5 Marketing Tricks That Unleash Shopping Frenzies

  • Artificially limit supply. They had a giant warehouse full of Beanie Babies, but released them in squirts to prolong the buying orgy.
  • Issue press releases about limited supply so news van show up
  • Aggressively market to children. Daddy may not play with his kids as much as he should but one morning he can get up at the crack of dawn, get a Teddy Ruxpin, and be a hero.
  • Make a line of minute variations on the same theme to create the “collect them all” effect.
  • Make it only have one highly specialized function so you can sell one that laughs, one that sings, one that skydives, etc, ad nauseum.

Emeralds are rare. Honus Wagner cards are rare. Many toys are mostly different kinds of plastic. Plastic is not rare. Don’t give your kid a hunk of plastic. Give him a cup of imagination. You can’t get lead poisoning from imagination.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Fuck Lion says:

    The Wii crushes three of these out of the park. Brilliant job by Nintendo.

  2. newlywed says:

    ah, teddy ruxpin…how i remember your days…but nothing beats the cabbage patch insanity. my uncle drove four states over to get one for xmas day.

  3. Steel_Pelican says:

    “Give him a cup of imagination.”

    “Hey Tommy, I got a PS3 for Christmas! What did you get?”
    “My dad got me a cup of imagination.”
    “What’s that?”
    “Just a cup.”
    “Yeah. My dad has a special cup too, and he gets mad when it’s empty. He puts his special medicine in it then he yells at mommy.”

  4. KingPsyz says:

    Add into the mix the horrid state of retail employees “obtaining” hot new items and placing them on eBay at a 300% markup while eliminating any chance a parent or consumer has of buying it retail.

  5. kenblakely says:

    @KingPsyz: That’s right baby: I make money off of people stupid enuf to be sucked into the artificial hysteria. Social Darwinism at work….

  6. slowinthefastlane says:

    My imaginatation lead me to sticking a fork into an electrical outlet at the age of 4.

  7. mammalpants says:

    nintendo artificially limited wii supplies so long that now i dont even want one!

  8. Lullaby says:


  9. emona says:

    All the cool kids get a Furby. Only pussies have imagination.

  10. chargernj says:

    @KingPsyz: Can you really blame them though? Most of them make crap money so when you get a chance to make a few dollars extra why not go for it? Isn’t that the American way…. buy low sell high.

    I have been inconvienced by it but that’s life. Who doesn’t take advantage of what ever perks that their job does offer?

  11. bohemian says:

    I used to work for an un-named high end product wholesaler. Their items depended on the limited quantity scam and collecting.
    The things that really started to hurt them was that there are only so many people interested in something with a finite amount of storage space in their house for this kind of crapola.
    Then came Ebay. Even the retailers started selling excess “limited edition” items on Ebay as were people who bought extras or decided to quit the habit. Then people started finding out how much the items actually wholesaled for and the bottom dropped out of the pricing scheme. People would not pay $150 for something they know the retailer paid $20 for.
    You also really can’t call something a limited edition when you make 750,000 of them.

  12. Anonymous says:

    You know what my kids like to play with sometimes? The cardboard box that some other toy was shipped in. They will play with it for days, putting things in it, drawing on it, cutting windows in it for a doll house, use it as a helmet playing robot, and much more.

    Last time we bought a TV, we had the cardboard box in our living room for weeks, since our child thought it was a great “clubhouse”.

    We often see more imaginative and creative play from a box than most other “specialized” toys.

    Also, teach your kids that the “exciting toy” you see on TV is not nearly as fun as it looks. There are many toys that are simple, inexpensive and provide much better quality and long-term playtime.

  13. Sonnymooks says:

    Don’t give your kid a hunk of plastic. Give him a cup of imagination.

    Giving your kid a “cup of imagination” will teach your kid alot of good things.

    It will also teach him that kids make of kids who have cups of imagination and not “hunks of plastic”.

    After you give your kid that good ole cup, teach him to fight, because the other kids are going to be making fun of him like crazy all day long.

