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.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOUTH LEADERS
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.
GETTING RID OF THE BROKEN RECORD SYNDROME
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.
WHAT DO KIDS REALLY WANT?
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.
ACCEPTING COMMON RESPONSES AND PLANNING ACCORDINGLY
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.