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Recently, many luxury brands have begun to launch limited edition (LE) products. When this happens, advertisers implement two typical types of scarcity messages for LE products: limited-time scarcity (LTS) versus limited-quantity scarcity (LQS) messages (Cialdini, 2008). Prior research offered empirical evidence that these scarcity messages make consumers feel that LE products are more special, unique, and valuable, and thus, positively influence their evaluation of the product (Aggarwal, Jun, & Huh, 2011). The current study examined the differential effects of LTS and LQS messages on different types of LE products by focusing on consumers’ need for uniqueness.
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Scarcity Message Effects on
Consumption Behavior: Limited
Edition Product Considerations
Wonseok (Eric) Jang, Yong Jae Ko, Jon D. Morris, and Yonghwan Chang
University of Florida
ABSTRACT
Recently, many luxury brands have begun to launch limited edition (LE) products. When this
happens, advertisers implement two typical types of scarcity messages for LE products: limited-time
scarcity (LTS) versus limited-quantity scarcity (LQS) messages (Cialdini, 2008). Prior research
offered empirical evidence that these scarcity messages make consumers feel that LE products are
more special, unique, and valuable, and thus, positively influence their evaluation of the product
(Aggarwal, Jun, & Huh, 2011). The current study examined the differential effects of LTS and LQS
messages on different types of LE products by focusing on consumers’ need for uniqueness. ©2015
Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Research has shown that many brands have begun to
implement scarcity messages in their promotion of lim-
ited edition (LE) products (Balachander & Stock, 2009;
Gierl & Huettl, 2010). For example, Omega recently
released “The James Bond 007 50th Anniversary” col-
lector’s piece to celebrate 50 years of James Bond in the
motion picture business. In addition, other industries,
such as automobiles (e.g., Chrysler 300C John Var-
vatos), video game goods (e.g., LE Crystal Xbox 360),
and even beverage goods (e.g., Starbucks Seasonal Cof-
fee and Samuel Adams Seasonal Bear) have also intro-
duced a series of LE products.
Typically, brands can implement two types of
scarcity messages for LE products: limited-time
scarcity (LTS) versus limited-quantity scarcity (LQS;
Cialdini, 2008). In the case of LTS messages, brands
encourage consumers to buy as many LE products as
possible for a limited duration of time. Meanwhile, in
the case of LQS messages, only a limited number of
products are available for purchase (Aggarwal, Jun,
& Huh, 2011). While LTS messages highlight limited
time availability of LE products, LQS messages focus
on the limited availability of the products to a prede-
fined quantity.
The central principle behind offering LE products
is to create a sense of exclusivity among the target
consumers. Prior works offered empirical evidence that
these scarcity messages make consumers feel LE prod-
ucts are special, unique, and valuable (Aggarwal et al.,
2011; Gierl, Plantsch, & Schweidler, 2008), and thus,
positively influence their product evaluation (Eisend,
2008; Gierl & Huettl, 2010). In examining the rela-
tionship between scarcity messages and product eval-
uations, scholars have also identified several moder-
ating variables, such as consumers’ personality traits
(e.g., uncertainty avoidance and need for cognitive clo-
sure; Jung & Kellaris, 2004), motivations (e.g., promo-
tion and prevention; Ku, Kuo, & Kuo, 2012), cultural
value (e.g., lower and higher context), and product type
(e.g., conspicuous and nonconspicuous; Gierl & Huettl,
2010). Although the concept of LE products has received
tremendous attention from scholars and practitioners,
the theoretical investigation of the underlying principle
of scarcity messages have not been applied and system-
atically examined in the context of LE products. Indeed,
prior studies have been limited to product sales and
promotion (e.g., Jung & Kellaris, 2004). Therefore, the
current study was conducted to investigate the differen-
tial effects of LTS and LQS messages on different types
of LE products. Specifically, the purposes of the current
study were to examine (a) the main effects of scarcity
messages on LE product evaluations (e.g., brand at-
titude and perceived value) and important customer-
oriented outcome variables, such as purchase intention
(PI) and word of mouth (WOM) behavior, (b) the rela-
tive effects of two scarcity message types (LTS vs. LQS)
on different categories of LE products (nonconspicuous
vs. conspicuous), and (c) the moderating effect of con-
sumers’ need for uniqueness (NFU) in the evaluation of
scarcity.
Psychology & Marketing, Vol. 32(10): 989–1001 (October 2015)
View this article online at wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/mar
©2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. DOI: 10.1002/mar.20836
989
THEORETICAL BACKGROUND AND
HYPOTHESIS DEVELOPMENT
Effect of Scarcity Messages on LE Products
The fundamental promotional mechanism of general
and LE products differ (Balachander & Stock, 2009).
Only a predefined number of consumers can purchase
the LE product even though they are willing to pay
a premium price. This proposition creates the great-
est distinction between LE products and other types of
products (Gierl & Huettl, 2010). For more than 200
years, scholars in a variety of academic disciplines
have found the positive effects of scarcity messages on
such consumer responses as product desirability (Gierl
et al., 2008; Jung & Kellaris, 2004; Smith, 1776/1937),
perceived value (PV; Eisend, 2008; Lynn, 1991; Suri,
Kohli, & Monroe, 2007), brand evaluation (Gierl &
Huettl, 2010), and PI (Aggarwal et al., 2011; Aggarwal
& Vaidyanathan, 2003; Eisend, 2008; Ku et al., 2012).
The commodity theory (Brock, 1968; Lynn, 1991) has
been dominant in explaining the scarcity effects. In gen-
eral, commodity refers to an object that has the poten-
tial to be possessed, and it should be useful, transfer-
able, and desirable (Brock & Mazzocco, 2004; Eisend,
2008). The underlying mechanism of commodity the-
ory is that people value a commodity more when it is
difficult to obtain or is even unavailable (Brock, 1968).
That is, when purchasing a scarce commodity, individ-
uals create positive perceptions toward products by sat-
isfying their desires for uniqueness or distinctiveness
(Snyder & Fromkin, 1980), and creating a feeling of
being chosen (Brock & Mazzocco, 2004) or a sense of
bandwagon reasoning (Worchel, Lee, & Adewole, 1975).
For example, Worchel et al. (1975) found that subjects
perceived cookies as more tasty (e.g., high quality) and
valuable when there were only a few cookies left in a
jar as compared to when they were in abundant sup-
ply. This effect was caused by the bandwagon reason-
ing: that is, “if everyone is trying it, it must be good”
(p. 911).
However, commodity theory may not fully explain
the effects of scarcity for LE products. In the case of
LE products, consumers may face difficulty purchasing
the product, inferring the scarcity of one special option
(i.e., LE products) as a significant constraint of their
choices, because many other product options are avail-
able in the same product category (i.e., general version
of products; Gierl et al., 2008). Additionally, Brock’s
(1968) commodity theory has a limitation in explain-
ing LE products that are purchased by consumers who
have a psychological need for limited brands evaluated
as a luxury either for uniqueness or social status.
As an alternative approach, in recent advertising
and marketing literature, scholars applied signaling
theory to understand the fundamental mechanism of
the scarcity effect (Gierl & Huettl, 2010). Stock and
Balachander (2005) suggested that brands can sig-
nal a product’s high quality to potential consumers by
limiting its availability to a predefined few consumers.