  14. tekkierich says:

    Many of us also found out with Baseball cards that printed on cardboard is also not rare.

  15. timmus says:

    I think this article would make Digg front page if it were a top ten list instead of a list of five bulleted items.

  16. etinterrapax says:

    Crayons, man. Non-toxic, creative, delicious.

  17. Paul D says:

    freaky styley: The Wii crushes three of these out of the park. Brilliant job by Nintendo.

    Lest we forget, Microsoft did the exact same thing with the Xbox 360 early on, as did Sony with the PS2 several years back.

  18. Trai_Dep says:

    My older sisters quaffed a heaping big Cup Of Imagination then went to work on me with scissors. By the time that Mom walked in, the only fix was shearing it to the skin.

    Second Grade Punk Rockers r-u-l-e!

  19. marsneedsrabbits says:

    Cup of Imagination = Daddy blew his paycheck on hooker and blow again.

  20. Anonymous says:

    i was 7 the year of the nationwide ‘cabbage patch riots.’ i really wanted one for christmas. my mom wouldn’t knock down little old ladies at kmart to make my dreams come true, but she had a friend who made immitation cabbage patch kids in her basement out of pantyhose. guess what santa brought that year.

    no wonder i was a dork.

  21. Make a line of minute variations on the same theme to create the “collect them all” effect. Cabbage Patch Dolls didn’t pioneer this technique, but they sure did perfect it.

    I thought the point of Cabbage Patch Dolls was that they were supposed to vary a lot and your doll was supposed to be “yours”. You were supposed to get one unique doll not all of a set of 50. Did that only happen recently?

  22. DarthSensei says:

    Forget the Wii. Nintendo strung this out for years with the NES.

  23. Geekybiker says:

    @Paul D:
    Not at all. The Microsoft xbox 360’s shortages were well publicized at launch, however the supply quickly caught up with demand. By late January you could find them on the shelves.

    There is a difference between pent up demand and artificially limiting supply. As for the Wii, with it going on a year and still in “shortage” It seems likely that nintendo is manipulating the market. They have had more than enough time to bring on additional capacity to meet additional demand.

  24. ShadowArmor says:

    Nintendo didn’t perfect this technique with the Wii, they perfected it with Pokemon! Red/Blue/Yellow, Gold/Silver/Crystal, Ruby/Sapphire, Emerald, Fire Red/Leaf Green (remakes of red/blue/yellow) and now Diamond and Pearl, not to mention the other side games like Mystery Dungeon and lord knows what else. Most of the games are very similar — same function, same gameplay…

    Except for Diamond/Pearl, you HAVE to buy multiple games to catch all the pokemon. Then, there are the special events you have to go to in order to get the special event pokemon. Brilliant, just brilliant!

    Thank goodness the games are relatively enjoyable, but I don’t think I’m going to buy another one.

  25. jmschn says:

    lol this reminds of the time when Mervyn’s was promoting their Joe Montana footballs as giveaways…all was thought to be good with a straight organized line..that was until the door opened…all hell broke loose and the line crumbled into a blob at the front. after that day, i vowed never to campout at ANY store for ANY reason, especially Black Fridays..what a waste of time..

  26. Rusted says:

    @slowinthefastlane: Water pistol, and I didn’t miss. Zap!

  27. SaraAB87 says:

    Diamond and Pearl are actually the first pokemon games where you DON’T have to buy both versions to catch em all because you can just hit some internet trading boards and get all the rest of the pokemon you need from other players by exchanging friend codes via a message board. Chances are some other poor soul is looking for the pokemon you have as well, and may have something you need. Provided you have access to a wireless internet connection that works with the DS its not necessary to buy multiple copies of this game.

    Nintendo perfects this strategy by first of all releasing the same games on different platforms, essentially making you believe that you must pay to get the latest version on the latest platform, when that NES cart of Dr. Mario still works on your old NES system (that of course still works, lets hope), but no of course you must buy the GBA version of the same game for 20$ because you HAVE to play it on the go. The virtual console on the Wii is a prime example of this.

