Sep 28

Your football team is down by a field goal at the two-minute mark. Your dinner reservation is in fifteen minutes, across town, and you can’t find your wallet. It’s almost the end of May and you haven’t stocked up on enough Cadbury eggs to get you through the winter…

 The time crunch is an effective motivational tool (that wallet isn’t going to find itself now is it?), and one that marketers have been using for years. Limited time offers capitalize on the idea that if consumers know they can’t purchase something later, they are more likely to purchase it now.

While this tactic is not a new trend in and of itself, brands can be effectively use it to benefit from the current trend of food exploration and its subsequent products. Today’s food brands offer considerably more product options than ever before; coconut water now shares shelf space with energy drinks like Gatorade and hummus now competes with ranch dip on our crudités platters. In turn, the old limited time offer is learning a new trick: immediacy of experience adds value to food exploration.

Pop-up restaurants and food trucks have capitalized on this idea, as have restaurants like Pinkberry, whose flavors are almost all seasonal or limited time offers, or a hybrid of the two: some flavors go into “the vault”, forcing us to check back to find out if they will ever return (anyone else keeping a watch out for salted caramel?)

The lure of the limited time offer is why we spontaneously try the Mexicue food truck even though we packed lunch today - it will be in a different neighborhood tomorrow. It’s why we pass over our normal happy hour beer choice in favor of a harvest brew. And it can be why we decide to try out a new food product we haven’t seen before, because the immediacy of the offer adds excitement to the product.

Image courtesy of CNBC

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