Anyone who has studied or has a brief understanding of Economics 101 will recognise the marketing tactics used in the fourth face to the cube of persuasion very quickly. Since you were born, it has been affecting you throughout your life. When you were told you couldn’t have that box of chocolates, when you saw that kid playing with a brand new Rubik’s Cube, or seeing a Ferrari speed past, things you didn’t have or couldn’t have instantly became desirable. The fourth face to the cube of persuasion, the “Law of Scarcity,” is about supply and demand. When there is high demand, or less supply for something, the more rare and valuable it can be. Basic marketing tactics and sales training deals with this idea of scarcity for the potential of influence, which primarily is about creating desire for purchase.
It is no wonder that even at the birth of creation, Adam and Eve couldn’t stay away from the forbidden fruit, despite having the rest of the Garden of Eden to take from. Scarcity drives us crazy. Things are always more valuable and enticing when they are hard to obtain, or the last one on the shelf. By being prohibited from a product, we feel that our freedom is restricted and will experience psychological resistance and fight to restore that freedom.
One great example in history was a time when potatoes were made to be as valuable as gold. During the late 1700s, potatoes were regarded with suspicion, distaste and fear. The French believed they caused leprosy, the Germans used it as animal fodder, whereas the Russians presumed them to be poisonous. Catherine the Great, ruler of Russia, saw there was a great famine, and had high fences erected around her potato fields with guards stationed around to fend off thieves. Of course, the peasants of the town would watch and wonder why the wealthy were keeping the potatoes to themselves. Such an exclusivity of the potato created their desire, that eventually turned potatoes into a staple of the Russian diet (Pratkanis & Aronson 2001).
Catherine the Great’s campaign to transform the potato from something that was barely fit for a dog to eat, to a solution to the Russian famine, is the epitome of branding strategy and marketing tactics in play. By taking advantage of the human psyche in the persuasion process, you can increase the attractiveness of an object, simply by shifting the perception of its scarcity.
The Fourth Face to Persuasion is the Law of Scarcity
Brand and marketing consultants recognise that scarcity sells. We are all aware of the ads that scream: “for a limited time only,” “only available in this store,” or “sale ending soon.” And they work. Some marketing tactics include even deliberately limiting stock. Since the introduction of the Barbie doll in 1959, there has always been a toy that becomes the central, scarce item each year. We’ve seen the fads of G.I. Joe action figures, Magna-doodles, Furbies, Robot Poo-chi and Meow-chis, Pokemon cards and Tamagotchis. Due to the rarity of such popular toys, they were frequently out-of-stock. Through brand building and marketing tactics, it has been shown that the threat of potentially losing the opportunity to purchase an item will influence on the decision-making process. This mental trigger can cause tension and unrest and even such great anxiety in people that they will act to prevent this potential loss – even if they weren’t initially interested in the product in the first place!
Think of Romeo and Juliet. If the ancient feud between the Capulets and Montagues did not exist, do you believe Romeo would have been as committed to elope with her? We have been led to believe that love was an uncontrollable process, that these chemical reactions within us were unexplainable – but the impossible truth is that this can be controlled! Playing hard to get is one common relationship dynamic, based off the Rule of Scarcity. If your availability seems limited, you may seem that you are “in demand” or “one-of-a-kind,” increasing the perceived value of yourself. Whilst frustrating to the other party, we know that we must work for love, in order to play the game.
So what can this mean for business? Can you say “limited supply” in your communication? People tend to stay away from empty restaurants and popular clubs will have long lines outside, even if it may be empty inside! It’s about creating the perception of scarcity through artificial queues.
The challenge is to make your brand that forbidden fruit.
Pratkanis, AR & Aronson, E 2001, Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion, rev. edn., Holt Paperbacks, New York, ch. 30.
Westside Toastmasters n.d., ‘The Rule of Scarcity: Get Anyone to Take Immediate Action’ in The Rules of Persuasion, ch. 7, viewed 7 November 2012, <http://westsidetoastmasters.com/resources/laws_persuasion/chap7.html>.
As we discussed in the previous blog, one face to the cube of persuasion is the Law of Reciprocity; we like to repay what another person has provided for us. As each face is equally as important and required to box up a sale, the second face to marketing tactics and branding strategy is looking at people’s behaviour patterns or tendencies. You can deliberately shift attitudes and subsequent actions to persuade others to achieve your ends. Or simply recognise when others are using these common sales and marketing techniques on you.
The amazing thing about many leading novels is that the psychology of marketing is embedded within almost every facet of life.
Whether it is making friends in the sandpit, or making sense of your partner’s ramblings, marketing tactics and branding strategy are about understanding your goals as well as the objectives of your peers, effectively achieving a mutually beneficial solution. This, essentially, is the process of persuasion.
Like a cube, there are six faces to persuasion, each equally important and all equally needed to box up a sale. In psychologist, Robert Cialdini’s book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” he discusses the Six Laws of Persuasion. By understanding these laws, you can control how much people influence you, as well as how to use them to your benefit during negotiations – both in the workplace, as well as in personal life.
The First Face to Persuasion is the Law of Reciprocity
Naturally, when human beings are given something, they feel obliged to give something back. We all feel it is right to return favours when they are given to us. Similarly, when Mr. and Mrs. Johnson brought a salad when they are invited over to your last gathering, you may feel the need to arrive at theirs with at least a bottle of wine in hand.
