The Principle of Scarcity

Scarcity boils down to this for most people — if I can’t have it, then I want it! If something is scarce that means it’s not plentiful and usually difficult to come by. It’s amazing how people respond differently when they suddenly know something they want is in short supply or may not be around for long.

If you’ve raised kids then you’ve definitely seen this principle at work. Just tell your child what toy they can’t have and suddenly it’s the only toy they want to play with! Or tell them what they can’t do and that’s all they’ll want to do!

As you read the following, answer the questions based on your personal experience:

  • Have you hurried out to a store because you heard the sale ends Sunday?
  • Did you ever buy a Disney DVD for your kids because “soon it will go back into the
  • Disney vault?”
  • Have you ever bought something for your home (roof, gutters, siding, paint) because the salesman said you can save 10%, if you signed right then?
  • Do you buy gas now when the price hits $2.25 because you think it will go to $2.50 (or higher) over the weekend?
  • Have you ever bought something on the Home Shopping Network because the little clock on the screen was ticking away?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions then scarcity was influencing your decisions. It’s natural for us to hurry and make decisions because the thing we want is becoming less available or is in short supply.

Research on this subject lets us in on something else important. People are generally more motivated by knowing what they stand to lose as opposed to what they stand to gain. For example, saying, “If you choose not to buy our product, you will lose $500 dollars a year” will motivate more people to buy the product than will be motivated by saying, “If you buy our product you will save $500 a year.” If you know you’ll have more success using the first sentence, wouldn’t you want to do so?

Now you have a brief overview of the scarcity principle.

10 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I just saw you speak in Denver and it was very inspiring! I wanted to go back to the start of your blog, this post makes me smile cause I would be buying gas tanks to stock up if we could get gas for $2.25!

    Thank you for the eye opening principals!


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