As we all painfully know, Cadbury’s crème eggs are not available all year round. These chocolatey delights are only available for 4 months of the year. Why would Cadburys do this? Surely, they could triple their profits by selling crème eggs all year round?
Not exactly – the success of this product is dependent on us longing after them for two thirds of the year.
“The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting” ~ Andy Warhol
Scarcity: The Crème Egg Season
Cadbury crème egg sales rely on the well-known principle of scarcity. The fact that crème eggs are only available for a limited amount of time (between new year and Easter each year) makes people want to buy them more. It builds up a feeling of anticipation. Research has identified that with increased scarcity comes increased desire (Aggarwal, Jun, & Huh, 2011; Lynn, 1992). This can be seen in the above advert ‘Here for a good time, not a long time’. Cadbury are constantly reminding consumers of the scarcity of their product in an attempt to increase desire. Increased consumer desire leads to higher sales when crème eggs feature on supermarket shelves in the new year.
Cadbury have capitalised on the concept of scarcity with their tag-line ‘here today, goo tomorrow’. The scarcity and exclusivity of crème eggs heightens consumer expectations (Parker, & Lehmann, 2011). This strategy encourages consumers to, once again, purchase the product. It has even been said that crème eggs have a more successful season when there is a build up of anticipation and excitement (Carter, 1997). Cadbury tried making crème eggs available year-round, but this caused sales to drop and so they quickly returned to their limited availability strategy to maximise profits (Carter, 1997). A famous Economist once said: "Gold and silver, like other commodities, have an intrinsic value, which is not arbitrary, but is dependent on their scarcity." ~ David Ricardo. I feel this quote explains how scarcity leads us to value things.
People are more likely to select scarce items (Parker, & Lehmann, 2011) because we want things that are hard to get. We don’t want to miss out when crème egg season, inevitably, comes to an end. The below 20-second advert also demonstrates this limited availability strategy. The advert emphasises the short crème egg season and shows the anticipation and excitement through the character included. The advert is fast-paced, again, reflecting that the Cadbury’s product will be gone before you know it.
The Peripheral Route to Persuasion ft. salience and availability
Cadbury’s advert also attempts to persuade the viewer by using the peripheral route to persuasion (Petty, & Cacioppo, 1979). Cadbury have chosen the peripheral route, as opposed to the central route, because buying chocolate is often an impulse buy. Consumers are not motivated to listen to reasoned arguments on why they should buy a crème egg. The advert instead uses salience, availability, familiarity to persuade chocolate-lovers to make a purchase.
The crème egg logo is salient as it appears in the video advert several ties and in several locations. It features on posters, the character’s badges, the product itself and a delivery van. The message that you need to buy a crème egg is repeated and these salient images become ingrained in your unconscious. Research has shown that more salient brands are more likely to come to mind in a purchasing situation (Romaniuk, & Sharp, 2004) and are therefore more likely to receive custom. If the crème egg message is salient, customers purchasing chocolate will think to buy a crème egg over other chocolate products.
Cadbury’s strategy can be further linked to the availability heuristic. Being constantly exposed to and reminded of a product makes it feel more important and nostalgic (Tversky & Kahneman, 1973 & 1974). This can be manipulated by companies like Cadbury – by constantly reminding us of crème eggs, in the run up to their annual release, we love them more. This links to the mere exposure effect. This suggests that simply being repeatedly exposed to something makes it feel more familiar (Zajonc, 2001). This familiarity causes a preference for the product or object.
Seasonal availability can be a challenge for Cadbury as each year they have to remind consumers of their product and encourage them to buy it and warn them to do so before the crème egg season is over. But, ultimately, it is their sneaky strategy to make us crave a creme egg (or several) every year.
“Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.”
~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Aggarwal, P., Jun, S. Y., & Huh, J. H. (2011). Scarcity messages. Journal of Advertising, 40, 19-30.
Carter, M. (1997, February 28). Marketing challenge: How Cadbury is capitalising on the short crème egg season. Retrieved from https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/marketing-challenge-cadbury-capitalising-short-creme-egg-season/29094
Lynn, M. (1992). The psychology of unavailability: Explaining scarcity and cost effects on value. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 13, 3-7.
Parker, J. R., & Lehmann, D. R. (2011). When shelf-based scarcity impacts consumer preferences. Journal of Retailing, 87, 142-155.
Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1979). Issue involvement can increase or decrease persuasion by enhancing message-relevant cognitive responses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 1915-1926.
Romaniuk, J., & Sharp, B. (2004). Conceptualizing and measuring brand salience. Marketing Theory, 4, 327-342.
Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1973). Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability. Cognitive Psychology, 5, 207-232.
Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185, 1124-1131.
Zajonc, R. B. (2001). Mere exposure: A gateway to the subliminal. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10, 224-228.