    Theres also a huge untapped market on ebay, there are tons of kids who like different things than what is stocked in the retail stores, if you have one of these “hot” no longer stocked items, consider yourself in the bucks. Retail stores have a very limited selection of toys, and with all the lead paint recalls this season, and the fact that 2007’s toys are not going to be lead free since they were made as the recalls started there’s gonna be a huge amount of shoppers on ebay looking for toys that are just a few years old to give to their kids that are free of lead paint.

    Its so easy to make money off parents buying toys for their kids when they are willing to spend anything to get their kid the toy they want in time for christmas, parents come to ebay sellers with open arms, they are willing to pay, so the ebaying will continue…

  28. msmsry says:

    Imagination: Way overrated.

  29. Lordstrom says:

    The last two(and the first one to some extent) are why I quit buying Star Wars. They would make one character from a specific scene with specific movements and specific looks, then make 10 more of the same character with different movements. You couldn’t hope to have a complete collection unless you produced $700 a year to buy all these variations. It’s disgusting.

  30. Trackback says:

    Spotted in Soho: a sign for Chloë Sevigny’s collection with Opening Ceremony. Photo via the Racked Flickr Pool Local · Rating Brooklyn’s black and whites [The Brooklyn Paper] · Shoe designer Stuart Weitzman appearing at Saks tomorrow [Chic Report] National · Fall reading: an…

  31. TKWarrior says:

    @Freaky Styley: Are we really still on this? Sure there was a shortage during last holiday season. Even Nintendo itself didn’t expect the wii to sell as well as it did, so the supply was insanely low to start with. Their last 2 consoles didn’t exactly “crush” the competition.

    But now? They sold close to 11 million wiis world-wide in less then a year. Last I checked, that’s still more then the Xbox 360 globally even with a year head start.

    Not saying one is better then the other, but to say the reason you still can’t find one is because of them “Artificially limiting supply” is just being asinine. The wii is popular right now, just deal with it.

  32. LucyInTheSky says:

    “this friday only you can give your kids what they really want for a low, low price! lead poisoning is on sale now for only $19.99! But hurry, supplies are limited!”


  33. darkclawsofchaos says:

    imagination is good, but you don’t give it with a cup, you give it to him with an adult magazine

  34. nardo218 says:

    @cocoesq: *laugh* I was about three, I was indifferent to them, but my mom — suburban, easily swayed by hype — braved the hords.

    Years later, all I cared about was all the accessories, which I wasn’t allowed to have. I was *fascinated* with the diapers, for some reason.

  35. quail says:

    Thank goodness I was never into that collecting or got to have it now mode. Got my PS2 only two years ago once game prices for the system were mostly at the $20 range. At the peak of the Beenie Baby days I had to take a leak and stopped at a mall. Took forever to park but had to find a restroom quick. Inside the mall a line of people snaked around and up and down stairs. They were waiting to get some precious Beanie Baby or other. When I came out of the rest room I spotted where the line ended. Some security guards sat at a folding table outside of some exit doors. They allowed two or three people through the exit doors at a time with about a 5 minute wait in between. At that rate the idiots at the end of the line would be there for 5 hours before getting to the doors. I asked a clerk what was going on and she said they were waiting to buy some $35, glittery giraffe or something. Limited edition beanie baby of course and only four per buyer.

  36. ggblib11 says:

    BY ETINTERRAPAX AT 10/04/07 02:25 PM Crayons, man. Non-toxic, creative, delicious

    Yes! But only if they are the USA made version–Crayola!! The crayons from China have been recalled multiple times from the Dollar Stores as they contain lead. You don’t want your child eating lead as it damages their brain.

    A Former Early Childhood Education Teacher

  37. Trackback says:

    What a week it was for Wal-Mart. A Wall Street Journal piece declaring the company essentially dead, employees nearing revolution, and stopgap measures that don’t seem to be doing the trick.