More specifically, consumers may perceive the product
as higher quality and more valuable since they believe
that brands make credible commitments only to a pre-
defined number of LE products (Balachander & Stock,
2009). Another explanation is that consumers can sig-
nal their own uniqueness and exclusivity to impor-
tant others by possessing such scarce products (Eisend,
2008; Gierl & Huettl, 2010; Lynn & Harris, 1997). Fur-
thermore, through the possession of scarce and expen-
sive conspicuous products, consumers can also signal
their high social status and wealth to significant others
(Gierl & Huettl, 2010).
Taken together, this study proposes that consumers’
product evaluation will be significantly enhanced when
products are offered with a restricted promotional of-
fer (referred to as a scarcity message). This is because
scarcity messages generally evoke individuals’ sense of
urgency to purchase the scarce products while increas-
ing the product’s value perceptions and attractiveness
by highlighting the uniqueness and social status asso-
ciated with the consumption of limited products (Ag-
garwal et al., 2011; Eisend, 2008). Thus, the first hy-
pothesis was developed:
H1: Consumers exhibit greater brand attitude, per-
ceived value, and PI for LE products in the
scarcity message condition compared to general
products in the nonscarcity message condition.
Types of Scarcity Messages
Essentially, two different types of scarcity messages
can be implemented for LE products: LTS (e.g., only
available for 15 days) versus LQS (e.g., only 500 each
available). The fundamental principles of those scarcity
messages differ. Under the LTS condition, suppliers en-
courage consumers to purchase as many LE products as
possible so as to generate the maximum revenue dur-
ing the period of the promotional offer. Regardless of
the number of potential customers interested in pur-
chasing the same products, consumers can acquire as
many of the LE products as they wish (Aggarwal et al.,
2011). Meanwhile, under the LQS condition, suppliers
restrict the promotional deal of LE products to a lim-
ited number of units (Cialdini, 2008). Therefore, in this
case, consumers have to compete with other buyers to
purchase LE products, because the number of LE prod-
ucts in the marketplace diminishes as other consumers
purchase the product (Aggarwal et al., 2011).
Another difference between the LTS and LQS condi-
tion is the ability to signal the consumers’ uniqueness
to significant others through the possession of LE prod-
ucts. In the consumer behavior literature, consumers
were reported to signal their uniqueness to their friends
and colleagues by possessing scarce products (example:
“Ferrari” special edition laptop; Gierl & Hurttl, 2010).
This ability to signal uniqueness manifests under the
990 JANG ET AL.
Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
LQS condition because only a predefined number of po-
tential consumers can possess the LE product (Aggar-
wal et al., 2011).
Prior studies have also found that consumers per-
ceive products as more valuable under the LQS condi-
tion than in the LTS condition due to the affordabil-
ity inference (Aggarwal et al., 2011; Inman, Peter, &
Raghubir, 1997). Under the LQS condition, the scarcity
messages signal that suppliers are limiting the LE
products’ purchase opportunity to a predefined smaller
number of units, because the promotional value exceeds
the cost of product consumption (Inman et al., 1997).
Therefore, consumers perceive the products as more
valuable and special under the LQS condition than the
LTS condition (Aggarwal et al., 2011).
Types of LE Products and Scarcity
Messages
In general, there are two types of LE products: (a) con-
spicuous versus (b) nonconspicuous. Considering differ-
ent types of LE products is important because people
tend to draw inferences about related others based on
the types of products they own (Bagwell & Bernheim,
1996). In other words, people are able to signal cer-
tain characteristics of themselves to surrounding oth-
ers based on the key attributes of the products they
possess (Gierl & Huettl, 2010). The current study op-
erationalizes conspicuous LE products using four di-
mensions, including high status and wealth, unique-
ness, conformity to exclusive social groups, and visibil-
ity (Gierl & Huettl, 2010).
Signaling High Status and Wealth. Conspicuous
consumption is associated with high social status,
wealth, and power (Wiedmann, Hennigs, & Siebels,
2009). In general, people are able to satisfy the desire
to fulfill the need for status and prestige through the
possession of conspicuous products that signal high so-
cial status, wealth, and power to surrounding others
(Sundie et al., 2011). In this respect, expensive conspic-
uous products benefit people by generating a positive
sense of being highly respected and envied from sur-
rounding others (Belk, 1985).
Signaling Uniqueness. One other way to be re-
spected, admired, and attain social identity is by show-
ing uniqueness within the social group (Bagwell &
Bernheim, 1996; Tian, Bearden, & Hunter, 2001). Peo-
ple value a product more when it establishes its own
unique value and is more expensive compared to nor-
mal standards (Wiedmann et al., 2009). With this mind,
expensive conspicuous products benefit people by sig-
naling their uniqueness to friends and colleagues (Gierl
& Huettl, 2010).
Signaling Conformity to Exclusive Social Groups.
Conspicuous products benefit people by conveying that
they belong to exclusive and prestigious social groups.
People are more likely to be accepted by members of
prestigious groups if they own a product that is highly
valued by those members (Lascu & Zinkhan, 1999).
Therefore, owning and consuming expensive, conspic-
uous products especially benefits people who want to
express conformity to exclusive and prestigious social
groups (Gierl & Huettl, 2010).
Visibility. Conspicuous products should be visible in
order to signal high social status, wealth, and unique-
ness to surrounding others, as well as to show confor-
mity to exclusive social groups (Gierl & Huettl, 2010).
For example, if a person purchases a set of expensive
jewelry but never wears it, he or she will not be able
to signal high social status and wealth to surrounding
others because the product (expensive jewelry) is not
visible. Accordingly, the visibility of the products owned
is an important criterion for conspicuous LE products
(Gierl & Huettl, 2010).
Taken together, the existing theoretical background
suggests that an interaction effect can occur between
the type of scarcity message (LTS vs. LQS) and LE
product type (conspicuous vs. nonconspicuous LE prod-
ucts). One might predict that by possessing conspicuous
LE products, consumers can better signal their social
prestige, wealth, and uniqueness to important others,
and create a sense of conformity to a prestigious and ex-
clusive social group in LQS conditions. LQS messages
enhance a products’ perceived value, exclusivity, and
uniqueness by restricting the owners of LE products to
a predefined smaller number (Amaldoss & Jain, 2005;
Inman et al., 1997).
On the other hand, LTS messages may not have a
significant impact on PI for conspicuous LE products,
because their main objective is to maximize product
sales during the promotional period by accelerating
consumers’ PI within the duration of the promotion
(Aggarwal et al., 2011). For instance, let us imagine
that a luxury watch firm (e.g., Omega or Rolex) has
launched an LE product to celebrate its 100th anniver-
sary. If suppliers restrict the number of LE products to
a predefined, small number of units, people will value
the product more and perceive it as more exclusive and
unique because of the limited availability of the prod-
uct in the market. Meanwhile, if suppliers restrict the
promotional offer only to a given period of time, people
will value the product less and not perceived it as exclu-
sive and unique when compared to limiting numbers of
products.
For nonconspicuous LE products, the current study
proposes that the positive effect of LQS messages
should be decreased. Therefore, this study predicts that
LTS messages rather than LQS messages will have a
significant positive effect on LE products’ PI. In gen-
eral, when suppliers endorse the scarcity messages on
product promotions, they can increase consumers’ feel-
ings of anxiety about scarce products being sold in
the marketplace. As a result, scarcity messages facili-
tate peoples’ heuristic decision-making process and hin-
der their ability to make rational decisions (Cialdini,
LIMITED EDITION PRODUCT CONSIDERATIONS 991
Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
1993). Therefore, they immediately purchase the prod-
ucts without comparing them with other comparable
products that are available in the market (Gierl et al.,
2008).
