I recently helped my daughter get ready for story day at school. The theme was ‘stories from history’. Before I could suggest anything, she insisted that I help her find a ‘cool’ story and not something about a war. 

I took a gamble with something a little unconventional and told her about the aluminium industry. Fortunately, it paid off 🙂

Aluminium used to be more precious than gold and silver in the 19th century. Hard to believe, I know. It was like the space race, and countries competed against each other to show off their stocks. 

The French government even displayed aluminium bars next to the crown jewels. Emperor Napoleon the Third even had a set of aluminium cutlery that was reserved for special guests. (His less favoured guests were given gold and silver cutlery).

The US actually capped the Washington monument with some six-pound pyramid of aluminium. All of this was because aluminium was harder to get your hands on.  

Aluminium couldn’t hold on to its glory for too long, though. Soon enough, people figured out a less expensive way to separate aluminium from minerals. As production soared, prices plummeted. What was initially hard to come by was in abundance, making it less desirable. 

This is precisely what scarcity marketing targets—our perception of something we can’t have is that it’s highly valuable. In the new year, if you’re looking for ways to make your brand more desirable, I suggest making your products appear hard to get. 

It’s a tactic the luxury fashion industry has used with success for a long time—just look up Birkin bags. Here’s how you can make it part of your marketing and sales strategies

1. Leverage purchasing countdowns

What’s more anxiety-inducing for a consumer than seeing the minutes on a clock tick down? 

Countdowns are generally successful at making them act faster. They might even make purchases for things they don’t need. If you put a timer or countdown in sales-related content, you are defining scarcity parameters.

Look at the example below:

The original price of the shoe before the discounted price anchors consumers in. The ticking clock makes them act faster.

2. The slow roll

In the beginning, Facebook was only available to Harvard students. 

This slowly opened up to Ivy League students, college students, high school students, and employees in a select few companies in the US. It was only introduced to the rest of the world after a couple of years.

Now, Facebook is used by almost three billion people! The initial exclusivity made the service desirable and popular. Slowly but surely, everyone else wanted in too. 

This is another way you can use scarcity marketing—by making it available to a select group of people in the beginning. 

3. Use real-time data

I’ve seen many marketers use the product availability tactic to show people how scarce their product or service is. The success of this tactic, however, is based on whether you can convince them of an urgency to buy. 

You need to couple this with real-time data of the interest your product or service is gaining from other buyers. 

When a consumer is viewing your product or service, let them know that others are interested too. When they’re informed that only a limited stock is available, it creates an urgency for them to make quick purchase decisions.

Booking platforms use this tactic. Look at the example below:

4. Restricting access

Scarcity marketing, as I mentioned above, is all about exclusivity. 

If you can create a sense of exclusivity among your audience, you don’t need to sell your product or service to consumers on a public platform. All you need to do is send them an invite.

A personal invitation can make your consumer feel special. Reach out to top customers and subscribers and personally invite them for deals and launches. Let them know that they are part of a select few.

This is exactly how OnePlus sold close to a million phones when they launched their first smartphone in 2014.

5. Withhold information

Exclusivity can also be created by withholding information and creating mystery about a product or service. Create hype and curiosity about what you’re selling. The scarcity of information will entice people to know more about your product or service.

There’s a famous bakery in Massachusetts called Goodnight Fatty that uses this scarcity marketing technique. They only bake cookies (referred to as fatties) made with a secret recipe. 

From occasional pop-ups to a weekend store, they now have a permanent storefront. Talk about how much hype a cookie can create! 

Use scarcity marketing to draw people in and increase your sales and profit

Scarcity works so effectively because we have evolved to assume that things that are difficult to obtain are usually better than those that are easily available. We link availability to quality.

Use this tactic in your marketing strategy to entice your customers’ to make more purchase decisions. Create a sense of scarcity, exclusivity and even curiosity around your product or service to enjoy greater sales.