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Influence Techniques: Scarcity Principle September 23, 2005

Posted by dhar in Misc.
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Over the next seven days, I will post about the various techniques of Influence. We start of with the Scarcity Principle.

The principle is simple: humans covet that which is scarce. The desirability of things goes up if they are not easily available. This principle can often be used to influence people’s behavior and gain compliance from them.

Shackleton’s Way has a beautiful example of the usage of this principle. During his Antarctic expedition, one of his crew members shot a seal. Shackleton wanted his crew to eat seal meat because it is a rich source of proteins and vitamins. Unfortunately seal meat tastes crappy and he seriously doubted if any of his crew members would voluntarily eat it.

So what Shackleton did was as follows: he posted a notice which reserved seal meat for senior officers. By this act, he made seal meat scarce and a highly desirable possession. He was immediately approached by the crew members who demanded that they be treated as equals and be served seal meat. Mission Accomplished!

Cialdini, the master of Influence Techniques, conducted an interesting study. He called various supermarket managers on behalf of a beef importing company and gave three different sales pitches and took their orders.

– In the first case he made a standard sales pitch.
– In the second case he made the standard sales pitch and passed on the info that the supply of beef was going to be scarce in the coming months.
– In the third case he made the standard sales pitch, passed on info about supply scarcity and also informed the manager that not too many people had knowledge of the impending shortage. That is, the info about beef scarcity was itself scarce.

The managers in the third set purchased 700% more beef than the mangers from the first set, thus clearly demonstrating the power of the scarcity principle.

Have you ever had an experience where you used this principle? Or worse, had it used on you? 🙂

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