Given the nature of nonconspicuous products, how-
ever, it is possible that the heuristic decision rule may
be less likely to occur in the case of LQS message con-
ditions. That is, consumers would not put out the extra
effort to go to the store to purchase the scarce product
when suppliers limit the product purchase availability
to an extremely small number (e.g., LQS). Consumers
may infer that these products are already sold out in
the store; therefore, LQS messages would decrease the
willingness to purchase the products compared to the
LTS message condition. In addition, because of the
low ability to signal uniqueness, wealth, and power,
scarcity messages may make consumers believe that
it is not worthwhile to put extra effort into purchas-
ing nonconspicuous LE products. For example, several
companies released seasonal (LE) beers for a limited
period of time (e.g., LTS). Imagine that the suppliers
only produced 100 units of seasonal beers (e.g., LQS).
In this case, the consumer may get frustrated by the
restriction of the nonconspicuous LE products to an ex-
tremely small number. Though the suppliers may sim-
ply intend to increase the desirability of their products,
this strategy provides fewer benefits to consumers and
decreases their ability to signal status, wealth, power,
and uniqueness to others.
However, in terms of brand attitude and perceived
value, this study predicts that there will be no signifi-
cant difference between LTS and LQS message condi-
tions. Consumers may not use the scarcity messages
to evaluate nonconspicuous products because they al-
ready perceive those products as less valuable. Accord-
ingly, the current study hypothesized that:
H2a: For conspicuous LE products, LQS messages
have a greater impact on brand attitude, per-
ceived value, and consumers’ PI than LTS mes-
sages.
H2b: For nonconspicuous LE products, LTS mes-
sages have a greater impact on consumers’ PI
than LQS messages, while the effect of LTS
messages is similar to LQS messages on brand
attitude and perceived value.
STUDY 1
The purpose of Study 1was to test Hypotheses 1 and 2:
LE products (the scarcity message condition) enhance
consumers’ product evaluations and consumer-oriented
outcome variables over general products (the non-
scarcity message condition). LQS messages are more
effective for conspicuous products, while LTS messages
are more effective for nonconspicuous products. In par-
ticular, Study 1 employed a 2 (scarcity messages: LTS
vs. LQS) ×2 (LE product types: conspicuous vs. noncon-
spicuous) between-subjects design with a control condi-
tion (no scarcity message). Fictitious brands were used
in the current study to control prior knowledge, and
brand strength that may have influenced a product’s
conspicuousness; therefore, this would bias the results
(Gierl & Huettl, 2010). In prior studies scholars found
that there was no difference in scarcity effects between
a famous brand (e.g., Gucci) and fictitious brands (Gierl
et al., 2008). Prior to the main experiment, the authors
conducted two pretests to classify the conspicuous and
nonconspicuous LE products, in addition to measuring
the equivalence of perceived scarcity between LTS and
LQS conditions for both conspicuous and nonconspicu-
ous LE products.
Pretest 1: Product Selection
As discussed earlier, a conspicuous product is opera-
tionalized using four dimensions. That is, to be consid-
ered as a conspicuous product, a product must signal
high social status and wealth, uniqueness, conformity
to exclusive social groups, and should be visible to oth-
ers (Gierl & Huettl, 2010). In the first step, a group
of college students (n=26) were exposed to photos of
a series of product categories (n=17) with unknown
brands, including watches, automobiles, beer, yogurt,
and shampoo among other product categories (see Ta-
ble 1). Among participants, 53.8% were male, and their
ages ranged from 18 to 34 years old (M=22). Gierl and
Heuttl’s (2010) six-item scale, which was created based
on conspicuous consumption literature (e.g., Marcoux,
Filiatrault, & Ch´
eron, 1997; O’Cass & Frost, 2002; Tian
et al., 2001), was revised and used to measure percep-
tions of conspicuous and nonconspicuous products.
One item was used to measure the product’s ability
to signal status: If I use this product, I can show others
that I am wealthy. In addition, two items were used
to measure the product’s ability to signal uniqueness:
(a) If I use this product, I can tell my friends that I
am somewhat different and (b) If I use this product, I
can create my own style that is somewhat different from
my friends’ style. Furthermore, two items were used to
measure the product’s ability to signal conformity: (a)
As real experts or lovers of (category) own such a prod-
uct, I can express some kind of commonness with these
persons by also buying it; (b) As real experts or lovers of
(category) own such a product, I can express some kind
of commonness with these persons by also buying it. Fi-
nally, one item was used to measure the product’s visi-
bility: This is a visible product. Subjects were asked to
evaluate each products using a Likert type scale rang-
ing from 1 (totally disagree) to 7 (totally agree; Gierl
& Heuttl, 2010). The results of a one-way analysis of
variance (ANOVA) showed that a watch and yogurt are
significantly different in terms of a product’s conspicu-
ousness: Mwatch =4.76 versus Myogurt =2.38, F(1,
50) =55.27, p<0.001. See Table 1 for the overall re-
sults for all product categories. Although automobile
992 JANG ET AL.
Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
Table 1. Means and Standard Deviation for Pretest 1.
Product Category
Visibility
Mean (SD)
Status Mean
(SD)
Uniqueness
Mean (SD)
Conformity
Mean (SD)
Mobile phone 5.54 (1.39) 3.96 (1.61) 3.83 (1.47) 4.31 (1.54)
Watch 5.12 (1.68) 4.50 (1.45) 4.67 (1.43) 4.81 (1.45)
MP3 4.27 (1.92) 3.38 (1.58) 3.63 (1.63) 3.5 (1.65)
Laptop 4.77 (1.90) 3.81 (1.72) 3.92 (1.59) 4.12 (1.77)
Sunglass 5.23 (1.50) 4.23 (1.48) 4.46 (1.36) 4.12 (1.44)
Automobile 5.54 (1.50) 5.04 (1.73) 4.79 (1.48) 4.71 (1.59)
Handbag 5.00 (1.73) 4.62 (1.79) 3.86 (1.69) 4.15 (1.76)
Headphone 4.46 (1.88) 3.58 (1.65) 3.87 (1.69) 3.79 (1.72)
Suit 4.54 (1.88) 4.00 (1.81) 3.94 (1.64) 4.02 (1.77)
Soda 3.69 (1.95) 2.27 (1.15) 2.52 (1.29) 2.70 (1.40)
Iron 3.77 (2.04) 2.38 (1.41) 2.61 (1.40) 3.06 (1.66)
Beer 3.27 (2.03) 2.08 (1.05) 2.08 (1.06) 2.42 (1.32)
Yogurt 3.27 (1.95) 2.00 (1.06) 2.06 (1.06) 2.44 (1.19)
Shampoo 3.12 (1.86) 2.27 (1.12) 2.29 (1.20) 2.73 (1.36)
Coffee 2.81 (1.86) 2.19 (1.06) 2.33 (1.14) 2.48 (1.28)
Deodorant 2.88 (1.86) 2.31 (1.22) 2.44 (1.23) 2.62 (1.38)
Perfume 3.23 (1.77) 2.77 (1.37) 3.40 (1.57) 2.98 (1.52)
Note Visibility is measured by one item, status is measured by one item, uniqueness is measured by two items, conformity is measured by two
items, and overall mean is measured by averaging all six items.
scored the highest among products in terms of conspic-
uousness, they were not selected as a sample for the
final stimuli because only a few consumers purchase
LE versions of automobiles throughout their lifetimes.