When sponsors give out free drinks at festivals, when you go out for a test drive for a new car, or when a charity gives you a flower, no matter how small a gift may be, these marketing tactics and branding strategy make people feel the need to “return the favour.”
There’s no wonder we hear sayings like “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” or “What goes around, comes around.” It’s about fairness and equality. Give a little to a prospect, and you may end up with a customer.
First of all, we should acknowledge that marketing in general, and branding strategy in particular, for any professional service organisation has its own unique challenges. The offering is intangible, so you can’t pick it up and compare it feature for feature with a competing offering. The service also relies on humans to deliver it each and every time; it is subject to a lot more variability in quality than a physical product. This means that the quality of a service offering is based mainly on perceptions and external artifacts such as expensive offices, tailored suits and a difficult to complete degrees. The business is also based heavily on personal relationships and the collective intellectual property/knowledge base that a firm can build.
“…branding, a word misunderstood and misused more than any other in business”
Acknowledging these challenges, however, does not change the fact that the major role of branding strategy is still fundamentally about articulating a clear point of difference, one that is valuable to a clearly defined audience. Now let’s examine branding, a word misunderstood and misused more than any other in business. The goal of branding is to become the name people think of immediately when they want what you sell. The purpose of a Brand is to differentiate between products and services and meet aspirational needs as well functional requirements. Brands are the source of a promise to the consumer.
The following is a quote from the 2nd of March 2007 Australian Financial Review article, titled “Skills before Thrills” and worse still made by a principal of a marketing firm that conducted research into the marketing of law firms in Australia:
“Over the last 5 years law firms invested significantly into building their brand….While buyers of legal services are more aware of the number of firms they can choose from, they don’t know what these firms stand for, what differentiates them.”
Do we need to shout it out loud? – BRANDING IS DIFFERENTIATION! Maybe the author shouldn’t have skipped Lecture 2, Marketing 101!!! Maybe what they meant to say was that these firms ‘misdirected a lot of their marketing investment’ or ‘have spent a lot of money making prospects aware of their brands’ which is not the same as ‘building their brand’, in fact in fairness, the author alludes to this by calling it “empty awareness”. Building a brand means that your prospects know the difference between you and your competitor so well that they can clearly articulate it!
Why is it not surprising that the so called ‘branding efforts’ by the aforementioned law firms yielded poor results? Could it be that the advertising agencies and marketing consultants involved also missed a few lectures in Marketing 101? Or is it that they do not have the professional fortitude to stand up to their clients and insist that all drab, boring, chest beating ‘corporate speak’ communication must go?
It seems that Australian commercial law firms have either confused branding with visual image which is only a very small sub-set of the branding discipline (but hell who can blame them, marketing fraternity from practitioners to journalists don’t seem to understand the difference!) or they are collectively too conservative (scared) to really take a stand that makes them different and superior.
An article from Lawyers’ Weekly May 2008 cites a number of “rebranding case studies”, one of which is:
“We were keen to come up with an understanding a meaning of the brand that related to everyone. It really came down to two things that were really important to the firm. One was the quality of the work that we do and the second was how we do that work and how we relate to the people we’re doing that work with,” he said. “So for us [the issues were] excellence in terms quality of work we’re doing and building real rapport with our clients, with each other, and with other professionals involved with our work.” Blake Dawson worked on the project with brand consultants, Principals, for the best part of 18 months and it was officially unveiled on November 5 year. The effort paid off, and the rebranding was recognized as one of top five of the year in the 2008 Rebrand 100 Winning Brands awards.”
Is this another case of “Emperor’s New Clothes”? We tried to find evidence of the 2 key messages – quality of work and rapport with clients – that supposedly make Blake Dawson unique, communicated on the company website but with no success. Furthermore, the firm’s Positioning Statement “Would you like to grow a little faster?” unfortunately in no way reflects these 2 key messages. But at least the firm has a Positioning Statement and maybe this will focus the efforts of the company to deliver on their promise and assist clients in growing their bottom line. Additionally, Blake Dawson – www.blakedawson.com is one of the few firms to have at least tried to establish some kind of differentiation by incorporating cartoons in the firm’s marketing communications; however this great idea seems not to have been given enough oxygen. There are only 2 pages of the company’s website graced with this simple, humanizing and differentiating concept – unfortunately allowing a great opportunity go untapped.
The trouble is, all the big commercial law firms seem to be working from the same play book and to have taken the road more traveled – and have ended up being both boring and unfocused in their message.
Little wonder market research suggests that clients don’t know what differentiates one firm from another. Now, at the risk of offending people who know how to sue us for defamation… go to the web sites of the major players and look for a clear positioning statement, or anything that is “benefit focused.” If a first year copywriting cadet from AdSchool submitted any of these web sites for an assignment, they would fail because its “all about me” copy doesn’t give any clear differentiation from the competition.
What’s more, they generally try to be all things to all people. They all say, in effect, “we have a bunch of smart people and lots of offices and know the law and care about excellence…” yawn.
Why is it that some of our society’s brightest minds have no idea how to translate their “no holds barred” skills from the courtroom to the public domain of marketing communication in a battle to win more clients?
Maybe they just don’t need the extra business, maybe they don’t know how, or maybe the truth is a combination of arrogance and ignorance steeped in tradition! If you want to know the historical reasons why the legal profession is the way it is when it comes to brand positioning in marketing and advertising, then you’ll see an excellent exposé here:
http://www.law.com/jsp/llf/PubArticleLLF.jsp?id=1181207138051 by the (American) National Law Journal.