Limited Editions: Good or Evil?

Black Friday line

Image by tshein via Flickr

Yesterday’s post touched on the idea of using a limited offer or quantity to spur sales.

In the comments, John wanted to know if “people really believe it. How can they trust that there really is a scarcity and not just a another marketing ploy?”

So, is marketing with limited editions really a good idea? Or is it an underhanded marketing trick?

Limited can be artificial

Well, it can be a ploy, like Black Friday deals, or the limited edition car. It can make something seem more exclusive or important than it really is. (Long ago, I was working at a cosmetics company and someone wrote in asking if his “limited edition” cologne set was valuable).

Limited can be real

Or, limited can be very real. An original copy of John Audubon’s book of bird illustrations just sold for $11.5 million dollars. It’s truly limited. There aren’t any more.  I happen to own a reproduction of the book, but that’s not the same. The original Apple computer cost $666.66 (hmmmm).  One of the rare surviving examples just sold for $210,000. You can get a brand new Mac mini starting at around $700 (and it’s faster), but they make lots of them — they’re not unique.

It can also be fun

For example, each day “woot” puts up a different daily deal. One day, one product, and then it’s gone. (today’s, by the way is a two-pack of smoke alarms). Will there be more smoke alarms in a real store? Yes. Is it a good price (decent, I had to pay $25 for mine and this is two for $40). They write funny copy, and it pulls you in.

“So just to make it easy, if you DON’T want to buy these smoke alarms, just check the box marked “I don’t value the safety of my home and worldly possessions or the lives of my loved ones.” Go ahead. Blame it on the holidays. IF YOU DARE.”

Same with Groupon. More funny copy, and participating is part of the fun (as well as part of the deal) (If you don’t know, Groupon offers discounts – but only if enough people sign up for it – so there’s an incentive to pass it on and tell your friends).

Share your thoughts

So, is making something limited a good idea? Or a bad one?

2 thoughts on “Limited Editions: Good or Evil?

  1. JK, it is funny about the scarcity factor: when absinthe was illegal here, I really wanted some, and had a friend of mine smuggle some from France. We drank it in a smug way that suggested we were getting away with something. Now it’s legal here—forget it, I’ll stick to bourbon. It also makes me think of the perceived value of “priceless artworks” and how there are skilled artists who can reproduce the works so that even experts are baffled as to its provenance. The value is centered in the perception, not an innate thing.

    By the way, I love the Groupon ads—they are preposterous and amusing. I’ve bought a few, though the writing isn’t what prompted the buying. But it doesn’t hurt.

    • When you add the lure of “forbidden fruit,” it becomes even more appealing (sorry, couldn’t help myself). I saw a story recently about a painting recently attributed to Breugel. Suddenly, everyone is much more interested in it.

Comments are closed.