Scarcity Campaigns: Trigger Your Customers Fear of Missing Out Something

Scarcity campaigns are psychological strategies used by marketers to increase the efforts of their success online.

It’s also commonly referred to as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) Marketing.

The objective is to make users experience FOMO and as a result, they will be encouraged to make purchases influenced by their fear.

This form of marketing is used to drive sales, engagement and brand promotion.

Scarcity campaigns are not a novelty idea, but utilizing this technique in your business can greatly improve the ROI for your digital marketing.

Even though creating lots of great content plays a huge role in your online marketing success, that’s only a part of it.

Your users don’t want to miss out on anything and it’s your job as a business owner to make sure they know why they don’t want to miss out with you.

Scarcity works so effectively because we’ve evolved to assume that things that are difficult to obtain are usually better than those that are easily available.

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Without even realizing we link availability to quality.

Think about it, the latest iPhone MUST be good because it went out of stock hours after it was released. Why?

Because when people know what it is that they can’t have their desire for it will be even higher.

Let me share another example.

In 1985, the Coca-Cola company made a switch from their traditional formula to the sweeter formula “New Coke.”

After a blind experiment was carried out the results showed that 55% preferred the new Coke over the old.

Later when the company replaced the traditional formula with the new one, it was the old Coke that people couldn’t have, that eventually become their favorite.

My inspiration for this article was actually from a book I read by Robert Cialdini called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

Scarcity principle was number six on his list.

In his book he mentions that scarcity can be presented in two ways:

  • Limited – Number: Item is in short supply and won’t be available once it runs out.
  • Limited – Time: Item is only available during that time period.

Examples of Limited Time Tactics

Next day shipping countdowns is an example of a limited time tactic that Amazon famously uses.

The idea is to let shoppers see how much time is left before they’ll miss out on next day shipping, by doing this you can increase the urgency of them shopping now.

This is a good example that capitalises on the Fear of Missing Out.

Scarcity Campaign
Example of how Amazon Implements Limited Time Tactics

Examples of Limited Number Tactics

Low stock notices are an example of a limited number tactic popularly used by online retailers.

Scarcity Campaign

Limited production products tap into those desirability drivers.

They can be seen as status symbols, have an air of exclusivity, and make owners feel unique and special.

What I learnt from Robert Cialdini’s book is that scarcity is believed to make a product appear more valuable to a consumer.

I will share one last example before I delve into how to create and implement a successful scarcity marketing campaign.


Cookie Jar Experiment

Scarcity Campaign

A group of researchers conducted a study in 1975 where they wanted to know how people would value cookies in two identical glass jars.

They put 10 cookies in one jar and two of the same cookies in another jar. The cookies with the two-cookie jar received higher rating even tough the cookies were exactly the same!

If there were a lot of cookies in the jar, and then a short time later most of the cookies were gone, the cookies that were left received an even  higher rating than cookies that were in a jar where the number of cookies didn’t change. [From Neuro Web Design by Susan Weinschenck.]

The cookie jar experiment is commonly used in e-commerce.

If you know that a product is in limited supply this experiment testifies to the fact that the product would be even more attractive.

Explaining why Black Friday sales number soar higher and higher each year.

Scarcity campaigns are just like any other digital marketing campaign the same principles apply.

For starters the most successful online campaigns almost always have their message and audience nailed down to a tee. Otherwise, you run the risk of confusing your customers.

Here’s a step by step approach to creating and implementing a successful online scarcity campaign from scratch.

Define Your Audience

Diving into any online marketing campaign without clearly defining your audience is literally brand suicide.

Not to mention that you will lose a whole lot of money.

So how do you define an audience?

If you don’t already have your audience defined you can start by answering these few simple questions:

  • What inspires your ideal customer?
  • What do they read?
  • What motivates them?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What interests them? (books, magazines, blogs, movies, food, restaurants, hobbies etc)

These questions are a guide to help you in your research to identify your ideal audience.

