35,000… the number of decisions that the average person makes per day. Evaluating each of those decisions would drive all of us to drink. To preserve our mental sanity, we rely on outside forces, or triggers, that influence our decision-making and help speed up our information processing. Why should we care about these primarily subconscious triggers? Simple. A successful marketer will use these influential triggers in their favor to elicit a positive response from their target audience.

In support of this idea, researchers have examined consumer behavior and the decision-making process. Robert Cialdini, one of the most renowned researchers in this field, founded six triggers that influence our decision-making. He called them the “Weapons of Influence”.

And with all this being said, we would like to introduce…L7 Creative’s toolbox of marketing mayhem! In this toolbox, we will post a series of blog posts that will unveil all six essential psychological levers to improve your marketing and advertising initiatives. This is Part Three of our Weapons of Influence series, covering the weapon “Scarcity” (read Part One here and Part Two here).

Weapon Three: Scarcity


Quick! Read this blog post before we delete it forever!

We’ve all fallen victim to one of these age-old scarcity tactics: “Hurry, Sale Ends Today”, “Members Exclusive” or “Only One Left in Stock”. What is it about the element of scarcity that makes a product so alluring?

Nintendo is doing a superb job capitalizing on the power of scarcity with their latest console, the Nintendo Switch. In Japan, the Switch is so popular that they are having lotteries in which consumers only have a 1 in 10 chance of purchasing the product. With limited supply, resellers are marking the price of the Switch up by 20% or more. Some have accused Nintendo of “intentional scarcity”, while Nintendo claims they simply underestimated demand. Whether or not scarcity was intentional or not, we know one thing for sure – it’s working. Nintendo reported a 175% increase in sales in the past six months (compared to the same period last year).

Limited-Numbers and Limited-Time

Scarcity can inflate desire (at times, artificially) for a person, place or thing. It is typically deployed using one or both of the following elements: limited-numbers and/or limited-time. These elements give the impression that because “said thing” is in short supply and only available for a short time, then it must be pretty damn cool. Obviously.

We are proud when we own something in limited-numbers because we feel it is unique, rare, and desirable. This is why “antiques” and “vintage” items can be priced at premiums. Scarcity is also effective because people are inherently “loss averse”. That is, people are more motivated to avoid any potential loss, than the potential to gain something of value. A limited-time to purchase a product expedites that feeling of impending loss, urging a consumer to make a purchase quickly just to avoid that dreaded FOMO. What was the return policy again?

Implications for Marketers

Marketers can utilize the weapon of influence, scarcity, to enhance their marketing efforts and generate more demand for their products or services.

Exclusive Deals

Offer “member-only” deals to give your product or service a heightened perception of value. Just think about Pinterest, now with 175 million monthly active users, who started as an “invite-only” platform. Pinterest’s exclusivity created a buzz around their platform as eager consumers lined up to taste the forbidden fruit. This being said, consumers often find products or services more attractive when their availability is exclusive.

Publicize Your Supply

When your inventory is low, let it be known! Alternatively, offer “limited editions” of specific products and highlight that aspect in your marketing efforts. Customers will feel more inclined to purchase your products or book an appointment quickly if they feel they might miss the opportunity (especially if it’s to another customer).

Sale Deadlines

Another tactic is to limit the amount of time consumers have to purchase your product or book your service. This deadline gives consumers a sense of urgency and also plays on their desire to avoid losing out on a great deal. This will give your customers an extra nudge to act fast.

Without realizing it, you may have already been implementing elements of scarcity in your marketing efforts. However, understanding the psychological underlying of this powerful weapon, will allow you to use it more strategically.

Stay tuned for our next post in this series where we will cover the marketing insights and implications of the weapon, “Social Proof”.


By: Christina Gineris