Continuing yesterday’s discussion, a third topic I often discuss is the perceived value of uniqueness and scarcity. These are powerful marketing tools. The reason infomercials often say “for a limited time only” “only three left” or “only one per customer” is that these things makes us feel that the item is more special. If I get one, there is one fewer other person who can get one. It gives me power. It makes services like Groupon and Woot work so well.
Similarly, customizable products are special because you can make your item into a one-of-a-kind version. Nike came out with a sneaker that you could design online with different colors and styles and order something that no one else will have. Tattoos have become popular because it allows people literally to brand themselves with something only they have. Vanity plates became popular for the same reason. Having something no one else has makes us feel special.
This works for information too. Knowing a secret gives us a sense of excitement and positive self-image It gives us power. In-and-Out Burger has many items that are on a “secret menu.” The employees know all about them, but they are not listed on the menu. You can only order them if you are “in the know.” This makes you feel special, feel powerful. More unique. This tactic sells countless games of Super Mario Brothers.
Of course, these marketing techniques don’t make the product inherently more valuable. But studies show that we pay more for them than we do for standard products. This freedom, power, and uniqueness have value of their own. Being able to integrate them into your product design or marketing gives you pricing power and switching costs.