In addition, to ensure that the two selected products (a
watch vs. yogurt) were significantly different from the
general consumers’ perspective, we ran an additional
pretest using a new consumer sample, recruiting from
Amazon’s M-Turk (n=32). Among participants, 56.2%
were male, and their ages ranged from 23 to 60 years
old (M=32). The results of the ANOVA showed a sig-
nificant difference in perceptions of the two products: M
watch =4.64 versus Myogurt =2.41, F(1, 62) =60.07,
p<0.001.
While it seems reasonable to use an everyday watch
($10) as a nonconspicuous product and an expensive
watch ($850) as a conspicuous product, to control for
the confounding effect of product category, the current
study utilized yogurt as a nonconspicuous product and
a watch as a conspicuous product for several reasons.
First, even though an everyday watch has a limited
ability to signal status and uniqueness, it can be visi-
ble to others. In fact, visibility is an important aspect in
determining conspicuous consumption (Gierl & Heuttl,
2010). Second, the current study did not compare the
dependent variables across nonconspicuous products
and conspicuous products. Rather, the current study
focused on each product type. Therefore, the authors
believed that using yogurt and a watch was appropri-
ate for the current study.
Pretest 2: LTS versus LQS Conditions
Comparing the relative scarcity effect of the LTS and
LQS conditions is a main challenge (Aggarwal et al.,
2011). In the first stage, a group of consumers (n=
20) was interviewed to determine a reasonable scarcity
condition for both product types under LTS and LQS
conditions.
Among participants, 35% were male, and their ages
ranged from 19 to 45 years old (M=30). For conspic-
uous LE products (a watch), the results indicated that
subjects perceived scarcity strength as equivalent when
the quantity was limited to from 300 to 500, and the
promotion duration was limited to 10 or 15 days. In
contrast, for nonconspicuous LE products (yogurt), par-
ticipants perceived the scarcity as equivalent when the
quantity was restricted to 3000 or 5000 and the promo-
tion duration was restricted to 15 or 30 days.
The relative perceived scarcity of all four conditions
was further examined by using a new consumer sample
recruited from Amazon’s M-Turk. Participants (n=25)
were asked to answer a perceived scarcity question for
each condition (Eisend, 2008): “How available do you
think the advertised products are”? Dunnett’s multiple
comparison tests showed that no differences (p>0.05)
existed in terms of perceived scarcity across all con-
ditions; (a) Conspicuous products: watch—M LTS (15
days) =4.24 versus M LQS (500 EA) =3.96 and (b)
nonconspicuous products: yogurt—M LTS (30 days) =
4.56 versus M LQS (5000 EA) =4.12.
Main Experiment
A total of 225 (n) students from a large U.S. university
were invited to take part in the online experiment. Par-
ticipants were recruited from three different classes,
including advertising, sports marketing, and public re-
lations. Instructors for each class sent an online link to
students and they completed the online experiment for
extra credit. However, before analyzing the data, par-
ticipants who had no prior experience of purchasing LE
LIMITED EDITION PRODUCT CONSIDERATIONS 993
Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
products during their lifetime, and those who did not
follow the respondent instructions, were identified and
excluded. The final sample size was 184 (n). Among par-
ticipants, 56% were male, and their ages ranged from
18 to 45 years old (M=23). The mean value of purchas-
ing LE products was 2.86 times, which indicates that
participants were knowledgeable about the concept of
LE products.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of the
online experimental conditions, to assure equal sam-
ple sizes and representation for each group. In the first
stage of the experiment, participants, except for the
control group, were asked to read a scenario about new
LE products that retailers may launch in the United
State for their 50th year anniversary. For conspicuous
products, based on the results of the pretest, partici-
pants in the LTS (limited time) condition were told that
the LE products would only be available for 15 days. For
the LQS (limited quantity) condition, participants were
told that there were only 500 product units available.
For nonconspicuous products, participants in the LTS
condition were told that the LE products would only be
available for 30 days. For the LQS condition, they were
told that only 5000 LE products would be available.
Each participant was exposed to two filler advertise-
ments and one target advertisement.
Measures
The dependent variables, brand attitude (Ab) and
PV were measured with four items (e.g., bad/good,
unpleasant/pleasant, unfavorable/favorable, and neg-
ative/positive) and three items (e.g., less attrac-
tive/very attractive, undesirable/desirable, and nonva-
luable/valuable), respectively, on a 7-point semantic dif-
ferential scale, while PI was measured with three items
on a 7-point Likert-type scale (e.g., the probability that
I would consider buying this product is; if I was going
to purchase a product, and the probability of buying
this product is; the likelihood that I would purchase
this product is; 1 =“very unlikely,” 7 =“very likely”;
Aggarwal et al., 2011; Eisend, 2008). Based on the pre-
vious literature, two additional control variables were
measured to prevent a confounding effect: (a) involve-
ment level in the products (five items; Eisend, 2008;
Lastovicka & Gardner, 1979) and (b) need for status
(five items; Eastman, Goldsmith, & Flynn, 1999). The
values of Cronbach’s αwas 0.96 for brand attitude, 0.92
for perceived value, 0.97 for PI, 0.81 for product involve-
ment, and 0.89 for need for status.
Results
Test of Hypothesis 1. A 2 (scarcity message: LE =av-
erage score of LTS and LQS vs. control) ×2(typeof
LE product: conspicuous vs. nonconspicuous) between-
subjects analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was used
to inspect for significant differences. In particular, the
current study reported the adjusted means after con-
trolling for product involvement level and need for sta-
tus (Wildt & Ahtola, 1978).
For Ab, the two-way interaction between the scarcity
messages and product types was not significant, F(1,
178) =1.65, p>0.10. However, the main effect of
type of product was significant, F(1, 178) =4.30, p<
0.05. For perceived value, the two-way interaction be-
tween the scarcity messages and the product types was
marginally significant, F(1, 178) =2.94, p<0.10. For
PI, the two-way interaction between the scarcity mes-
sages and the product types was not significant, F(1,
178) =1.47, p>0.10. There was a significant main ef-
fect of product type, F(1, 178) =28.45, p<0.01, and
scarcity messages, F(1, 178) =4.85, p<0.05.
Follow-up univariate analyses indicated that the
scarcity messages group (i.e., LE products) exhibited
higher PI than the no-scarcity messages group (i.e.,
general products), Mgeneral =3.41 versus MLE =
3.84, F(1, 180) =3.98, p<0.05. However, there was no
difference in PV and brand attitude (PV: Mgeneral =
4.21 versus MLE =4.50, F(1, 180) =2.00, p>0.10;
Ab: Mgeneral =4.34 versus MLE =4.57, F(1, 180) =
1.46, p>0.10). In particular, Dunnett’s multiple com-
parison tests showed that PI of LE products under the
limited quantity (LQS) message conditions was signifi-
cantly higher (p<0.05) compared to general products.
