27 Feb 2013

Influential PR: Scarcity

Welcome to the first of a series of 6 pieces we’re going to do on the topic of influence and how public relations allows you to generate influence among your customers, your colleagues, and the world at large. We’re going to base this series off the work done by ASU Professor Emeritus of Psychology Robert Cialdini, whose book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, is required reading for many marketers. In his book, Cialdini posits that there are 6 methods or principles on which influence is based:

  1. Scarcity
  2. Authority
  3. Consistency
  4. Social Proof
  5. Liking
  6. Reciprocity

Today, we’ll tackle the first of these, scarcity. Creating a perception of scarcity is a time-honored tactic, from sales professionals offering “limited time offers” to news about shortages of supplies, products, or services. Scarcity also makes for a reasonably fool-proof story in the news: when something is suddenly scarce, it’s news, and usually of great interest to various media outlets.


For example, any time there’s an impending major storm, the bread and milk aisles empty out at local stores.

Scarcity can be created. There are companies who make limited time products as an integral part of their marketing mix, such as SHIFT client McDonald’s, with their McRib sandwich, which has such a loyal following that there are McDonald’s customers who will map out which franchise locations are currently offering the McRib and then drive exorbitant distances to get one.

Ask yourself this question as you put together your public relations pitches: is there a scarcity angle? Remember, too, that you can make an effective story going against scarcity. For example, if you were a bread manufacturer with great agility in your manufacturing process, you could make a story out of the fact that in advance of a storm, your bread would be guaranteed to be on shelves.

Next time, we’ll tackle authority.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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