Scarcity is a Wonderful Thing – Lessons from ‘Flappy Bird’

Today is Tuesday – and yesterday morning, I had no idea that Flappy Bird even existed.

Now remember, I’m pretty ‘switched on’ online – I’m on Twitter throughout the day, every day, spend my life watching blog feeds and social channels – and yet, I still remained unaware of the app.

Yesterday I noticed my Twitter feed started to mention ‘Flappy Bird’ – and my feed in from Mashable headlined an article. And my ‘What’s App’ conversations were filled with friends talking about how many devices they had ‘Flappy Bird’ installed on.

‘What is this Flappy Bird’ app that everyone is flapping about – I asked myself.

I had back to back meetings followed by a battle with flood frazzled trains home – and so had more pressing things on my mind – however, when I got home, I was greeted by my 11 year old – advising that her phone (with Flappy Bird installed on it) – could now be worth up to $90,000! (Don’t believe the hype).

Why?  Well of course, the news that was causing the Flap was that the Vietnemese app creator, Dong Nguyen, had taken Flappy Bird off the app stores. Removing the option for anyone to purchase it.  Why he removed it is still unclear – one story is he was fed up with ‘hate mail’ about the addictive and highly frustrating app – and so decided to remove it all together, another is that there were legal infringements via Nintendo?  Who knows.

Of course, scarcity often causes a sense of urgency – and is a well used marketing tactic – (only 5 places left, only 2 days to claim etc) – however, in the case of Flappy Bird – there was no warning – the app was removed and now – guess what – EVERYONE wants it.

Intrigued, I asked my daughter if I could have a play – and yes, it’s simple, fun, frustrating and a little bit addictive.  (My highest score still only 3 after about 50 plays!).

Yesterday myself (and indeed probably hundreds of thousands of other people) didn’t even know Flappy Bird existed.

Since pulling the app – whether intentional or not – the App Creator has created an online and offline media frenzy which is dominating global search.

Even I am now watching updates to see whether those Flappy Bird will be brought back to life due to social demand (it’s an interesting case study).

Or indeed, will those with it installed on their devices genuinely sell their phones for the thousands of dollars cited on Ebay?

The marketing lessons for all of us:

  • Scarcity breeds demand. (And in this case, not just demand, but a frenzy.) – are you creating a sense of urgency in your messaging?
  • Take something away from people and they make a noise – if it’s the right noise, that can raise a significant amount of awareness.
  • Social media is a powerful resource. It’s the power of social that has caused the frenzy. The whole conversation was started on Twitter with the App Creator making his announcement via the network and the conversations continue on Twitter – there are Twitter petitions to bring it back .  What can you do on social to harness the power of the crowd?

Flappy Bird – and the law of scarcity.  Lessons for us all.

This blog post was brought to you by Michelle Carvill, founder of Carvill Creative, the online visibility experts and author of The Business of Being Social – A Practical Guide to Harnessing the Power of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn for all Businesses.

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