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Does the use of scarcity as a marketing ploy actually work for brands?

Limited Availability Scarcity


Persuasion 101 teaches us that invoking a sense of scarcity into your marketing and promotional activities is a great way to get people to purchase your products or services. This is because humans are motivated more by the thought of loosing than gaining – fear of missing out. So be it a scarcity tactic that is deployed stating there are limited amount of product or services left (limited availability scarcity) or a scarcity tactic stating that the product or service will be available for a short period of time (time period scarcity), scarcity has always worked as a form of persuasion – to bring people to your sales channel and get them to purchase.

Consumer Researchers have now found that scarcity tactics specifically for limited availability, activates aggression and predisposes consumers to violence (Kristofferson , Mcferran and Morale). When a scarcity advertisement displaying limited availability products or services is shown, other consumers are immediately seen as competitors and aggression hormones are released, preparing consumers to aggress (Kristofferson , Mcferran and Morale).

The study also found that a marketplace where scarcity is implored impacts consumer’s cognitive functioning and pushes them to focus on meeting their present goals even if it means sacrificing their future goals (Kristofferson , Mcferran and Morale). Consumers will purchase the product or service whether or not they will use it, whether or not they can afford it, whether or not they like it, whether or not it prevents them from attaining their future goals.

I hypothesize that this drive to meet present goals regardless of the impact on their future, leaves consumers feeling a loss of control and possibly regret after present goals have been met. Bringing it back to brands, if a consumer purchases your brand under the duress of limited availability scarcity, after purchase, they might feel a loss of control over their decision and possibly regret.

The question is, knowing the negative effects (activated aggression and lower decision making power) of limited availability scarcity, is it still advisable for brands to use them in their promotions?

If your product or service is a commodity that is operating as a monopoly, then focusing on drawing traffic and quick sales is not necessarily a bad strategy. However, if you are in a highly competitive market or with a product or service that isn’t really a necessity; your strategy should be around building long term favourable relationships with your consumers – brand building. Relationships whereby your brand is relevant in their lives and is not remembered as one that invokes negative feelings.

The ball is in your court, choose wisely!

To read more on the study visit: https://academic.oup.com/jcr/article-abstract/43/5/683/2528223

Works Cited

Kristofferson , Kirk, et al. “The Dark Side of Scarcity Promotions: How Exposure to Limited-Quantity Promotions Can Induce Aggression.” Journal of Consumer Research 43 (2017): 683-706.