Therefore, one of three dependents was supported (PI;
see Table 2 and Figure 1).
Test of Hypothesis 2. A 2 (type of scarcity message:
LTS vs. LTS) ×2 (type of LE product: conspicuous vs.
nonconspicuous) between-subjects ANCOVA was used
to examine for significant differences. For Ab, there was
a two-way interaction between the type of scarcity mes-
sage and the type of LE product, F(1, 117) =7.29, p<
0.01, accompanied by a main effect of product type, F(1,
117) =7.52, p<0.01. Specifically, follow-up univariate
analyses indicated that for conspicuous products, the
limited quantity (LQS) messages showed higher brand
attitude than the limited time (LTS) messages; MLTS
=3.81 versus MLQS =4.74, F(1, 117) =8.44, p<0.01,
while brand attitude was similar for both LTS and LQS
messages for nonconspicuous products; MLTS =5.03
versus MLQS =4.74, F(1, 117) =0.84, p>0.10.
For PV, there was a two-way interaction between
the type of scarcity message and the type of LE product,
F(1, 117) =8.12, p<0.01, accompanied by marginally
significant effects of product type, F(1, 117) =3.16, p<
0.10. Specifically, a follow-up univariate analyses indi-
cated that for conspicuous products, the LQS messages
showed greater PV than the LTS messages; MLTS =
3.89 versus MLQS =4.71, F(1, 117) =5.77, p<0.05,
while there was no significant difference in PV between
LTS and LQS messages for nonconspicuous products;
MLTS =5.00 versus MLQS =4.45, F(1, 117) =2.70,
p>0.10.
For PI, there was a two-way interaction between the
type of scarcity message and the type of LE product,
F(1, 117) =14.10, p<0.01, accompanied by a main
994 JANG ET AL.
Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
Table 2. Raw and Adjusted Means for Study 1 (H1 and H2).
Control LTS LQS
Raw
Mean
Adjust
Mean (n)
Raw
Mean
Adjust
Mean (n)
Raw
Mean
Adjust
Mean (n)
Hypothesis 1
Brand attitude 4.29 4.34 (61) 4.46 4.42 (62) 4.72 4.71 (61)
Perceived value 4.17 4.21 4.51 4.46 4.54 4.55
PI 3.33 3.41 3.84 3.76 3.92 3.92
Hypothesis 2
LE type
Brand attitude Conspicuous NA 3.86 3.81 (30) 4.62 4.74∗∗ (30)
Nonconspicuous 5.02 5.03 (32) 4.82 4.74 (31)
LE type
Perceived value Conspicuous NA 3.96 3.89 4.57 4.71
Nonconspicuous 5.01 5.00 4.52 4.45
LE type
PI Conspicuous NA 2.79 2.70 3.53 3.73∗∗
Nonconspicuous 4.82 4.814.30 4.21
Note: LTS =limited-time scarcity messages; LQS =limited-quantity scarcity message; LE =limited edition products p<0.05; ∗∗p<0.01.
Figure 1. Main effect of scarcity messages on LE products.
Note.LE=limited edition.
Figure 2. Interaction between scarcity messages and LE
product type on PI.
Note. LTS =limited-time scarcity messages; LQS =limited-
quantity scarcity message; LE =limited edition.
effect of product type, F(1,117) =36.44, p<0.01. Specif-
ically, follow-up univariate analyses indicated that for
conspicuous products the LQS messages showed higher
PIs than the LTS messages; M LTS =2.70 versus M
LQS =3.73, F(1, 117) =11.59, p<0.01, while the
LTS messages for nonconspicuous products produced
greater PIs than the LQS messages; MLTS =4.81 ver-
sus MLQS =4.21, F(1, 117) =3.95, p<0.05 (See
Figure 2).
Discussion
The main finding of Study 1 suggested that two types of
messages, LTS and LQS have a significantly different
impact on LE product evaluation. Both types of scarcity
message positively influenced LE product evaluation
(Aggarwal et al., 2011). However, LQS messages had
a greater impact on PI for conspicuous LE products,
while the effects of LTS messages were greater for non-
conspicuous LE products. Consumers’ ability to signal
status and uniqueness may be manifested when sup-
pliers restrict the LE product to a small quantity in the
marketplace (Gierl & Huettl, 2010).
Focusing on nonconspicuous products, despite the
fact that both LTS and LQS messages positively in-
fluenced consumers’ PIs, the effect of LTS messages
was greater than the effect of LQS messages. In gen-
eral, subjects appear to make their judgments based
on heuristic information under scarcity conditions. In
particular, “ . . . scarcity hinders our ability to think . . .
when we watch something we want become less avail-
able . . . the blood (pressure) comes up, . . . the cogni-
tive and rational side retreats . . . thoughtful analysis
of the situation becomes less available . . . and brain
clouding arousal” (Cialdini, 1993, pp. 266–267). How-
ever, when considering both LTS and LQS, the results
of Study 1 suggested that, for nonconspicuous LE prod-
ucts, this heuristic decision rule may be less likely to
occur in the LQS condition. Specifically, given the na-
ture of nonconspicuous LE products (i.e., multiple items
purchasing), the consumer may assume that noncon-
spicuous LE products may be sold out due to limited
LE product availability. Accordingly, consumers may
not use scarcity messages as a heuristic cue to make
their judgment, and thus, they do not put in extra
LIMITED EDITION PRODUCT CONSIDERATIONS 995
Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
effort to visit the store to purchase the nonconspicu-
ous LE products under the LQS condition. In addition,
brand attitude and LE products’ PV were similar across
LTS and LQS messages. The results of Study 1 sup-
ported the prediction that LTS and LQS messages have
a significantly different impact on consumer PI across
LE product type.
According to the results of Lynn’s (1991) meta-
analysis, scarcity promotions are generally more ef-
fective for consumers who possess a greater level of
NFU (e.g., Atlas & Snyder, 1978; Okamoto, 1983). Lynn
(1991) suggested investigating the situations wherein
high NFU consumers create a positive perception to-
ward scarce products. Following the suggestions, Study
2 was designed to further examine the relative effect of
scarcity messages (LTS vs. LQS) on consumers’ evalu-
ation of LE products across different levels of NFU.
STUDY 2
People tend to draw an inference about “related others”
(e.g., friends), based on the types of products they own
(Bagwell & Bernheim, 1996). Based on this assump-
tion, Tian et al. (2001) developed the NFU theory. NFU
assumes that consumers pursue “ . . . differentness rel-
ative to others through the acquisition, utilization, and
disposition of consumer goods for the purpose of devel-
oping and enhancing one’s self-image and social image”
(Tian et al., 2001, p. 52). High NFU people become vis-
ible in society by signaling their uniqueness through
the possession of products (Cheema & Kaikati, 2010).
Therefore, they are more likely to purchase scarce prod-
ucts for self-image and social-image enhancement to
distinguish themselves from others (Tian et al., 2001).
