Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

So many eggs, so little time!


Get your cream eggs before 31st march, otherwise you’ll have to wait a whole year before you can have them again!

If you saw this in a shop window or on tv, would you be more likely to purchase a cream egg?

Have you ever wondered why the words ‘limited availability’ or special addition’ suddenly’ make you want a product you never wanted or needed before. I know i’ve got tonnes of products that have gone straight to the back of my wardrobe, or bought memberships I’ve only used once, but didn’t want to miss out on the chance of getting such a bargain so went ahead and wasted my money.

The limited availability of these cream eggs and other products advertised in this way, is know as the scarcity principle. humans place a higher value on an object that is scarce, and a lower value on those that are abundant. Cialdini (1985) classified the scarcity message into two types: the message with quantity limit, and the message with time limit. With a limit put on a product, the consumers are told that unless they make an immediate purchase decision, they will have to buy the item at a higher price, or they will not be able to purchase it at all.


The principle of scarcity appears to draw its power from three sources. Firstly, items are more desirable when they require more effort to obtain. Secondly, it provides a desire to preserve the consumer's freedom to choose. Third and finally, scarcity suggests higher value on the product.

Aggarwal, Jun, and Huh (2013) researched how intention to purchase a product was affected by advertisement that were scarce in availability. It was predicted that the scarcity principle lead to consumer competition to receive a product better quality and value than everyone else as the items are considered more ‘rare’.

The study involved 121 students whom were each allocated to one condition, scarcity of time limited, quantity limit or a control group. The participants were shown advertisements with messages that suggested scarcity such as only 5 days left to “buy”. Participants then had to rate both their intention to purchase the product, along with how they felt about consumer competition.

The study revealed that those in the time-limited and quantity-limited condition had higher intentions to purchase the product compared to those in the control condition. Limiting quantity available seems to have the most effect on intention which could be because with time limits, the products are not limited to a certain amount of people.
Lastly, the study showed that consumer competition was a significant mediator between scarcity and consumer intentions.

Cadbury’s would do well to continue to employ this tactic of time limited scarcity, especially with their seasonal products such as easter eggs, valentine's chocolate, christmas chocolate etc. and to become more effect limited quantity could also be employed, for example, the first 1000 get the cream eggs for a discounted price.

Aggarwal, P., Jun, S.Y., Huh, J.H. (2013). Scarcity messages.  Journal of Advertising, 40, 19-30.

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