This article provides a practical explanation of Hunger Marketing. After reading, you will understand the basics of this powerful marketing strategy.
What is Hunger Marketing?
The concept of Hunger Marketing is quite simple to understand. In fact, it’s quite ‘Business 101’. In one common application, a company offers a product for sale and attracts customers with bargain pricing.
The business then limits the available supply. This creates a manufactured shortage. The demand for the product ideally remains the same or even grows, and prices go up as a result. This leads to more profits. This type of marketing strategy uses customer emotions, such as the desire to get something that’s difficult or impossible to obtain, to drive sales.
Other forms of Hunger Marketing
In addition to limiting stock, Hunger Marketing can be employed in other ways to create desire in customers.
Setting time limits
‘Today Only!’, ‘Gone Tomorrow!’, ‘Won’t Last Long!’; These are all phrases that imply that anyone who wants a product should act very quickly. Home shopping channels, car dealerships, electronics superstores, and furniture stores all employ this technique. Sometimes, a sense of urgency is further encouraged through the use of devices such as countdown clocks, even text reminders.
Customers sense a lack of time, and that creates both fear of missing out and a hunger for something that is scarce. Sometimes, there’s even a sense of competition among consumers to ensure that they are able to ‘score’ their item.
Hunger Marketing through special discounts and temporary pricing
Offer to save people money, and you will get them to consume. Even when it’s a product that they hadn’t previously considered purchasing or certainly don’t need, a bargain price can often lead to a sale. Money savings stirs up a person’s sense of greed. This approach is the driving reason behind special sales events and many coupons.
Brand appeal and Hunger Marketing
Hunger Marketing is generally most successful where brand appeal already exists, or where it can be developed quickly. It’s a bit circular. Brand loyalty can help Hunger Marketing initiatives gain traction. At the same time, a good Hunger Marketing effort can make a brand seem more desirable. To be succinct, Hunger Marketing isn’t going to work if nobody is excited about a brand.
Limiting product access
Another popular technique is to limit access to products. This can be done through ‘members only’ offers. Brands can also use drawings or giveaways to limit who can have access to their products.
Who Has Used Hunger Marketing Well?
It’s widely agreed that Apple is the company most known for applying Hunger Marketing exceedingly well. They start with exceptionally innovative products (iPhones, iPods, etc). They create a lot of excitement around those products, and at times a bit of controversy. This gets people excited to see their offerings come to market.
The company then deploys two techniques. They make their audience wait for the release of the latest product, and they limit availability. The result is that owning the product becomes a social, status symbol.
While it may not have the name recognition of Apple or Samsung, Xiaomi is also using Hunger Marketing to great success. In fact, the electronics maker is more than rivaling Apple in sales. In fact, sales of Xiaomi phones has exceeded that of iPhones. They too are using Hunger Marketing techniques.
Xiaomi’s approach is to create social media buzz around their products and to get the media on board. Next, they begin collecting pre-orders, but they limit the number they will accept at that stage. When their product does come to market, it’s in predictably short supply.
Customers who are unable to place an order must queue up to wait for the next batch to be made available. Have you ever witnessed a line around a brick and mortar store because customers want to get their hands on the newest pair of sneakers, or video game? It’s the same concept. It’s just executed online.
What are the pitfalls of Hunger Marketing?
Hunger Marketing can certainly be effective. The cases of both Xiaomi and Apple prove that. However, anyone considering this approach should be very aware of the risks that are involved.
Overwhelming customer demand and technical issues
What happens when you create a great buzz around a product release and limit quantity at the same time? You’re going to have customers rushing your doors (or website) the moment you come to market. If you aren’t ready for that you could face issues. Servers can crash. Lines can form. Both of these can lead to frustrated and angry customers. There’s also the issue of lost sales.
Speaking of angry customers, hunger marketing can backfire. When customers believe you are intentionally holding back the product, or otherwise orchestrating a situation that allows you to inflate prices by artificially limiting supply they can get resentful.
It’s important to create loyalty and goodwill that builds a sense of trust between consumers and brand to stave off this kind of resentment. If brand’s overestimate customer loyalty or the buzz they’ve created around their product, they have no way to balance customer resentment or suspicions.
Hunger Marketing best practices
If you’re considering Hunger Marketing, consider some of these best practices.
Create a product that is worthy of the buzz
It’s very important that products live up to the hype that you create. You won’t cause people to have FOMO or tap into their desire to have something that others don’t if you face a ton of negative feedback about your offering.
Focus on the right audience
Some brands can aim their Hunger Marketing campaigns at a general audience, or at the very least their entire fan base. Apple certainly can. Most other brands will need to be more focused. Because of the excitement and buzz that is needed for Hunger Marketing to work, it is best geared towards brand loyalists, superfans, and brand ambassadors.
You may not have created enough brand loyalty to attempt Hunger Marketing with a large audience. However, by focusing on one segment, you may be able to focus your campaign efforts on customers who are most likely to be responsive.
Now it’s your turn
What do you think? Is Hunger Marketing a technique to build excitement over your product, or simply manipulation? Are the downsides worth any potential benefits? Clearly, it’s working for some brands, but it’s reasonable to wonder if those brands are simply large enough and popular enough to withstand inevitable backlash.
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Moore, K., & Pareek, N. (2006). Marketing: the basics. Routledge.
- Onkvisit, S., & Shaw, J. J. (2004). International marketing: Analysis and strategy. Psychology Press.
- Stock, A., & Balachander, S. (2005). The making of a “hot product”: A signaling explanation of marketers’ scarcity strategy. Management Science, 51(8), 1181-1192.
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