In the context of conspicuous LE product promo-
tions, LQS messages may emphasize the product’s abil-
ity to signal uniqueness to a greater degree than LTS
messages. Therefore, high NFU people can effectively
satisfy their NFU by purchasing conspicuous products
under LQS messages as opposed to LTS messages. It
is assumed that when owners of highly expensive LE
products are restricted to small numbers, the prod-
ucts have a better ability to signal wealth, power, and
uniqueness (Aggarwal et al., 2011). On the other hand,
for nonconspicuous LE products, the LTS messages are
perceived to be more effective in creating positive per-
ception toward the LE products than LQS messages
(for PI). However, the positive effects of LTS messages
for nonconspicuous products may not be captured by
high NFU people due to the nonvisible nature (Gierl &
Huettl, 2010). High NFU people may not be able to sat-
isfy their high NFU by possessing nonconspicuous LE
products in both conditions (LTS and LQS messages).
Therefore, the current study hypothesized that:
H3a: For LE conspicuous products, LQS messages
have a greater impact on brand attitude,
perceived value, and PI than LTS messages
among high NFU individuals. However, there
will be a similar effect of LQS and LTS mes-
sages on low NFU individuals.
H3b: For LE nonconspicuous products, LTS mes-
sages have a greater impact on low NFU in-
dividuals’ PI than LQS messages (while the
effect of LTS messages is similar to LQS mes-
sages on brand attitude and perceived value).
However, there will be no differential effect of
LQS and LTS messages on high NFU individ-
uals.
NFU and WOM Recommendation for LE
products
WOM communications are more effective in persuading
consumers than mediated channels (Godes & Mayzlin,
2004). Nonetheless, WOM communications disadvan-
tage high NFU people (Cheema & Kaikati, 2010). In
a broader sense, high NFU people are more likely to
perceive scarce products as valuable because it helps
them signal their uniqueness to others around them. In
this regard, when scarce products become commonplace
in the market, high NFU people will not perceive the
products as valuable and attractive (Tian et al., 2001).
As a result, high NFU people are less likely to engage
in WOM behavior, especially for the visible products
(i.e., conspicuous and public products) compared to in-
visible products (nonconspicuous and private products;
Cheema & Kaikati, 2010).
Extending this notion into scarcity messages, the
current study predicted that high NFU people who have
already purchased an LE product are less likely to pro-
vide WOM recommendations to others under the LQS
messages condition compared to LTS messages. One
possible explanation is that those individuals perceived
LE products as valuable and attractive when the own-
ers of the products were limited to a predefined small
number of consumers; therefore, they did not want to
share information regarding LE products (Cheema &
Kaikati, 2010). In contrast, the current study did not ex-
pect that the negative effect of LQS messages on WOM
recommendations would be detected for low NFU peo-
ple. For nonconspicuous LE products, the authors pre-
dicted that the effect of NFU on WOM recommendation
would be diminished because the product is less visible
compared to conspicuous products. Therefore, the cur-
rent study hypothesized that:
H4a: For conspicuous LE products, high NFU indi-
viduals who have already purchased the LE
product are less likely to provide WOM rec-
ommendations under the LQS message condi-
tion compared to the LTS message condition.
On the other hand, low NFU individuals who
have already purchased the LE products ex-
hibit similar levels of WOM behavior under
LQS and LTS message conditions.
996 JANG ET AL.
Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
H4b: For nonconspicuous LE products, the effect of
scarcity messages on WOM recommendation
would be less pronounced (there will be a sim-
ilar effects on both low and high NFU individ-
uals’ WOM recommendation between LTS and
LQS messages).
Method
Study 2 was designed to replicate and further extend
Study 1. In particular, Study 2 utilized a 2 (scarcity
message: LTS vs. LQS) ×2 (LE product type: conspic-
uous vs. nonconspicuous) ×2 (NFU: high NFU vs. low
NFU) between-subjects design. Consistent with Study
1, fictitious brands for both a watch and yogurt were
utilized (Gierl & Huettl, 2010).
Main Experiment. Two hundred fifty-two (n)con-
sumers were recruited from the Amazon’s M-Turk
panel. Consistent with Study 1, before analyzing the
data, participants who had no prior experience pur-
chasing LE products during their lifetime, and those
who did not follow the respondent instructions were
identified and excluded. The final sample size was 216
(n) consumers. Among participants, 60.6% were male,
and their ages ranged from 18 to 67 years old (M=
32). Of the total, 66.6% (n=144) had college degrees,
20.4% (n=44) had graduate degrees, and 13% (n=28)
had high school degrees as their highest form of edu-
cation. In addition, in terms of annual income, 47.2%
(n=102) earned less than $39,999; 30.6% (n=66)
earned between $40,000 and $ 69,999; 16.7% (n=36)
earned between $70,000 and $119,999; and 5.5% (n=
12) earned more than $ 120,000. In terms of ethnicity,
61.6% (n=133) were Caucasian, 5.1% (n=11) were
African-American, 26.4% (n=57) were Asian, and 6.9%
(n=15) were Hispanic. In addition, the mean value of
experience in consuming LE products was 5.71 times
per lifetime. Participants were randomly assigned to
one of the online experimental conditions and received
$1 for participating in this study.
Measures. Tian et al.’s (2001) NFU scale was used.
By following the guideline from previous WOM litera-
ture (e.g., Cheema & Kaikati, 2010), intention to pro-
vide WOM recommendations was measured with three
items on a 7-point Likert-type scale (e.g., if you owned
the LE product, how much are you willing to gener-
ate WOM recommendations about this LE product to
others?”; impossible/possible, very unlikely/ very likely,
and improbable/probably). Consistent with Study 1,
two additional control variables were measured to pre-
vent a confounding effect: (a) involvement level toward
the products (Eisend, 2008; Lastovicka & Gardner,
1979) and (b) need for status (Eastman et al., 1999).
The values of Cronbach’s αwas 0.97 for brand attitude,
0.90 for perceived value, 0.97 for PI, 0.96 for WOM,
0.87 for product involvement, and 0.95 for need for
status.
Results
Test of Hypothesis 3. A 2 (NFU: high NFU vs. low
NFU) ×2 (type of scarcity message: LTS vs. LQS) ×
2 (LE product type: conspicuous vs. nonconspicuous)
between-subjects ANCOVA was conducted on brand at-
titude (Ab), PV, and PI.
For Ab, the three-way interaction was not signifi-
cant, F(1, 206) =2.47, p>0.10. However, the two-way
interaction between the type of LE product and the type
of scarcity message, F(1, 206) =3.48, p<0.10, as well
asthetypeofLEproductandNFU,F(1, 206) =3.48, p
<0.10, and the main effect of type of scarcity message,
F(1, 206) =2.84, p<0.10, was marginally significant.
Follow-up univariate analyses showed that for conspic-
uous LE products, high NFU individuals showed simi-
lar levels of brand evaluation between the LTS and LQS
condition, MLTS =5.05 versus MLQS =5.13, F(1,
206) =0.06, p>0.10. Meanwhile, low NFU individuals
showed increased brand attitude under the LQS con-
dition compared to the LTS condition, MLTS =4.39
versus MLQS =5.41, F(1, 206) =10.80, p<0.01. For
nonconspicuous LE products, both high and low NFU
individuals showed similar level of brand evaluation
between the LTS condition than in the LQS condition
(high NFU: MLTS =5.08 vs. MLQS =5.07, F(1, 206)
=0.001, p>0.10; low NFU: MLTS =5.49 vs. MLQS
=5.44, F(1, 206) =0.02, p>0.10).
