top of page

Marketing Tactics: The Persuasion of Scarcity

I’m sure there has been at least once in your life that scarcity has caused you to purchase something, or do something you probably shouldn’t have. (It doesn’t always relate to purchasing decisions!)

From Dr. Robert Cialdini’s “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” Chapter 7: Scarcity

Scarcity is a strong influence. It can, and usually does, happen organically. But it can also be artificially created.

Scarcity is effective because: psychologically, people want/ desire something more when it has limited availability.

Keep in mind that scarcity must be perceived as real to the consumers to be effective. (And ethically, the scarcity should be real).

The scarcity tactic is/can be effective for many reasons:

  1. It is common to believe that items that are more difficult to acquire must be of good quality, and those items that are easy to acquire must not be of high quality, or are of lesser quality than those that are more difficult to acquire.

  2. People, overall, tend to be very loss averse. This being, they “are more motivated by thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value (Cialdini 238).”

  3. When “opportunities become less unavailable, we lose freedoms…whenever free choice is limited or threatened, the need to retain our freedoms makes us desire them (as well as the goods and services associated with them) significantly more than previously (Cialdini 245).” We need to justify our newly developed strong desires for this product, so we start attributing positive qualities to the product.

Scarcity tactics are even MORE effective in certain circumstances:

  1. When the product is abundant, and then suddenly becomes less available.

  2. When you are competing against other for the same item.

The Marketing Take-Away

  • Limited time offers

  • Limited quantities / “while supplies last”

  • Framing offers in a “loss aversion” way (eg. “Don’t miss out!”)

  • Show that other customers are interested

I have noticed that Victoria’s Secret does an excellent job with using scarcity on their special offers and special deals, which is typically sent out in their email marketing campaigns.

For more detailed examples of using scarcity in marketing: 13

The other “Weapons of Influence” are:

  • Reciprocity

  • Commitment & Consistency

  • Social Proof

  • Liking

  • Authority

Let me know if you liked this post, and if you’d like me to write more posts about the other weapons of influence.

Thank you for reading! Follow for more marketing information and tips!

bottom of page