For a long, long time, scarcity propped up and protected a lot of brands.
Scarcity of information. If I wanted to learn about your product or service I had to go to your store, meet with your salesperson or see what a neighbor or friend had to say. Other sources simply didn’t exist or required an unreasonable amount of time and effort on my part.
Scarcity of trust agents. If I needed objective data on product performance, customer service or whether your price was fair, there was Consumer Reports–which came out in print monthly–and not a whole lot more.
Scarcity of access. With consumer brands, the product was either carried in a store near me or it wasn’t. When it came to retail options, there was either a store convenient to me or not. And one could only buy things during “regular business hours.” Mail order catalogs mitigated some of this, but were never large factors in most categories.
Scarcity of competition for attention. Marketing messages were delivered mostly through a fairly limited set of broadcast media, print and direct marketing channels. And the brand got to control the composition, breadth and frequency of communication. The signal to noise ratio was favorable.
Scarcity of substitutes. Launching and growing a new product typically meant investing in large marketing budgets along with huge cash commitments to inventory and to build out physical locations. Few competitors could afford to play this game.
And so on.
Today, the sources for product and pricing information are nearly endless.
Today, hundreds, if not thousands, of digital sites provide virtually real-time data on brand performance and the best pricing.
Today, e-commerce has enabled an explosion of choice and, often, the ability to access products around the world, 24/7. Products and services that can be delivered digitally have made physical access and store hours completely irrelevant.
Today, there is an overwhelming amount of competition for our time and attention. Share of attention is becoming the scarce commodity.
Today, many brands can be launched with minimal investment in marketing and/or physical capital, which has led to many flavors and varieties of alternative choices for consumers to choose from.
As scarcity has ebbed, the vulnerabilities of many brands have been exposed. And for some it has already ended badly.
When the scarcity that protected your brand goes away, you can no longer get away with selling average products for average people.
The only sensible choice is to build something truly relevant and remarkable.
I’d hurry if I were you.