For PV, the three-way interaction was not signifi-
cant, F(1, 206) =1.15, p=p>0.10. A two-way in-
teraction between the type of LE product and the type
of scarcity message was marginally significant, F(1,
206) =3.55, p<0.10, accompanied by a marginally sig-
nificant main effect of the type of scarcity message, F
(1, 206) =3.02, p<0.10. Follow-up univariate analyses
showed that for conspicuous LE products, high NFU in-
dividuals perceived the product as similar between the
LTS condition and LQS condition; high NFU: MLTS =
4.85 versus MLQS =5.25, F(1, 206) =1.33, p>0.10.
Low NFU individuals perceived the product as more
valuableintheLQSconditionthanintheLTScon-
dition; low NFU: MLTS =4.93 versus MLQS =5.76,
F(1, 206) =5.99, p<0.05. Consistently, for nonconspic-
uous LE products, both high and low NFU individuals
showed a similar level of PV between the LTS condition
than in the LQS condition (high NFU: MLTS =5.10
vs. MLQS =5.22, F(1, 206) =0.13, p>0.10; low NFU:
MLTS =5.22 vs. MLQS =5.05, F(1, 206) =0.26, p>
0.10).
For PI, the three-way interaction was not signifi-
cant, F(1, 206) =0.53, p>0.10. However, there was a
significant interaction effect between product type and
type of scarcity message, F(1, 206) =4.04, p<0.05,
and between level of NFU and product type, F(1, 206)
=4.15, p<0.05, accompanied by a significant main ef-
fect of scarcity message, F(1, 206) =3.88, p=0.05, and
LIMITED EDITION PRODUCT CONSIDERATIONS 997
Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
Table 3. Raw and Adjusted Means for Study 2 (H3 and H4).
LTS LQS
Raw Mean Adjust Mean (n) Raw Mean Adjust Mean (n)
Hypotheses 3 and 4
LE type
Conspicuous
Brand attitude High NFU 5.16 5.05(26) 5.45 5.13(27)
Low NFU 3.71 4.39(27) 4.79 5.41∗∗ (27)
Perceived value High NFU 4.93 4.85 5.49 5.25
Low NFU 4.37 4.93 5.26 5.76
PI High NFU 3.59 3.44 4.81 4.37∗∗
Low NFU 2.23 3.20 2.73 3.61
WOM High NFU 5.41 5.22∗∗ 4.54 4.06
Low NFU 2.94 3.75 3.65 4.44
Nonconspicuous
Brand attitude High NFU 5.64 5.08(26) 5.51 5.07(28)
Low NFU 5.54 5.49(27) 5.26 5.44(28)
Perceived value High NFU 5.56 5.10 5.58 5.22
Low NFU 5.28 5.22 4.92 5.05
PI High NFU 5.19 4.39 5.02 4.40
Low NFU 4.68 4.59 4.32 4.56
WOM High NFU 5.09 4.39 4.92 4.37
Low NFU 4.51 4.52 4.42 4.69
Note: LTS =limited-time scarcity messages; LQS =limited-quantity scarcity message; LE =limited edition products p<0.05; ∗∗p<0.01.
product type, F(1, 206) =21.17, p<0.01. Follow-up
univariate analyses showed that for conspicuous LE
products, high NFU individuals showed greater PI in
the LQS message condition than in the LTS message
condition, MLTS =3.44 versus MLQS =4.37, F(1,
206) =7.51, p<0.01. Meanwhile, low NFU individu-
als showed a similar level of PI in both LTS and LQS
conditions, MLTS =3.20 versus MLQS =3.61, F(1,
206) =1.44, p>0.10. For nonconspicuous LE products,
both high and low NFU individuals showed similar lev-
els of PI in the LTS condition than in the LQS condition
(high NFU: MLTS =4.39 vs. MLQS =4.40, F(1, 206)
=0.001, p>0.10; low NFU: MLTS =4.59 vs. MLQS =
4.56, F(1, 206) =0.006, p>0.10).Therefore, H3a only
supported for PI, while H3b was rejected (see Table 3).
Test of Hypothesis 4. A 2 (NFU: high NFU vs. low
NFU) ×2 (type of scarcity message: LTS vs. LQS) ×
2 (LE product type: conspicuous vs. nonconspicuous)
between-subjects ANCOVA was conducted on WOM
recommendation. The three-way interaction was sig-
nificant, F(1, 206) =4.39, p<0.05. In addition, there
was a significant interaction between the level of NFU
and scarcity message, F(1, 206) =6.62, p<0.05, while
interaction between the type of LE product and level of
NFU was marginally significant, F(1, 206) =3.70, p<
0.10.
Follow-up univariate analyses showed that for con-
spicuous LE products, high NFU individuals’ willing-
ness to provide WOM recommendation decreases in the
limited quantity (LQS) condition, compared to the lim-
ited time (LTS) condition, MLTS =5.22 versus MLQS
=4.06, F(1, 206) =8.37, p<0.01. Meanwhile, low NFU
individuals’ willingness to provide WOM recommenda-
Figure 3. Interaction between scarcity message and NFU for
conspicuous LE product on WOM.
Note: LTS =limited-time scarcity messages; LQS =limited-
quantity scarcity message; NFU =need for uniqueness.
tion was marginally significant and greater in the LQS
condition compared to the LTS condition, MLTS =3.75
versus MLQS =4.44, F(1, 206) =3.05, p<0.10. For
nonconspicuous LE products, both high and low NFU
individuals showed similar levels of willingness to pro-
vide WOM recommendation between the LTS condition
and the LQS condition (high NFU: MLTS =4.39 vs.
MLQS =4.37, F(1, 206) =0.003, p>0.10; low NFU:
MLTS =4.52 vs. MLQS =4.69, F(1, 206) =0.17, p
>0.10). Therefore, H4a and H4b were supported (see
Table 3 and Figure 3).
Discussion
This research makes theoretical contributions to
scarcity literature by examining the relative effects of
998 JANG ET AL.
Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
limiting time to purchase a product (LTS), or limiting
the quantity of products (LQS) in messages on con-
spicuous and nonconspicuous LE products. The most
significant finding of this study is that LTS and LQS
messages have different effects on consumers’ brand
evaluations, and contain important consumer-oriented
outcome variables, such as PI and WOM recommenda-
tions across different types of LE products. In partic-
ular, the current study supports the Aggarwal et al.’s
(2011) findings that an LQS message is generally more
effective in enhancing consumers’ responses than a LTS
message, because consumers create a sense of competi-
tion under the LQS condition. The findings of this re-
search provide empirical evidence, however, that a LTS
message is still effective in enhancing the intention of
consumers to purchase nonconspicuous LE products,
while LQS messages have a positive effect for conspic-
uous LE products.
To date, most previous studies on scarcity (i.e., prod-
uct sales and price discount setting) have used the com-
modity theory (e.g., Brock, 1968; Lynn, 1991; Worchel
et al., 1975) to provide the theoretical foundation of pos-
itive effects of scarcity messages. In the context of LE
products, the findings of this research provide strong
evidence that the signaling and commodity theories
(Gierl & Huettl, 2010; Stock & Balachander, 2005) of-
fer a useful theoretical framework for understanding
the effects of scarcity messages on LE product con-
sumption behavior. In particular, in Study 1, the re-
sults showed that LQS messages manifest the ability
to signal uniqueness and status to others by possess-
ing the conspicuous LE products. Therefore, LQS mes-
sages were more effective in creating positive brand
evaluations (e.g., brand attitude and perceived value)
and consumers’ responses (e.g., PI) for conspicuous LE
products.
