How To Use Scarcity To Make Consumers Crave Your Products
Updated: Jan 29
Have you ever heard the expression, “You can’t miss something that you’ve never had?” Logically—that expression makes perfect sense. However, while you may not technically “miss” something that you’ve never had before—emotionally, you could certainly yearn for it to the point that you agonize over not having it—which would evoke the same emotions you’d have by missing it.
The reason for that, is as human beings—from an emotional perspective, we have an inherent inclination to have a strong desire for certain things. Things like love, attention, and a sense of belonging are hard-wired in all of our psyches (whether we’d like to admit it or not).
Another thing that we’re hard-wired to have a strong desire for are things that we cannot have—as well as things that aren’t always available to us. Here’s a few ways that you can use those hard-wires to your brand’s benefit by making consumers crave your products.
Shorten your supply
Have you ever dated someone that didn’t have much free time—especially when it came to spending it with you? (we’ve all been there) If so, did you notice that the less time that they had for you—it only made you want to see them even more? That’s because psychologically, we tend to place a higher value on things that are limited or less abundant—especially when others covet them.
You could use those same emotions to your brand’s advantage by purposely limiting the supply of your products. In economics, this is referred to as “The Scarcity Principle,” which is a theory that states that a limited supply of a good—along with a high demand for that good—would result in an even higher demand for the product (which would also allow you to charge more for it).
Here's an example of how you could put your own twist on the scarcity principle to increase demand for a product:
Let’s say you’re the owner of a small e-commerce store that sells hoodies for skateboarders. You’ve noticed that your highest-selling SKU (stock-keeping unit) is a signature black hoodie that has a big picture of your company’s logo on the back of it and you normally keep at least 80 of these hoodies in stock at all times. By shortening your supply by 60%, and only keeping 48 hoodies in stock—you’ll be applying the scarcity principle.
This, of course—would cause you to sell out of those hoodies much sooner than you would by having a larger supply of them. However, by stating that the hoodie is sold out on your website—but will be back in stock soon—consumers will desire it even more because they’ll assume that since others purchased it in abundance—it must be good.
Author Jonah Berger, expounded on the power of product scarcity and exclusivity in his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, “Scarcity and exclusivity help products catch on by making them seem more desirable. If something is difficult to obtain, people assume that it must be worth the effort.” Berger explained, “If something is unavailable or sold out, people often infer that lots of other people must like it and so it must be pretty good.”
If you’ve been on social media lately—you may have seen plenty of complaints about brands like Apple, Yeezy, and Nike selling out of some of their most popular products early on their respective release dates. One could surmise that they could easily anticipate the demand for those products and increase manufacturing to meet the demand. But those companies understand the less accessible that a product is to the masses—the more it’ll be coveted (like that person you dated).
Going back to my dating analogy—did you ever notice that when you were able to hang out with that person that rarely had free time to spend with you—you made sure that you found the time to see them whenever they were available because their free time was so rare? That’s because either consciously or subconsciously—you knew that if you didn’t act soon—the opportunity to get what you wanted may not have been available later.
That same psychological effect could be utilized to work in your brand’s favor by limiting the time that your products are available to consumers.
A great example of a brand that has perfected the limitation strategy to increase consumers' cravings is the fastest-growing cookie chain in America, Crumbl. Crumbl co-founders Jason McGowan and Sawyer Hemsley (they’re also cousins), designed a weekly rotating menu that—besides their staple cookie—milk chocolate chip (their other staple cookie pink sugar was recently removed)—switches every week.
This works great for them in three ways:
1. It leads to consumers regularly checking their website or walking into one of their stores to find out what’s their latest flavors.
2. If consumers do see a flavor they like on the Crumbl website or at one of their locations—it invokes a purchase sooner because they know the flavor won’t be available later.
3. It ignites word-of-mouth marketing because consumers will tell their friends about the newest flavors available. They'll also tell others they know that also enjoy Crumbl cookies if one of their favorite flavors is back on the menu (it also doesn’t hurt that Crumbl cookies taste absolutely awesome).
In an interview with Mashed.com, McGowan described his brand’s clever marketing strategy, “We do a new menu every single week. Well, we do a weekly drop of our flavors. We all have our heightened marketing around it. We've coined this term about hype marketing. We just say, ‘You know what, we're going to drop four flavors. You can only get them for that week and if you miss out, you don't know when they're going to come back.’”
The act of marketing is simply this, “Create concepts that connect with consumers.” Sometimes, in order to connect with someone—you have to show them your value by not being so easily available to them.
Through systematic scarcity—you could ignite and increase consumers' cravings for your brand’s products by creating a favorable perception of the value that your brand has to offer them. And if you use just enough scarcity—and cause just enough tension—there’s a great chance that you’ll make a love connection.