Monday, September 19, 2005

If they can't get it, they'll probably really want it.

After you've lived in New York once in your life, any trip back to the city creates a bit of emotional conflict. The city seems to taunt me just a bit, as if it's saying, "Didn't have what it takes to stick around, huh?" Then I step back, look at the frantic nature of Manhattan and respond, "I still love you. I just can't be with you anymore."

It's that frantic nature, however, that makes New York tick. The madness works because it fuels a kind of hyper-demand for everything — apartments, restaurant reservations, the perfect pair of jeans, parking spots. People are striving from the moment they get up in the morning.

What Manhattan does, organically and seamlessly, is market the very scarcity of everything. It stems from the impossible geography of the place — a relatively tiny island packed with millions of people. Anything that's great is in short supply. This creates even more demand, fueling the sense that the great thing is a must-have.

The crappy tourist table I had at Pastis — hard by the crowd at the bar — afforded me the opportunity to watch people jockey for the better real estate in this packed restaurant. Everybody wanted the very thing — a great table — that wasn't available. Personally, I thought the food at Pastis was terrific — many think it's just average — but it's not the food that makes people so frantic. It's the need to get that food served in just the right location.

How does this relate to your brand? Well, we don't all have Manhattan's impossible geography for our products and services. But if you you do have something great, I think it makes sense to make it just a bit scarce. People want nothing quite as much as the things they can't have.

It takes patience and real cajones to fuel demand by undersupplying it. But it can create real passion for your brand.


Blogger Fred said...

Hey Dean, Fred here.

I appreciate this post. I not only appreciate its relevance in branding, but the post-city nostalgia. I love visiting Chicago, and part of me never left, but I don't miss the competitiveness for space driven by over-population.

I think that your analogy is good, but a little bit dangerous. Compare it to your New York observation, you're not interested in eating at Pastis often, nor do you "want to be" with New York right now. If we developed this feeling in our regular customers, we'd have people who were convinced they couldn't get our products, and therefore may stop trying.

My suggestion is that you must balance the "specialness" and the "hard to get" aspects with reliability and consumer confidence. If you have one "cabbage patch" item thats expensive, hard to get and probably allocated, you'd be well served to have another item or brand that keeps your customer sated and engaged.

I imagine it changes a good deal depending on the industry, but I think its relatively consistent.

A line at a restaurant is a good thing. Keeping it the right size is an art.

Cheers - have a good weekend.

2:21 PM  
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