Ryan McElhany writes about the success of the power concept in marketing, exclusivity and scarcity using children's toys as an example.

If asked to name the top selling girls children's toy from the past year, what would you guess? One might reasonably (but incorrectly) assume Barbie, Goldiblox, or the continued onslaught of Frozen-themed merchandise. But, if you have young daughters or grandchildren, you won't be surprised when I say Shopkins.

For the uninitiated, Shopkins is a collection of miniature versions of boring items you would find in a store. Each anthropomorphized character has a face and a backstory. Jade Spade "really digs gardening." Jingle Purse is "a real shaker and mover, but a little noisy." Handbag Harriet is always "carrying on with her friends."

As I write this, Shopkins are already in their fourth "season." Targeting girls ages 4-9, a new season featuring 148+ new characters is released every six months.

Much like fashion, the toy industry is driven by trends. Two trends in particular — miniatures and collectibles — led Moose Toys to create Shopkins. In their summer introduction, the company sold 65 million products worldwide. The brand also attracted an online fan base, garnering 13 million views on Shopkins webisodes and over 400 million views on Shopkins fan videos. Limited Edition characters, normally retailing for under $3, are selling for up to $1,500 on eBay.

Licensing is underway for Shopkins-inspired bedding, games, plush toys, pajamas, underwear, and swimwear. There is an upcoming series of scented books. McDonald's is giving away giant Shopkins with kids meals. Moose Toys produces over five million toys a week to keep up with demand.

How did Moose Toys achieve such a hit?

Beyond their perfection of three of the four p's of marketing — price, product and place — is the artfulness of Moose's promotion.

Consider the following slogans from their ads and packaging:

  • Once you shop you can’t stop
  • Over 140+ to collect
  • Find the Limited Edition Shopkins
  • 2 Hidden Shopkins
  • 2 Exclusive Shopkins
  • We come in sizes; Cute & Extra Cute
  • 6 Mini Shopkins
  • Most wanted Shopkins

The genius lies in their harnessing two basic power principles: exclusivity and scarcity.

Power Tool 1: Exclusivity

Near the top of

In "5 Psychological Tactics Marketers Use to Influence Consumer Behavior," Fast Company explains other examples of exclusivity.

The U.S. Marines ran a very successful campaign for years with the tagline: "The Few. The Proud." Perhaps the most famous modern example of exclusivity in advertising is the American Express tagline: "Membership has its privileges."

In the world of 4-9-year-old girls, exclusivity takes a different form. After acquiring an exclusive or limited-edition character, children travel to school and spread the word to their friends. Not to be left out, those friends ardently pursue their own complete collections.

Power Tool 2: Scarcity

Scarcity triggers a related emotional response that increases desire. Humans find it hard to resist things that are scarce. Psychologists explain that if something is only available in limited quantities or for a limited time, our minds use mental shortcuts and assume it is either of higher quality or of higher value because it is harder to get.

Scarcity also fuels fear of loss. People fear missing out on an opportunity. In fact, fear of loss has been shown to be a more powerful motivator than desire for gain.

I use a mobile app called Geek to order technology and fitness products on-the-cheap. After adding an item to my cart, I occasionally see a countdown timer and a message informing me that an extra discount is available if I order in the next 5 minutes. Geek knows that that if a customer decides to leave, they are statistically unlikely to return. This fear of missing out (FOMO) becomes a powerful tool to boost purchases.

Returning to the genius of Shopkins — issuing characters in seasons ensures that a limited quantity is produced. Collectors anxiously await the new season but also know that when production ends on the current season, the opportunity to buy has ended. In essence, all of the characters are limited edition.

How to Apply Exclusivity and Scarcity in Your Marketing Whether using traditional or digital marketing channels, it is easy to incorporate exclusivity and scarcity into your messages.

For products, a limited-time offer may be appropriate. For an event, is there limited seating? For a service like a college, university or pre-school, is enrollment capped or limited to the first 400 applicants? For sales, does the promotional sale end soon?

Just as Moose Toys showcases these messages on their packaging, use premium real estate in your emails, ads and other promotions to drive your customer to action. These messages serve as your key message as well as your call to action.

More About Exclusivity in Marketing

More About Scarcity in Marketing

More About Shopkins

SUBSCRIBE BUTTON

Want more ThoughtHub content?
Join the 3000+ people who receive our newsletter.

*ThoughtHub is provided by SAGU, a private Christian university offering more than 60 Christ-centered academic programs - associates, bachelor's and master's and doctorate degrees in liberal arts and bible and church ministries.