The Birkin effect: Meet the deodorant with a 12,000-strong waitlist
Be it The Ordinary Foundation, Frank Body’s unicorn shimmer scrub or lip kits from the queen of online hysteria herself, Kylie Jenner, waitlists have become a veritable ‘thing’ in beauty over the last two years. But when a deodorant racks up a 12,000-strong waitlist, the only response is: wait, what?
Yep, apparently Megababe’s Rosy Pits has several thousand people so desperate to buy it that they’ve put their name down for a roll-on as if it’s a Hermes Birkin, rather than an odor control product. I mean, granted it’s apparently formulated without baking powder or aluminium salts – but I can think of at least 10 natural deodorant brands with no aluminium salts or waitlist without even resorting to Google. I’m sure Google would throw up a lot more.
So one has to ask, are these waitlists being fabricated? By which, I don’t mean that the company is lying about the existence of a waitlist or falsely declaring the number of names on said list but that they are deliberately creating a situation where frenzy for a product reaches feverpitch and availability is nil.
After all, it’s proven a very effective sales technique – Kylie Jenner didn’t make it onto the Forbes cover because her lip gloss is so very different to every other brand out there – she made it there because she nailed the scarcity principle (and, you know, she’s part of the Kardashian clan).
Much like the Birkin, exclusivity sells. Whether it’s a luxury handbag that costs the same as a house or a lip gloss, tell someone they can’t have something and you increase their desire. You also prevent wastage by only producing product you know you can sell.
“There is some very basic supply and demand math being executed here,” Paco Underhill, an environmental psychologist told Refinery 29. “If you manufacture 10,000 items that sell out in 10 minutes, you will make more money than if you make 50,000 items and 20,000 stay on the shelf.”
And in that respect – we can see this new trend in a positive light; after all, wouldn’t we rather join a waitlist, which can then serve to inform a brand exactly how much product to produce than have a Burberry bonfire type over-supply scenario?
And, to be fair to some brands out there, not all waitlists are marketing wheezes; in some cases this phenomenon is a consequence of the speed with which news now travels – miracle products can go viral in seconds, and anyone, anywhere can shop online – meaning small brands can be caught on the hop. Glossier is said to be a case in point, with founder Emily Weiss citing not being able to keep up with demand as one of her biggest frustrations.
The problem is that, as consumers get inured to the ‘sell-out’ status, the ‘danger signal’ triggered in our brains that makes us hit the checkout button could stop sounding. There’s also the very real risk that we’ll start to get seriously peed off, which will result in the exact opposite of what the waitlist strategy sets out to achieve
“As a consumer, it’s frustrating when companies play those games,” Too Faced Founder Jerrod Blandino told Refinery 29. “It pisses me off. I don’t want this Cabbage Patch thing happening.” I couldn’t agree more. If I see something I want to buy, I want the only thing standing between me and the thing to be how much money is in my checking account. Don’t have it? Don’t hawk it.
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