How my perception of urgency is leveraged to persuade me to act.

In Robert B. Cialdini’s seminal marketing book on persuasive techniques, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he lists scarcity as the final principle in his “6 Principles of Influence.”

Day 1, Friday

7:00 AM — I’m scanning my email as I brush my teeth, and I see a recent blast pop up from my “Promotions” folder: “CLOSING HOURS: GET THESE SWIM SETS BEFORE THEY’RE GONE.” It’s from a store I don’t love, but they have notoriously good sales and I’m going to Miami next week….I browse through the first page, but decide it’s still not worth it.
Tool: Scarce Time
Interest: ✅
Action? ❌

Day 2, Saturday

8:50 AM — On twitter, I get a targeted ad from the New Yorker about their new tote bags. They’re exactly like the original, but in dark mode. Limited edition. I want it. I’m so materialistic. I use the duration of time it takes for me to floss to consider whether I should cancel my subscription and then resubscribe for the sake of this tote. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Stop.
Tool: Scarce Time
Interest: ✅
Action? ❌

Day 3, Sunday

10:15 AM — I use the Nike Training app to workout sometimes, but lately I’ve been getting frustrated with the slowly shrinking ratio of free services to paid ones. When I open my homepage, a “New Premium Workouts” feature is waiting for me as the hero image, with animated trainers lifting nicer-looking weight and in a more professional looking studio than the trainers I’m used to in the free version. The copy reads “For serious athletes. Upgrade for better variety and more coaching. ”… I want to be a serious athlete. I consider, but also I’m short on time and don’t have enough cognitive capacity right now to really mull over this purchase.
Tool: Restricted Access
Interest: ✅
Action? ❌

Day 4, Monday

7:30 AM — A mass of promotional emails this morning. I wonder why don’t I filter more of this out so I don’t wake up to it. Since tracking the uses of scarcity in my life, I think I’ve become extra scrutinous of my inbox now. I completely ignore all of the “LIMITED” and “FINAL HOURS” and “LAST CALLS.” I feel good about it.
Tool: Scarce time, Scarce Resources
Interest: ❌
Action? ❌

Day 5, Tuesday

9:20 AM — I’m travelling today. My mom keeps texting me about precautions to take for the coronavirus outbreak. She’s especially nervous because I have to be on a lot of airplanes this week. I go to the mini market inside my hotel, looking for anti-bacterial wipes. I notice that there’s a giant bin labeled as hand sanitizer, but there’s only one little bottle left. It gets me thinking about the outbreak here in DC in comparison to Pittsburgh. Is there a higher likelihood of the virus spreading here, or are people just more paranoid? Why are the bins emptied here? I already stocked up before I left yesterday, but if there’s only one left here….I grab it and buy it.
Tool: Scarce Resources, Abundance to Scarcity
Interest: ✅
Action? ✅

⏰📝

Written by

Designer. Currently at Asana, previously at Khan Academy. Language + Data + Digital + Print.

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