What Impact Does Scarcity Marketing have on Consumers’ Purchase Behavior and on Other Products a Company Carries Under the Same Brand?

Marketing Illustrations

Assistant Professor of Marketing Minjung Kwon and colleagues Masakazu Ishihara, associate professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, and Makoto Mizuno, professor of marketing at Meiji University, turned to the Japanese beer market to bring these questions out of the confines of a lab into the real world. There limited-time products—sold in limited batches or with a set end date, for example, for a specific season (fall) or event (Olympics)—are a popular strategy for creating the impression of scarcity in consumers.


“I think it’s an important contribution to the literature that we quantify the empirical impact of this scarcity marketing strategy,” Kwon says.


For their study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, the researchers used rich individual-level transaction data from one of the largest consumer panel polls in the Japanese market to estimate a model of consumers’ beer purchases. They found that compared to “regular” new products, limited-time launches create a rapid jump in demand in the first few weeks. “So you can attract more of the consumer eyeballs and their trials in the beginning,” Kwon says. For that reason, it may be beneficial for brewers to front-load the production and distribution of their limited batches to make them as widely accessible as possible early on, as consumer demand tends to dwindle faster than store coverage (availability across various retail outlets).


By promoting limited-time beers under an existing brand—known as umbrella branding—brewers benefited from existing consumers’ loyalty to the brand. According to the researchers’ model estimates, this spillover effect outweighed potential concerns about the cannibalization at the brand level; was much greater from the “child” product to the “parent” product than vice versa; and lasted even when the limited-time beer had been taken off the market.


“Considering the inherently short lifetime of the limited-time offerings, marketing managers need to design effective marketing programs at the time of product launch,” Kwon says. “The benefits of launching limited-time products over regular new products are more evident in the initial launching periods, and the umbrella branding helps alleviate consumers’ perceived risks involved in new product trials.”


Ishihara, M., Kwon, M. and Mizuno, M. An empirical study of scarcity marketing strategies: Limited-time products with umbrella branding in the beer market. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-022-00899-y



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