Have you ever wondered why every time you are online shopping without the intention of buying, your basket ends up being filled with several pounds’ worth of stuff? Well wonder no further, the answer is here and it is clear – The Scarcity Principle. This principle suggests that due to the common conception that valuable and desirable objects are scarce, people assume that objects that are scarce are valuable and desirable (Cialdini,1993). As demonstrated by the advertisement above, marketing strategies employ scarcity in order to convince buyers that this is their ‘last chance to buy’ or that they can buy something that is a ‘limited edition’. Having the latest rare limited edition object makes you more distinctive and automatically a little bit cooler, so of course you’re going to buy it right? By using the fact that people are more motivated by the idea of losing something than gaining something, these campaigns and advertisements entice people to find things more attractive when they are in short supply and a rarity. The Scarcity Principle therefore suggests that the uniqueness of the scarce object will satisfy a need to stand out from others (Brock, 1968).
As shown by Jang et al. (2015) in their study about the effects of scarcity on consumption behaviour, purchase intention was significantly greater when a scarcity message was introduced, in particular, when the products themselves were also limited editions. These results are shown in Figure 1. By inducing a sense of urgency to purchase the scarce product, consumers will be more motivated and eager to acquire the scarce objects which in turn will associate them with high social status. It is in this way that companies are able to manipulate people’s behaviour and increase a consumer’s purchase intention without the consumer really even knowing it is happening.
Brock, T. C. (1968). Implications of commodity theory for value change. In A. G. Greenwald, T. C. Brock, & T, M. Ostrom (Eds.), Psychological foundations of attitudes (pp.243-275). New York: Academic.
Cialdini, R. B. (1993). Influence: The psychology of persuasion. New York: William Morrow & Company Inc.
Jang, W. E., Ko, Y. J., Morris, J. D., & Chang, Y. (2015). Scarcity message effects on consumption behaviour: Limited edition product considerations. Psychology & Marketing, 32 (10), 989-1001.