The influence of scarcity

The boys (averaging 24 months in age) accompanied their mothers into a room containing two equally attractive toys. The toys were always arranged so that one stood next to a transparent Plexiglas barrier and the other stood behind the barrier. For some of the boys, the Plexiglas sheet was only a foot high -forming no real barrier to the toy behind it, since the boys could easily reach over the top. For the other boys, however, the Plexiglas was 2 feet high, effectively blocking their access to one toy unless they went around the barrier. The researchers wanted to see how quickly the toddlers would make contact with the toys under these conditions. Their findings were clear. When the barrier was too short to restrict access to the toy behind it, the boys showed no special preference for either of the toys; on the average, the toy next to the barrier was touched just as quickly as the one behind it. When the barrier was high enough to be a true obstacle, however, the boys went directly to the obstructed toy, making contact with it three times faster than with the unobstructed toy.

This is from chapter seven of Influence: Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini; it’s an enjoyable and interesting read. I discovered the book on the website for Professor Olney’s marketing class. Christy B sent me the book as a gift from my wish list (thank you!). In all, Cialdini discusses seven different kinds of influence. Personally, I’d think anyone interested in selling their products via means beyond the obvious should read it. I’m thinking I should have been excerpting from it all the while but I worry that I’ll bore everyone since not everyone is into cognitive neuroprocessing.

Speaking of neurology and marketing, I found a new blog called Neuroscience Marketing: Where Brain Science and Marketing Meet. Interestingly enough, one of the subtopics is the neuroeconomics. For example, apparently monkeys are just as inept as we are when it comes to making economic decisions.

And speaking of Professor Olney, he’s willing to answer your marketing questions in a guest post. Please consider leaving your questions in comments.

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  1. Thomas Cunningham says:

    ok — so I have a question for the professor.

    Is value (rather than scarcity) ever a marketing asset. I sell fashions suits that are well-priced. Does the value resonate at all with the consumer? Or would I do better if I just doubled my prices, making the product less attainable?

  2. jinjer says:

    I have Thomas’s anti-question about price. I have heard that the more expensive products are, the more people will notice their unique & valuable features. Is this true?

    Being brought up lower-middle class (note: almost every item of clothing I own cost less than $10), I have a really hard-time understanding where my customers–who spend a lot more on clothes!–are coming from. Subsequently, I constantly doubt that I could possibly make things they like without asking them first. Should I just relax, or is there some validity to my worry?

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