Chapter 7: Scarcity - Revised

Chapter 7 in Robert B. Cialdini’s book Influence (science and practice) covers a specific area or tactic that is used in influencing an individual or a group, Scarcity.  The book is quite revealing, as it is effective in outlining the various tactics used to affect people through influence and persuasion. Scarcity plays a major role in persuasion.

The scarcity tactic or principal operates on the worth people attached to things. Scarcity suggests that are more valuable when they are less available. The scarcity tactic discusses two important factors or techniques.  One is the limited-number” technique and the other are the  “deadline technique”. The “deadline technique” works because it puts an official time limit on the product availability.  The “limited –number” tactic works because it creates added value to a product by reducing the availability of the product.  

Nike is a great example of company, which sells many Jordan sneakers because when the new sneaker is introduced to the market the claim is made “you have to get them now, this is the limited edition of a Jordan sneaker”.  This tactic creates lines outside of doors for products or camping outside of business in order to get that limited edition product.

Both of these techniques directly affect or create an emotional experience that gets in the way of cognition or creates a psychological reactance. Scarcity is a tactic that is used in a common and indirect way that affects us all at some point or another. 

This image of a vintage pair of Jordan's represents the value of few or rare. The rarer the sneaker the higher the price for a pair of vintage sneakers.  

When there is a “going out of business sell” sign or the sign that says for “limited time only” affects human emotions.  


Scarcity creates an unstable situation in the brain that causes us not think strait or as strait as we would like.  Therefore we spend or purchase products not because we need it but because advertising stimulates us to feel like we need it.

Cialdini (2009) says, “The scarcity principal trades on our weakness for shortcuts”. Humans also are challenged emotionally when freedoms are threatened. Cialdini continues to suggest, that individuals have a difficult time emotional and cognitively with the idea of losing freedoms.  

Now that I understand this information, I get it when a bartender says, “Last Call”. People seem to buy drinks at last call even when they have already had enough.  The freedom that is lost during last call relates to not having the freedom to really think about whether you want or need another drink. Cialdini (2009) suggest that a typical reaction to scarcity hinders our ability to think.

It is interesting to find scarcity as a persuasion technique in Hip Hop music.  After reading and understanding the persuasion techniques I started to hear the techniques within the Lyrics of Hip Hop specifically.  The lyrics in todays mainstream hip-hop promote spending and living life for the now and not for the future. Platinum artist like Bird Man, P-Diddy (Sean Combs) and many others participate by rapping about a lifestyle that most people don’t or can’t have. The artist mentioned talks about rare cars, and rare exotic places to visit, and rare jewelry suggesting that only a few people can afford this type of lifestyle making it scarce.  This kind of communication affects people’s choices to consume as much of whatever they can so that they can feel like they are living the rare or scarce lifestyle being expressed through these lyrics.  Here are some lyrics by both artists.


Landed on my island again

jet black helicopter

you know I got that other chopper,

that's how I'm flyin' homie

hittin' them switches on em

complete a mission on em

one of a kind sky high that's how we gettin' it on em

got the money though

trade the bird bag

gucci and reverda bag

Louie and fendi bag

You know we trippin' when we tear the whole mall down

                                  It's big money homie this is how we shut it down



            I want a all chromed out wit the clutch, nigga

                  Drinkin malt liquor, drivin a Bro' Vega

 I'm wit Mo' sippers, watched by gold diggers (uhh)

                Rockin Bejor denims, wit gold zippers (c'mon)

                 Lost your touch we kept ours, poppin Cristals

                Stampedin over, pop Mo's, never sober

           Lex and Range Rovers dealin weight by Minnesota (uhh)

        Avoidin NARC's wit camcorders and Chevy Novas (uh-huh)

           Stash in the buildin wit this chick named Alona (uh-huh)

        from Daytona, when I was young I wants to bone her (uh-huh)

      But now I only hit chicks that win beauty pageants (ahahaha)

           Trickin, they takin me skiing, at the Aspens (c'mo

After reading Influence and thinking about all the times that I have been affected personally by the tactics discussed in the book, especially scarcity, I realize how persuasion and influence is apart of my daily existence.  In a social setting it is difficult not to experience persuasion and influence on any level.  Advertising is evasive and surrounds us in attempt to affect our freedoms and fears.  The best defense against these tactics is to understand them completely and maintain awareness. 


Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence: Science and practice. Boston: Pearson Education.