The Secret of the Pink Pig – Scarcity in Marketing

pink pig - scarcity in marketing

I love marketing!

Marketing allows you to create tests and experiment on living, breathing people. It’s magical.

There’s all kinds of fun stuff you can do. You can test popcorn purchasing habits in a theater where you have a geographic monopoly. You can test an immediate upsell on a purchaser after the sale on the Internet. You can test cheeky email subject lines beside conservative ones.

Always looking for a winner.

Speaking of winning marketing ideas, an old standby for marketers is the good ‘ol scarcity tactic.


What is Scarcity Marketing?

If you are like me, you still have a penchant for McDonalds. Especially their specialty products like the Shamrock Shake and the McRib. You may not realize it, but there is no good reason to not be able to get one of these tasty treats every day of the year. It’s a scarcity marketing tactic.

All the Fortune 500 use scarcity in marketing to pull you in to spend. It’s simple to use. Here’s some examples:

If you order within the next 5 days you will get 60% off the already low low price.

Our order was placed incorrectly and instead of the 500 widgets we were expecting, we only received 50. It will take us 3 months to restock. If you want to get your hands on a widget this year, you better hurry down to WeSellStuff. First come first serve. Quantities limited! These go fast!”

You are constantly being persuaded with scarcity marketing.

Every luxury brand uses it. A few years back, the waiting list for a new Harley Davidson was 18 months long. Ferrari, Feragamo, Fendi… all use it. Bulgari seemingly only produces 30 handmade purses for each style a year. Diamonds are held back by De Beers and distributed a little at a time. They own all the distribution from the mines – and they control it to maximize return through scarcity.

We just experienced Black Friday last week. Most of the appeal of Black Friday is the scarcity element. People looking for a bargain will camp out and wait in line in the cold just to be able to get a 40’ flat screen TV made in China for $97. Even if the Walmart has 100 of them, there are many who will come too late to get the bargain of the year. Scarcity at work!


Using Scarcity in Marketing

It’s easy to use scarcity in marketing. Just limit someone’s ability to get your product, or receive value from your services.

  • If you have a limited supply
  • If you have to pay payroll and need an infusion of cash
  • If you have access to product for a limited time
  • If you have a quota to maintain or else you lose access to products
  • If you want to intensify the desire for your products or services

Simply use a scarcity marketing appeal. It is known to increase sales every time it is applied.

Honestly, how many people do you think would go looking for Snow White, Cinderella, or Peter Pan on DVD if Disney didn’t put them back in the “vault” after a month and limit our ability to purchase them? When they bring them back out, I think, “I better go get that. It won’t be around for long!”

I don’t have children. I have no time or need to watch Cinderella again. Even though I know that, my inner consumer still says, “But I might not be able to buy it again for 10 years!”

If I think that, I wonder what people with young children think. It’s my guess that they go out and purchase them. It’s nostalgia… and it’s limited!


Beware the Forbidden Fruit of Scarcity Marketing!

Scarcity marketing works so well, some businesses lean on it. That’s typically a fatal mistake. Whenever a business relies on one tactic too much, it withers and dies.

You know what I mean. Every neighborhood has, or had, the furniture store that ran a going-out-of-business sale for 1, 2, even 3 years in a row before finally going out of business. The going-out-of-business sale was enough of a draw to make the business profitable, but eventually every business that flounders on the edge of profitability long enough will die.

The reason most of these businesses finally die is because it becomes obvious that they are lying. When people think you are lying, they stop doing business with you, and your reputation is destroyed.

Experts say you shouldn’t use false scarcity. Which is just another way of saying, “don’t lie about the scarcity of a product.”

As long as you don’t lie, then every time you use scarcity in marketing, you will be genuine.

I suggest you look to other businesses and see how they do it. Notice how they use scarcity in marketing to get people to engage and buy their products.


The Secret Revealed

One of the most powerful times of the year for instant success using scarcity is during the holidays.

That’s the secret of the Pink Pig on the roof of Macy’s at Lenox Mall. I rode it when I was 8. I’m 45. It’s still going strong. It’s not a tired, dated roller-coaster that barely scrapes by on a boardwalk in a seaside town like Daytona Beach, or the Jersey Shore. It’s a piece of history and nostalgia that reappears once a year for a few short weeks.

On Saturday, you see boys and girls, lined up, waiting to ride the pink pig. Paying good money to ride a slow, flat train, that has a pigs face on the engine, around the air conditioners on the roof of the mall.

Scarcity sells those tickets!


What Do You Think?

Do you, or have you, used scarcity in marketing? Do you have more examples of scarcity that you would share? Let me know in the comments section below.


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About Michael Miller

Michael Miller is the owner of, a sales and marketing coaching and training company in Atlanta, Georgia.

Michael’s mission is helping small business owners understand, and organize their marketing so they can make money and grow.

Mindwhirl helps business owners plan and implement effective, profitable marketing campaigns and sales programs.

If you need more sales, we know how to get leads and grow businesses. Call us today at (404) 858-3105, or email me at

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