work.

Take alcohol, for example. For centuries, a variety of factors (local weather and soil conditions, harvest time and quality, …read more

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