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Integrated Marketing Association

Scarcity Marketing

Scarcity marketing centers on the idea that consumers are more eager to purchase products that are more difficult to acquire. Scarcity marketing encompasses nearly all aspects of marketing, including production, promotion, pricing, and circulation. For example, advertising a certain product is only available for a limited time, or only a certain number of an item have been produced and offered for sale, are both instances of successful scarcity marketing strategies.

At a basic level, scarcity marketing takes advantage of consumers’ natural fears of a shortage to generate sales. Amazon, for example, includes a small but effective call-to-action (CTA) right underneath the price of many products they sell: “Only (x) left in stock – order soon.” The theory is that the shopper will be more motivated to quickly add the product to their online cart and order it, for fear that if they take more time to consider their purchases, the product will sell out. Another example of scarcity marketing that’s been around for quite some time is Walt Disney Studios’ “Disney Vault,” which advertises a certain Disney feature film will be available on video or DVD for a limited time before it goes “back into the vault,” which supposedly encourages consumers to purchase the film quickly before it’s no longer available.

Scarcity marketing offers businesses many benefits, including the ability to present their products and services as rare commodities. Consumers often tend to equate “rare” with “quality,” which can prompt them to purchase. It can also create a kind of cult following for certain products, as is often seen annually during the holiday shopping season with the year’s “must-have” toy – consider Cabbage Patch Kids in the 1980s or, in from more recent memory, the Tickle Me Elmo craze.

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