Successful Brands

By Tom Dougherty
Successful brands leverage scarcity and exclusivity

Successful brands leverage scarcity and exclusivity

It’s a simple fact. Successful brands are the ones that are seemingly exclusive. As though you’re part of a club with only a few select members. A kind of scarcity exists.

As Groucho Marx says, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

Scarcity has its own value. Because scarcity means value. Think of this. New In-N-Out Burger chains open for the first time in Colorado and chaos ensues. The crowd becomes so huge that police were called in to re-route traffic and control those standing in line for more than 12 hours. There was even a pant-less fight.


“Successful brands are like diamonds. Their value comes from an emotional scarcity.”

Are the In-N-Out burgers really that much better than what Coloradoans were offered before? Of course not. It was that consuming desire to be part of something that seemed exclusive or out of reach before. Successful brands know their value comes from target audiences wanting to belong to something they feel they previously couldn’t.

Successful brands aren’t for everybody

Let me give you an obvious example. Apple, the greatest brand in the world, bases (most of) its value from scarcity. Even though the iPhone is available just about everywhere (including, of all places, Walmart), the brand tells audiences they are part of an exclusive club. “Think Different” was its founding theme. And it’s lived that mantra ever since. And the brand creates lines out of the Apple Store door when a new one is unveiled.

successful brandsAt Stealing Share, we tell our clients that it’s just as important to say who you are NOT for as who you are for. Without that definition, you don’t offer a true choice. And there’s no emotional desire to be coveted.

Successful brands are like diamonds. Their value comes from an emotional scarcity. The In-N-Out stampede started with that feeling. In the coming weeks, the lines will wane and the burger chain will be like the rest. But it demonstrates the power of feeling exclusive. Whether you are really exclusive or not.

The point is this. Unless you are the market leader, being everything to everybody means you are for nobody. Don’t be in a hurry. Being seen as exclusive and/or scarce is what successful brands ultimately become.



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