Fight Against Scary Marketing Tactics

I wrote the following in London airport before having to RUN for my plane, enjoy!:

Ok, I lied…

I am working on my journey to Singapore.  But only because I found a Starbucks and coffee is really my only drug.  It makes me WANT to post. (Someday I’ll give it up, I swear).

In keeping with my recent tirades against some people in the internet marketing world in general today I’m going to talk about another SCARE tactic that some marketers use to control the minds and emotions of their potential customers.


Make something SEEM scarce, or seem like it’s going to run out and this is their only time to buy and it will force them into making decisions based on a fear of LOSS.

People do tend to be more motivated by fear of losing something than by thoughts of GAINING something.

I understand why people use this tactic, and hey, it works.

But over the past few months I’ve committed myself to breaking out of these patterns that give marketing a bad name, that work only in the favour of the marketer, not the customer, and that have caused many of the problems we see in our industry today.

So let’s have a look at what scarcity actually does.

Scarcity is a bit like when you see a great deal (like I just saw on an airport rack: two shirts for $25), you buy it because it says on the sign the shirts would normally cost $20 each…. Hey, you’re going to save $15… you have to buy it right?

Well, no.

If you stop and think about it, are each of those shirts worth $12.50 to YOU. If the sign said “Shirts for $12.50” would you stop and get two?

In many cases, probably not.

This is not pure scarcity because you’re not afraid there aren’t enough shirts, but it is artificially raising the perceived value of the item in question.

Scarcity is not just making something seem scarce, or telling people it’s selling out soon.  It’s also inflating the value of your products through sneaky marketing tactics that make people think they have to buy now or someone else is going to get the deal.

Does that mean you can’t ever use promotions, or bundle?

Nope, if you add real extra value to your product through bundling, or throw in an extra product if they buy within a certain time this is a good thing. This is motivating people through what they will GET, not what they will LOSE.

Ad copy that uses scarcity works AT FIRST.

But there are two problems with using Scarcity:

1. If you have a following you lose their trust.

Have you ever seen a marketer on Skype, Facebook or Twitter constantly posting “I only have three spots available, claim them quick while they are still here!”

But they post this every day and the number never changes.

And you KNOW they would take your money even if you were person number four.

Basically, you know it’s a lie intended to manipulate you into thinking that other people are chasing them down, that other people are going to “claim your spot”, that you need to buy in before it’s GONE.

Once you catch a marketer in a lie…. You NEVER trust them again!

Ooooo, bad marketing!

2. When people make decisions motivated by fear, that same fear holds them back!

I’ve never seen people that were primarily motivated by fear be very successful.

Now if you wait for genuine good deals because YOU know the personal value you feel for a certain product or service, that’s great.  That’s smart.

If you wait for a marketer to bundle in a free course, that’s a good idea.

But when someone buys because they are scared they will miss the opportunity they aren’t buying based on what they think they will gain from the product, so they typically never use it.

They buy at the right time and then wait to decide whether to use it or not.

More likely than not they will return the product, cancel the monthly payment, or never buy from you again because they got no value as they never valued your product in the first place.


Honesty in marketing.

If you have three coaching spots because that’s all the time you have to coach, great! Just make it clear, show the slots filling up and don’t reopen until you have more space available.

Bundle value so that people feel a strong GAIN reason to buy during a promotional period.

Avoid scarcity just for the sake of scarcity.

In the long run, manipulative marketing NEVER pays off.

Whoops….gotta go catch a 12 hour flight!!


Leave A Reply (1 comment so far)

  1. Lloyd Sheldon
    2 years ago

    Oh how true, and you see it all the time, even from some “gurus” who should know better. Thanks Niamh..!!