From sunny days to shiny phones, scarcity is always appealing

Bullet-pointed list

If you’re in the UK, you’ll be all too aware by now that we’re having the hottest summer possibly of all time.

It remains to be seen whether it overtakes the long hot summer of 1976 as the benchmark. (The fact that people are still talking about it 40 years on shows what a rarity a good summer is here.)

And yet it’s not happening everywhere in the UK. Earlier this week, I bumped into a friend of mine in town who’d just had a long weekend in west Wales.

“It was glorious,” he said. “It was 20 degrees [68F], and once or twice we even had a little rain!”

The irony is that this conversation completely reverses the conventions of weather-based chit-chat (which Brits excel at, as I was reminded when I lived in the perennially sunny South Africa).

Normally at this time of year, we’re moaning about how awful the summer has been, and how the week of good weather at the beginning of June cruelly teased us with a false promise of things to come. 

Just a few years ago, I remember putting the central heating on in July – but this year, I’ve been fantasising about portable air-conditioning units.

As my friend and I chatted about parched gardens and the difficulty of sleeping, I was struck by how quickly our view of the world shifts. Normal (rain, clouds and cool temps) becomes abnormal, and we find ourselves craving precisely the thing we’re usually complaining about. 

Less is more

That brings us to a crucial point when it comes to marketing and selling: if something is available in abundance, it’s less desirable than when it’s scarce. Nothing gets people to take action like the possibility of losing out.

So maybe you’re limiting the supply (drip-feeding a must-have gadget into the market, accepting only a certain number of signups to your buyers’ club, offering a discount to the first 100 people to apply) or you’re limiting the time (offer must end 31 July).

The thing is, we humans are all the same. We want what we haven’t got: more friends, more money, a nicer house, longer holidays (though not so long that we start dreaming of a return to the predictability of work), fluency in another language, more certainty about the future. 

The other thing is that when we achieve our goals, we’re still not happy.

We could have a slightly larger house or more money (a rich friend of mine says he realises how ‘poor’ he is when he sees bigger toys than his – cars, yachts, houses). We could be a bit more fluent in Spanish, or improve our accent.

How can you be different?

The aspiration never ends: we’re always hankering after something that’s just beyond reach. And since that’s the case, and it will never change, as a marketer, you can tap into that to great effect. You could:

  • Promise something that nobody else is promising, but make sure you can actually deliver. It could be price (though that’s a zero-sum game) or service (which is a winning one). Or perhaps it’s bundling products or services in a way that’s new, different or unexpected.
  • Talk in a way that connects with the reader. In a world of bland copy that all sounds the same, you can dare to be different by getting up close and personal with clients and prospects. Show them a vision of what their world could be like if they chose you over your competitors. Make them dream a little.
  • Go against the flow, by challenging established ways of doing things. If you find yourself saying the dreaded phrase that’s standard practice in the industry (which I’ve recently heard from a gym manager and an insurance broker) then instead, try doing exactly the opposite and setting a new standard – yours.
  • Accept that we’re all fickle, and that a decision to purchase can quickly lead to buyer’s remorse (Have I made the right decision? Am I trapped? Is there a cooling-off period? Is there a cancellation charge? Would I have got a better price if I’d done a bit more research?). Make it as easy to leave as to join you, and give people the freedom and flexibility they’re looking for. 
  • Recognise that nothing is forever, and that sooner or later, however satisfied people are with you, they may just move on. I changed gyms and hairdressers simply because I wanted a change. I wasn’t dissatisfied, and neither could have said anything that would have induced me to remain.

As the temperatures soar outside, I keep reminding myself that it’ll all come to an end sooner or later. In just a few short weeks, as the temperatures drop and the nights draw in, we’ll all be longing for the endless days of summer.

With that in mind, I’m trying to enjoy it while it lasts. Because something tells me we’ll all be talking about this summer for the next several decades.

Which is just a little bit sad.