What is it about the human psyche that makes us want something we can’t or don’t have?
You may recall yourself as a young child wanting a toy that a playmate had, or you may see it in your own toddler who needs to have what you are holding, and you might even reflect on this concept as it applies to yourself today – having to have the latest fashion item or newest tech toy the media has deemed popular or which has recently been endorsed by a celebrity.
Dr. Stephen Covey, an internationally respected leadership authority and one of the top 25 most influential Americans (according to Time magazine) wrote the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which was named the #1 Most influential business books of the twentieth century. In his book he discusses the concept of scarcity versus abundance mentality. He shines the light on the fact that most of us learn to base our self-worth on comparisons and competition. We think about succeeding in terms of someone else failing. “I win, you lose.” With that mentality, life becomes a zero-sum game. There is only so much to go around; if you get more, de facto I get less.
People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me. The more principle-centered we become, the more we develop an abundance mentality, the more we are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of other people. We believe their success adds to…rather than detracts from…our lives ~ Steven Covey
The underlying motivation to scarcity mentality is fear.
The fear of having less than someone else = being less than someone else. Why does this matter to most people? Because we attach our feelings of self-worth and happiness to our wealth and social status.
Businesses know that the tastes, lifestyles and preferences of the wealthy consumer eventually become the standard for all consumers. People purchase items to improve their social status seeking to emulate those who are above them in the social hierarchy. The poor strive to imitate the wealthy and the wealthy imitate celebrities and other icons.
I’m reminded of the once popular syndicated television series of the 80’s/90’s called: Robin Leach’s Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous. This show featured the extravagant lifestyles of wealthy entertainers, athletes and business moguls and the host Robin Leach ended each episode with a wish for his viewers for “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”
What does all of this have to do with marketing?
It comes back to understanding the motivations of your target market(s) and getting familiar with the psychology of their buying decisions so that you can strategically and intelligently incorporate that information into your sales and marketing strategies and tactics in order to reach your market and convert them into your consumer.
One such marketing strategy that is driven by this win-lose paradigm is to position your product or service as exclusive. The exclusivity factor shapes your brand positioning and messaging, marketing tactics, packaging, pricing, sales and distribution channels and all other components of your business operations.
It is pervasive in the luxury goods industry. We see it with luxury automobile brands like Lambourghini and Bentley and haute couture like Jimmy Choo and Oscar de la Renta. Owning these products is synonymous with living a certain lifestyle. You won’t find them competing on price, performance or quality – it’s about status.
The strategy impacts the tactics employed to market the goods as well. It’s about creating the exclusivity factor (read: “I have something special that you don’t have”) and not cheapening the brand by making it widely accessible to the mass market. If the poor strive to imitate the wealthy and the products and services of the wealthy are commoditized too much, this reduces their social status to that of their emulators which kills the exclusivity factor.
Creating exclusivity is not an exclusive (no pun intended) marketing strategy for marketing solely to the lifestyles of the rich and famous; however common this application is. The exclusivity concept can also be utilized in a different way. It can be used to create demand for a product or service by creating the perception of brand exclusivity regardless of the target market. You experience this each time you hear or read statements such as:
“My Doctor is the best in town. I will do my best to get you a referral, but he’s not taking any new patients”
“Contact us to see if you qualify for our members-only offer”
“Limited supply” or “buy them while quantities last”
Exclusivity is not a new marketing concept. But like anything, taking a concept and finding a new application for it can mean the difference between being a business winner or a business loser. And in the win-lose paradigm, which would you prefer?