May 30, 2024

You might remember the following key lesson if you took the same Introduction to Economics class as I did in college:

The law of supply and demand states that a low supply and high demand for a product will typically increase its price.

Why do I tell you about economic basics? Changes in supply and demand can trigger the scarcity principle. This post will explain what the scarcity concept is and how to use it to increase demand.

What is the principle of scarcity?

Dr. Robert Cialdini coined the scarcity principle, saying that the harder it is to get a product, an offer, or a piece of content, the more valuable it becomes. We are more likely to purchase a product if we believe it will be soon unavailable.

Consumers may make purchases faster when they perceive scarcity. A cost-benefit study might show that the loss of a service or product is more costly than paying for it.

What is the impact of scarcity on demand?

Demand increases when a product is in short supply. People want to buy it before they are available. Some businesses will raise their prices to meet the demand. This is one way the scarcity principle can boost profits.

The Scarcity Principle in Marketing

Marketers use the psychological response of scarcity to get consumers to want to grab what other people have.

Customers may think that it is hard to obtain a certain product, offer, or piece of content because people continue to buy it. They may be tempted to act quickly and buy before the time is up in order to get the same experience as their peers.

Marketers can activate the scarcity reaction in consumers through:

Offer flash sales to consumers who have limited time before the deal expires.

List the remaining stock on a particular product to encourage consumers to buy before it is too late.

Notifying customers that products are available again so they can make a quick purchase and not lose out on this great value.

Brands can use the scarcity principle to encourage people to complete a form, buy a product, or perform another action. As an example, on many booking sites for air travel, like KAYAK, the flight listings will display a message that there are only a limited number of seats left at a particular price. See below for more information:

The price of airfare is extremely volatile. That’s why many people wait to buy until certain days or times of the week. Knowing that there is only one seat available at this price makes me want to purchase it immediately instead of waiting.

We wanted to showcase brands that have successfully marketed and sold different products using the scarcity concept. Let’s look at some examples of scarcity in real life.


Customers are encouraged to prepare in advance to join the line at the exact time it opens. This will maximize their chances to receive a shoe. Nike said entries are randomly selected based on shoe size availability, hinting at a random lottery rather than who is first in line.

The scarcity principle still applies, and people have even built bots that monitor the site, entering buyer information as soon as the timer is up.

Snap Inc.

Snapchat’s parent, Snap Inc., unveiled Snapchat Spectacles (sunglasses that can record 10-second videos) in September 2016. Snapbots, smiling vending machines with Snapchat themes that were randomly placed in US cities, sold Spectacles at first.

The unique selling strategy was reflected in blog posts and comments on social media. Snapbots were not announced before their arrival – the most attention was given to social network channels, and long lines of people waited in line hoping to buy Spectacles.

Spectacles can now be purchased online or in a few permanent pop-up shops. Initially, however, they were only available on the Snapbot’s visit to your city. You had to get them before everyone else did.


Nintendo’s Wii console was a hot commodity in 2006. The Wii mania did not end when people rushed to buy the console. The Wii flew off the shelves for nearly three years. Gaming shops couldn’t stock shelves despite Nintendo increasing their supply from 1.8 to 2.4 million units per month.

Nintendo’s low monthly production numbers ensured customers would want to buy more. Scarcity made people want to purchase a Wii as soon as they could.


Starbucks announced on its website that the unicorn frappuccino would only be available for a few days. However, the drink was flooded with orders. Starbucks announced on its website the special glass would be available only for a limited time. Sold out on the first day. The specialty drink has not been sold, but nearly 160,000 #unicornfrappuccino Instagram posts have been made.

Starbucks received a large number of orders and engagement on social media during one of its famous limited-time promotions – Starbucks red cups. Starbucks serves coffee in red cups only during the December holiday season. This is to encourage people to visit cafes and share photos of #RedCups on social media. Scarcity + food & drink = magic formula.

Girlfriend Collective

Girlfriend Collective made a simple offer: for a limited period if you paid for shipping, you would receive a pair of $100 leggings free. You only had to share the link to their website on Facebook.

Girlfriend Collective just launched its website and asked its customers to spread the news about the leggings so that it could devote 100% of its marketing budget to the production of leggings. If you stop to think about it, that was an intelligent approach. Which would you rather trust, a Facebook advertisement offering free leggings? Or the half of your friends who are promoting it in your News Feed?

Girlfriend Collective, using this model, “sold” ten thousand pairs of leggings on the first day. This was in addition to all the fans and buzz that it generated as a side product. This offer was irresistible because it combined “limited supply” with “free.”

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