How many times as consumers do we see the words “limited edition” on products or signs? Sellers and shops are very clever in using just these two words to boost their sales. Letting buyers know that a product is “limited edition” uses the persuasion technique of scarcity. When people realise that something is scarce or rare it makes them more willing to buy it because it increases its perceived value. As humans we believe if something is rare then it must be more valuable, and by not having something that is rare or “limited edition” feelings of frustration can be created and imply the self is lacking in some way.
An experiment by Worchel, Lee and Adewole (1975) demonstrates the effect of scarcity being persuasive. Participants were asked to rate the attractiveness and value of cookies that were either in abundance or were scarce. The results are summarised in Table 1 below.
They found that the cookies that were scarce were rated as more valuable in cost. Interestingly, they also found that when the supply of cookies changed from abundant to scarce, they were rated more valuable than they were if they were always scarce. By possessing something that is scarce, we feel special as we are one of the lucky few people who managed to get our hands on this limited edition product!
Next time you manage to get or miss out on a limited edition item, see if scarcity is behind how you're feeling.
Worchel, S., Lee, J., & Adewole, A. (1975). Effects of supply and demand on ratings of object value. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 906-914.