The Power of Scarcity

There’s simply no denying the fact that one of the most memorable Limited Time Offers (LTO) of this decade is anything Holiday related via Starbucks. So it should come as no surprise that during the Holidays their sales increase (on average) 12%. At the first sign of Fall, people run — there’s no walking — to sip their first #PSL’s. By the time December rolls around, sales are peaking and LTO peppermint mochas are whipped up and topped off with whip cream and chocolate curls by the minute. In between the Holiday menu item drinks and yearly whole bean customized coffee, Starbucks is the Beyoncé of LTO’s. They know how to slay. SLAY.

Then there’s the grandfather of LTO’s, The McDonald’s McRib, a fan favorite slathered in tangy barbecue sauce on a warm hoagie bun. It’s a prime example of the extreme fan-base created by urgency and fleeting opportunity. This year it was announced that the McRib would become available in select locations beginning November 7th and “maybe” last until the end of the year. Year after year it warrants fans from all over the Country to unite at http://mcriblocator.com and this year McDonald’s was clever enough to create a free McRib Finder Smartphone App.

::pause:: We’ll give you a few minutes to download that one, but allow us to warn you that it’s a bit faulty in design and responsiveness. However, it’s available on the App store should you be mightily craving this tangy bbq sandwich.

Truly, any retailer with a product or service to sell could benefit from Short-Lived promos such as those we’ve highlighted above. They serve a very unique purpose and opportunity in the consumer mindset which allows companies to play on the psychological principles of scarcity, FOMO and social inclusiveness. (We highly recommend that, when taking a marketing approach such as this, you make it real. Let’s not go tricking consumers. That ends badly for brands.)

And of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Snap’s genius new launch of their Spectacles video glasses. Their vending machines popping up in random locations, superfans continually refreshing their browsers to discover the next vending location first, and finally that bright yellow eye looking down forebodingly on Apple’s flagship 5th avenue store in New York City. This is the motherlode of LTOs and it’s not just to create more engagement with Snapchat’s app, but also to stoke the fire of their upcoming 2017 IPO.

So how do you mimic the success of the giants who came before you? There are several ways of approaching the LTO:

1. Your product or service is available for only a short period of time. “Gone Dec 25th.” Or “Only through 2016.”

2. Opening up an opportunity, whatever it may be, to only a select or limited number of people or your ‘VIP’/frequent customer list.

3. Limiting the number of items made or service offered. “Only 200 available.” Or “While supplies last.”

Well-planned LTO’s can draw in new types of customers, have effect on brand loyalty and, perhaps, become a tradition for your company to boost its sales year-after-year.

As TIME once reported, it’s not just the FOMO that drives consumer purchasing, there’s also a sense of tradition at stake. People LOVE their #PSL’s because, for them, it helps validate the arrival of Fall. Just like Black Friday deals validate the “start” of Holiday shopping.

More than anything, LTO’s should be exciting. Have fun with them. (The excitement is contagious.) This new spot featuring a few old friends from ‘Napolean Dynamite’ perfectly illustrate this approach to “For A Limited Time Only.”

Whether your Marketing Plan is already in place for 2017 or not, it’s wise to continually discuss and integrate LTO’s. We’re here to help.

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