You can even go further and give them a name or a title.

Suggested titles would be; CEO of a small company, digital marketing manager, VP marketing, Agency owner etc.

All these is done with the aim of knowing your ideal audiences’ wants and needs. This is in relation to your product/ service in order to deliver a successful marketing campaign.

Identify Your “Hooks”

The term “hook” is used to describe your marketing message.

WHY should people opt-in or buy your product?

Here is where you need to clearly define the value or benefits of your offer.

Typically hooks are less than 10 words. For example, Coke recently run a campaign with the hook “Taste The Feeling”

Even though the entire premise of scarcity campaign is built on the FOMO principle, you don’t want to run the risk of offering a low-value product/service.

Identifying the hooks will not only help you sell more but will also help your build a loyal following around your brand.

These are your 1000 true fans who support and believe in your message  (“hook”) and are willing to continue purchasing from you even in the future.

Explaining the benefits of what people will get when they purchase from you will help build trust amongst your audience.

Determine Your Budget

Scarcity campaigns are just like any other digital marketing campaign they run for a specific period of time and have an allocated budget.

The best approach would be to first determine the goals for your campaign.

What are your expected sales targets over the length of your campaign?

Be realistic with your marketing objectives.

For example, if you are looking to make a profit avoid putting your items at discounted rates this will make it more difficult for you as a business owner to make a profit.

Do not overburden yourself financially this a common mistake amongst business owners especially when it comes to digital marketing spend.

It helps to break down your ad objectives into small achievable, executable chunks that can be effectively implemented and measured.

Choose An Effective Scarcity Method

I’ve already shared the two common scarcity methods as shared in Robert’s Cialdini’s book they are:

  • Limited – Number: Item is in short supply and won’t be available once it runs out.
  • Limited – Time: Item is only available during that time period.

Picking one over the other really boils down to what I have already discussed.

Analyse your audience, your message and your budget after which pick which scarcity campaign that best suits your goals.

Limited time campaigns are best used in online activation funnels.

This is where you have a large number of potential leads that visit your social media page or website and you want to convert them into active buyers. In order to achieve this you can implement a limited time offer.

The type of campaign you choose to implement really all depends on your online marketing funnel objectives.

Plan a Strategy

What is the most effective medium to communicate to your audience?

Your marketing medium is what will propel your scarcity campaign.

This could be through your website, social media pages, company blog, facebook ads etc

Consistency is key when it comes to implementing your strategy, your key message (hook) should be the same throughout all your campaigns whether online or offline.

The best strategy is to consider all your options and then going with the one which one is most likely to appeal to your ideal audience.

Write Your Copy

Create powerful, segmented ads for your scarcity campaigns that will speak to each audience.

If your ad copy is not appealing to your ideal audience your campaign will probably not be effective.

The result is you won’t get a return on investment for your ad campaigns.

Evaluate Your Campaign

The final step for your campaign is to evaluate its success or failure

Did you see a return on investment (ROI)?

In most digital marketing campaigns ROI usually involves:

  • Cost per Acquisition
  • Cost per Lead
  • Finally, Cost per Click

These three metrics are commonly used to measure the success of online campaigns.

Evaluating your ROI will show you whether or not your campaign was a success or a failure.

Over To You

Scarcity campaigns are ingrained in our DNA as human beings, the truth is they work!


Naturally, we all tend to compare ourselves to others, we often want what others have, or have something even better.

As a business owner, you can exploit this desire by associating your products with status reversed for the few. Often used in high-priced luxury items such as cars.

It’s also not advisable to overuse this type of campaign otherwise you run the risk of annoying your audience.

If implemented successfully scarcity campaigns create an aura of envy with your product or service making consumers want it even more.


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Catherine Mong’ina is the Founder and CEO of E-Technology Africa, a digital marketing agency based in Nairobi, Kenya offering social media, S.E.O, website and app development services. She works closely with B2C and B2B businesses providing digital marketing content that gains social media attention and increases you search visibility.