Color Bars

Can Scarcity be a Valuable Marketing Tool?

pliny, double india pale ale, ipa, craft brewers conference, cbc 2014
The elusive Pliny The Elder, far left,  makes an appearance at the Craft Brewers Conference in April 2014.

Imagine doing absolutely no advertising or PR, and executing little social media about your product, yet having a cult following so strong it sells out within minutes of arriving at retailers. The Russian River Brewing Company enjoys such luck with its coveted brew Pliny The Elder, a double India pale ale named after a Roman scholar and naturalist who discovered hops. Followers often line up around the block just to get a fix. Brewed in small batches for freshness, inventory is low and demand is high for this hoppy, slightly bitter beer. But would its followers have the same urgent affinity if the beer was always in supply? recently took a look at Pliny the Elder, calling it “a case study in scarcity marketing.” The piece examined some research that suggests consumers place a higher value on something simply because it’s scarce. In the following excerpt, Nir Eyal, the author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products,” says scarcity can also provide a unique storytelling experience.

Eyal said if you tell people, “Hey, this beer uses high-quality hops and is made in small batches,” nobody is going to remember that. But if you say, “Hey, I have this crazy story about how you can buy a limited amount and can you believe … the lines?” That’s a really easy story for one person to transmit to the other …

Perhaps Green Flash Brewing Company’s recent acquisition of Alpine Beer Company, which previously had very limited quantities and distribution, will be an interesting case study itself. Time will tell if followers pass on the opportunity to enjoy an Alpine Duet IPA simply because it’s more readily available.

Suds aside, how can a marketer know where to find the sweet spot between creating urgency through scarcity and losing a sale due to lack of inventory? Can scarcity be a valuable marketing tool?

Let us know in the comments your thoughts on finding the sweet spot between profit and scarcity.

Or just let me know what you’re drinking this week, in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m kind of a beer nerd. Want to know what I’m drinking? Follow me on UNTAPPD at @MrsPriceA.

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