Creativity is Scarce

ktaylorby Kim Taylor

Americans woke up today to the horror that there’s an imminent shortage of Velveeta—just in time for the Super Bowl.  The news is reminiscent of the chocolate shortage just weeks before Halloween and the turkey crisis of Thanksgiving.

Are you seeing a pattern here?  Scarcity—or the illusion of scarcity—has been used as a marketing strategy for years.  The examples are endless … I still remember the Cabbage Patch Kids craze in the 1980s, and of course those clamoring for the latest PlayStation are all too familiar with the tactic.

But, this timeless Harvard Business Review article from 2007 points out most clearly why the risk is often greater than the reward:

“But there are risks to using false scarcity as a strategy. First, hype invites heightened scrutiny: Common first version short-comings of the iPhone fueled negative reviews that were then amplified by the blogosphere. Second, some consumers, frustrated by waiting in line may have given up or switched to other alternatives.”

The shortage story is an easy sell to the media, but when the tactic is overused, skepticism rears its ugly head and consumers are left waiting for the punch line.

Instead of turning to the same trite tactics, how about we make a pledge for a surplus of creativity in 2014?

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