On the other hand, interestingly, for nonconspicu-
ous LE products, the findings of this research also sug-
gested that LTS messages rather than LQS messages
create a greater PI for LE products. One possible expla-
nation is that if the purchase opportunity for noncon-
spicuous LE products is limited to an extremely small
number of units (LQS condition), the scarcity message
may not accelerate consumers’ PI because consumers
may face a dilemma. Thinking that nonconspicuous
LE products may already be sold out in the store, con-
sumers might not want to put extra effort into an at-
tempt to purchase those nonconspicuous LE products.
However, there was no difference in brand attitude and
perceived value. According to Gierl and Huettl’s (2010)
study, scarcity messages due to supply were more ef-
fective in creating positive consumer attitudes toward
conspicuous products, while scarcity messages due to
demand were more effective for nonconspicuous prod-
ucts. The results of Study 1 extended this knowledge
by providing evidence that different types of scarcity
messages, LQS versus LTS, can also create a differ-
ent perception across LE product types (conspicuous
vs. nonconspicuous).
In Study 2, the authors examined the moderating
effect of consumers’ NFU on the relationship between
the types of scarcity messages and LE product types
on consumers’ brand evaluation and responses. The re-
sults supported the theoretical proposition that for a
conspicuous LE product, high NFU individuals will sat-
isfy their high level of NFU by manifesting the power
to signal prestige and exclusivity to surrounding others
through the possession of LE products under LQS con-
ditions (Aggarwal et al., 2011; Gierl & Huettl, 2010).
For the conspicuous LE product, high NFU individuals
created a greater PI under the LQS message condition
compared to the LTS message condition. Meanwhile,
low NFU individuals exhibit similar PI between LTS
and LQS conditions, because they do not have to sat-
isfy their need by signaling their uniqueness and status
through the possession of products. In terms of noncon-
spicuous LE products, there was no difference between
LQS messages and LTS messages for both low and high
NFU individuals. A possible explanation is that, given
the inexpensive nature of nonconspicuous LE products,
scarcity messages do not affect consumers’ heuristic
process in making their judgment.
The current study also contributes to WOM litera-
ture. The results of Study 2 indicate that for conspic-
uous LE products, high NFU individuals who have al-
ready purchased the LE product are less likely to pro-
vide WOM recommendations to others under the LQS
messages. In WOM literature, scholars found that high
NFU individuals do not want the products they own to
become commonplace in the market, because they want
to maintain the ability to signal uniqueness and exclu-
sivity to others by possessing the scarce products (Tian
et al., 2001).
Consistent with previous literature, the results of
Study 2 show that, for conspicuous LE products, high
NFU individuals who have already purchased the LE
product are less likely to provide WOM recommenda-
tions to others under the LQS messages. This is par-
ticularly important in a world dominated by social net-
works, such as Twitter and Facebook.
Several managerial implications can be offered from
this study. Recently, LE products have become a preva-
lent marketing strategy as part of product lines (Bal-
achander & Stock, 2009). The current study suggests
that brands should select an appropriate scarcity mes-
sage in the promotional strategy of LE products, based
on the main benefit consumers are seeking. For ex-
ample, Hublot, a luxury watch brand, has recently
launched Ferrari Big Bang LE watches as part of their
product lines to target upper class consumers, by re-
stricting the number of products to 50 items ($32,100).
Luxury brands, such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton, that
possess superior and high-end image can implement
LQS messages in the promotion of LE product to
strengthen the perception of their uniqueness and high-
status among consumers. In addition, in terms of pric-
ing strategy, those luxury brands can charge very high
prices for their LE products under LQS conditions to
LIMITED EDITION PRODUCT CONSIDERATIONS 999
Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
increase their profit margins as well as to signal unique-
ness and high social status perception toward luxury
brands.
On the other hand, some nonluxury brands, such as
Samuel Adams, have also regularly launched seasonal
LE beers by limiting the duration of the promotional
offer (Amaldoss & Jain, 2010). Particularly for nonlux-
ury brands, a low-price strategy might be an effective
way to increase their product sale as well as to cre-
ate a positive perception toward the brands under LTS
conditions. Nonluxury brands may also compensate for
the effect of the low price of LE products, which may
decrease the profit margin by extending the duration of
promotion.
LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH
Although this study offers numerous meaningful in-
sights into practice and academia, several limitations
should be mentioned. First, in this experiment, ficti-
tious brands were used to control potential effects of
prior knowledge and brand strength. Although, Gierl
et al. (2008) did not find any difference in scarcity effects
between a famous brand (Gucci) and fictitious brands,
fictitious brands might not signal uniqueness and pres-
tige to others due to their lack of established reputa-
tion. Although it is essential to control the potential
effects of extraneous variables, it would be interesting
to examine how real brand situations might change the
consumption of LE products.
Second, the results of this study may not be appli-
cable to certain product categories, such as service-
oriented products. Several consumer behavior re-
searchers have found that the consumer decision-
making process regarding service-oriented products is
different from that of consumable products, due to
the unique characteristics of services (e.g., intangibil-
ity and unpredictability; Stafford & Day, 1995). Con-
sumers are not able to predict the outcome of consum-
ing the service until they actually experience it; there-
fore, such intangibility and unpredictability increased
the perceived risk associated with decision-making be-
havior. Therefore, it would be interesting to explore
how the perceived risk associated with service-oriented
products may influence the effects of scarcity messages.
Perceived risk associated with service-oriented prod-
ucts may lead to a systematic processing during their
decision-making behavior, rather than heuristic pro-
cessing (Suri et al., 2007).
Third, previous conspicuous consumption literature
also found that the underlying motive for consumers
to purchase conspicuous products is to evoke positive
emotional gratification, such as pleasure and arousal
(Wiedmann et al., 2009). Considering that emotions
play an important role in conspicuous products con-
sumption, the specific emotion elicited by an LE prod-
uct advertisement might also be a significant predictor
of effective persuasive appeal and consumers’ PI.
Fourth, it would be interesting to examine the curvi-
linear effect for both LTS and LQS messages. In prac-
tice, people often have to wait several weeks or years
to purchase scarce LE products because the number of
products is limited to an extreme degree. Sometimes,
though, the number of LE products is limited to higher
numbers; in this case, scarcity is no longer an issue.
In this respect, it would be interesting to examine the
curvilinear effect for both LTS and LQS messages—
“what level of production restriction is best—highly
limited production runs, moderate numbers, or unre-
stricted mass product”? For example, manipulation of
several conditions (extreme small numbers, moderate
numbers, and large numbers) could be developed to
identify the curvilinear effect for both LTS and LQS
messages.
In conclusion, despite the aforementioned limita-
tions, the current study provides meaningful theoreti-
cal and practical implications. In particular, this study
offers a clearer understanding of the effects of scarcity
messages on LE products by applying commodity the-
ory in addition to signaling theory to the situation.
Furthermore, the current study provides empirical ev-
idence of how managers can increase consumer PI by
implementing different types of scarcity messages on
LE products.
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Correspondence regarding this article should be sent to: Jon
D. Morris, Professor, Department of Advertising, College of
Journalism and Communications, University of Florida, P. O.
Box 118400, Gainesville, FL 32611 (jmorris@jou.ufl.edu).
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Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
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