Tuesday Trends is a weekly post that covers, in brief, emerging movements, innovations, or strategies that you can integrate, tweak, or ponder as you organize your program.


Franklin’s Barbecue in Austin, Texas is always packed. People show up hours before the restaurant opens to stand in line for a chance to taste their ribs. Although I live here in Austin, I have never been there. I hate waiting. But, that doesn’t stop hundreds of people who want to stake a mental and social claim that they “had Franklin’s.” The reason it’s such a big deal to say that you had Franklin’s is based on the practice of artificial scarcity. Franklin’s strategically cooks a limited amount of product. It helps that it’s also good barbecue. When they are out of the barbecue they close the door.

It drives people mad!

You probably have a place like this in your city. It seems backwards to only offer a limited amount instead of selling as much as you can but artificial scarcity is a strategy that works with our culture of supply on demand. When you can get anything you want, now, it becomes relevant to claim something that few people have already consumed. Available 24/7 is “so mainstream.”


Is a musician who has created an app for a single song that can only be heard by one person at a time. It’s a “digital barbecue line.” You’re notified when you can hear the song and that may be your only chance. After you’ve heard it you control who among the line gets to hear it next. Brilliant. If you want to get in line here you go.


Absynthe is another artist who has created a music video on Vimeo. The video itself can only be viewed when the song is actually being played on the radio. Fans of the band are both encouraged and informed on how they can approach their local radio station.


When Liberty coffee gets a new shipment of coffee it’s always an exclusive sample from a curated source. When they receive the shipment they open their doors. There are no standard hours of operation. In order to be in the loop and experience the offering you have to follow their social media to be in the know and ready for the experience.


It seems a bit awkward to contemplate scarcity tactics with relational and spiritual supply. I certainly wouldn’t advocate scarcity for counseling and relational presence but I would advocate strategic scarcity for portions of youth work where events and conversations can become valued and desired.


I think it would be a compelling opportunity for an organization to create an experience that leaves students wanting more. Too often we are guilty of attempting to give students everything we can in one sitting. We pour all of our creativity in “getting them there.” When every offering is approached this way it begins to sound like a broken record. When we fail to deliver on the event promises or over-hype them, we convey to students that the work is so inclusive that it’s really not that big of a deal.

How awesome would it be to discover an element that kids embrace and then turn around and control the availability of it. Maybe your night of worship happens at an undisclosed venue at an undisclosed time. Promotion for the moment creates desire and fulfillment occurs at a strategic moment where awareness comes in the form of a tweet, update, or text.


This would require us to think. We would be forced to create strategic experiences that students really want. In order to create this culture you would definitely need to deliver and be extremely strategic in the highlight reel afterwards.

What would it look like to say, “No, really, we only have ten spots available.” Or to say, “This online live teaching moment only happens after 9pm.” The tweet or update that announces it gives you 15 minutes to find a wifi enabled spot to post up for.


Rethinking the way you promote and the idea that the experience is limited seems controversial but once you’ve been in youth work you begin to realize that in the end if you have 100 students you can expect only 20 will respond on your best promotional efforts. Why not plan for that and accept it in a way that turns the moment around?

What are your thoughts? 

How would strategic scarcity work well for your context?

Feel free to share in the comments.



  1. Ryan Lewis October 2, 2012 at 7:33 am #

    Great idea. I really like the concept of having a live teaching or video teaching that kids are eager and excited to see (mostly because they may be one of the only few that get to see it). It may be a gimmick but who cares as long as it works and gets kids excited.

    The only downfall I see is that unless you have a youth group that is large you may create things that literally never get seen. You talked about having 100 students and expecting 20 to respond on your best efforts. What if you have 20 students or less? Maybe if you have a smaller group it would be best to have a much larger window of when they could view it or be involved in the event. Smaller number of students you have the more time they will need to catch on and join.

  2. chadswanzy October 2, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    Good thoughts. I used the number 100 as an example but I hear your thought idea. For a smaller group scarcity would be focused on time and not quantity. To release an offering on a window of small opportunity with a smaller group would be a way of garnering maximum participation.

    Try creating a moment where an experience is delivered at a yet to be determined location. If you have a small group moment let students hear that it will gather this week and watch the twitter feed for time and space. Record the moment for availability on a podcast or video. Hold that media in que for a few days and remove a few days before the next experience.

  3. JP October 2, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

    I LOVE the thought of this. Keeping students wanting more. I think this is very vital in the world of student ministry. Especially in this entertainment driven world we live in.

    I have the tendency to put all of my eggs in one basket and try to over program or I find a great thing and over do it. For instance The Interlude Dance. My students hate it now.

    Please don’t get me wrong, the last thing I want to do is put a damper in the spiritual area of my student ministry. I’m talking about programming and all other areas.

    I would love to get some conversation going on how other student ministries are currently doing this or would like to do this.


  4. Wilson October 3, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    I love this concept and think it is highly effective for commercial goods like donuts and iPhones. I would be pretty hesitant to make this much of a reality for youth ministry though. It’s one thing to lose kids because they’re “too cool” for church. It’s another thing to lose kids because church is “too cool” for them. You don’t want your group to project that you have to be “in” or “in the know” or hip with a certain crowd to participate. The “too cool” kids are still just going to see it as church, and the “un-cool” kids now have one more place where they don’t fit in.

  5. chadswanzy October 3, 2012 at 9:02 am #

    Good thoughts Wilson. I agree that it shouldn’t be exclusive. I love to see 100% participation. This post suggestion shouldn’t be applied to the regular events like community gatherings. If your promoting the event in a way that only invites certain kids, you’re doing it wrong. Your promotion only empowers kids to know where to go to get the information that is accesible to anyone “cool” or “not so cool.”

    The information shouldn’t be hard to reach or grab a hold of. Kids who are interested to begin with will be the ones who want to go in the end. I think if a leader has been promoting events in an all inclusive, come one come all ways, and you’re tired of seeing the same level of participation from “cool kids” and “not so cool kids” then maybe it’s time to try something new.

  6. Wilson October 3, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    The whole premise of artificial scarcity is that some people get it and some people don’t. That’s what makes it desirable, because you are on the inside. If the information isn’t hard to reach or grab a hold of, then it isn’t artificial scarcity. Liberty coffee, Adam Tensta, and Absynth Minded all have products that are pretty hard to get a hold of, but they promote that product probably as much as they can. The broken record syndrome is a problem that creating limited supply doesn’t really address.

  7. chadswanzy October 3, 2012 at 9:47 am #

    then it’s scarcity of predictability.

  8. LeaderTreks October 4, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    Very interesting thoughts in relation to youth ministry. Guaranteeing challenge could be the key to the artificial shortage (unless you are offering BBQ apparently) so that not only are spots/opportunities/etc limited, but that it is advantageous to take part in what is going on. Do you think it is possible for students to get disillusioned with artificial shortages?

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