The market forces like demand and price hugely influence consumer preferences, however, while this applies to the micro-economic theory, it fails to explain one phenomenon of psychology- ‘the scarcity rules’. The theory of demand and price usually works like this: the scarcity of goods leads to higher prices therefore leads to the decrease of demand. Nevertheless, according to the commodity theory (Brock, 1968), the scarcity of goods helps to enhance consumers’ desirability of experiences and objects. The scarcity effect also explains individuals’ attempt of acquisition of opportunities and resources that are either scarce or becoming increasingly scarcer (Cialdini, 1995).
In the study of Wann et. al. (2004), they examined the impact of scarcity effect on the increase or decrease of ticket purchases of sporting events. Their research is based on the previous studies in the field of consumer psychology, which hypothesized that in the condition where few tickets were remained, individuals would report a greater interest in attending the sporting event than those in the ‘not scarce condition’. The research also based their hypothesis on the evidence that firstly, "marketers can increase the perceived value of products, services, and promotions by manipulating the perceived scarcity of those products, services, and promotions" (Lynn, 1991). Secondly, the "limited number tactic" by Cialdini (1994) in which individuals are informed that the target product or service is in limited supply to increase item attractiveness and thirdly, the personal investment theory by Maehr and Branskamp (1986).
The hypotheses of the research are listed below. First, with the influence of ticket scarcity, individuals would report a higher desire or interest to attend the game than when the tickets were presented as abundant. Second, due the another factor that individuals with a high level of identification with one of the competing teams would report a greater desire to attend a target sporting event than persons with a low level of team identification.
Finally, it was hypothesized that there would not be a significant interaction between ticket scarcity and team identification.
The research analyzed the data from 108 participants who were college student with the mean age of 20.71 years. Participants were tested in groups and were handed a questionnaire packet containing four sections of different contents.
The results of the research were consistent with hypotheses.
Participants in the scarce condition reported a greater desire to attend the game than those in the not scarce, and the two-way interaction was not significant. Furthermore, participants in the scarce condition reported a greater willingness to miss another event to attend the target contest and were also more likely to spend more money to purchase the ticket than persons in the not scarce.
There are several theories that help to explain the scarcity effects on desirability. Firstly, people tend to value scarce things more because the possession of scarce commodities contributes to feelings of personal uniqueness. (Brock,1968; Fromkin, 1968, 1970). Secondly, people associate scarcity with higher prices (Fromkin et al., 1971). Lastly, price is often an effective indicator of product quality (Monroe and Petroshius, 1981) and it also contributes to social status symbols (Veblen, 1965).
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Fromkin, H.L., J.C. Olson. R.L. Dipboye & D. Barnaby. (1971). A commodity theory analysis of consumer preferences for scarce products. Proceedings of the 79th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association 6. 653-654.
Lynn, M. (1991). Scarcity effects on value: A quantitative review of the Commodity Theory literature. Psychology & Marketing, 8, 43-57.
Maehr, M. L., & Braskamp, L. A. (1986). The motivation factor: A theory of personal investment. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
Monroe, K.B. & S.M. Petroshius. (1981). ‘Buyers’ subjective perception of price: An update of the evidence’. In: T. Robertson and H. Kassarjian (eds.), Perspectives in consumer behavior. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman. pp. 43-55.
Veblen. T., 1965. The theory of the leisure class. New York: A.M. Kelly. (Original work published 1899.)
Wann, D., Bayens, C. & Driver, A. (2004). Likelihood of Attending a Sporting Event as a Function of Ticket Scarcity and Team Identification. Sport Marketing Quarterly,13, 209-215.
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