Picture yourself on your last day of vacation. You’re lounging on the beach, sipping an umbrella-adorned cocktail while a pod of dolphins does backflips in the sunset. You dream, “I wish we never had to leave.” The reality, though, is that this moment is so out-of-this-world great partly because it’s a limited-time indulgence. You know, something that’s so out-of-your-ordinary blissful that the built-up anticipation creates a magical world of fervid excitement that often pools over into conversation, indulgent spending, and new traditions.
And this time of year is Limited-Time central. With a long and rich history of building up and capitalizing on millions of people’s giddy excitement for the “most magical time of the year.” Within this history, brands have created some centerpiece characters of our culture, a genre of music that completely takes over the airwaves/office spaces for months, a shopping day that turned stores into the streets of Pamplona, and one that nearly brought down the internet. It has been so successful that its limited time is kinda not so limited anymore. Christmas now starts the day after Halloween, Thanksgiving isn’t a thing in retail’s mind outside of grocery stores, and Black Friday sales, well, are year-round and START RIGHT NOW! Everyone is vying for their piece of the Limited-Time magic, and arguably, watering it down along the way. Which leads us to think about some dos and don’ts in leveraging the power of Limited-Time.
Do actually be limited time
A large part of creating excitement about a limited-time experience is that it is, you know, actually limited time. There are many stores (ahem, Kohl’s) where you walk in most any day of the week, and you are slammed with “The biggest sale of the season!”, 50% off this, 75% off that. DEADLINE EXTENDED!! Everything is on sale, always. Meh. Meanwhile, Victoria’s Secret hosts a semi-annual sale each year. Twice a year. On a consistent schedule. And rises above the blah blah with excitement, chatter, and fanfare.
Do be unique
An oldie-but-(weirdly)-goody: the McDonald’s McRib. In a time when social media couldn’t create the fast fanfare of a Starbucks PSL flurry, the McRib became a cultural phenomenon. For over 30 years, this unique sandwich comprised of questionable everything, pops its head up every so often to reignite its cult-like excitement. There’s even an old, yet still maintained, website that allows its passionate fans to track and report McRib sightings.
Don’t be afraid to be exclusive
In a culture where so much is instantly available and accessible, sometimes having to work at something or potentially even being told “no” might feel so out of the ordinary, it creates a new level of excitement and intrigue (anyone have Hamilton tickets?). When Lexus wanted to create some buzz to match the exclusivity of a new launch, they partnered with Pandora to create a limited-time pop-up concert series and used highly targeted data to draw in a select group of fans. Raising the exclusivity bar even higher, a select group within that select group were invited to meet and greet artists and received VIP access to the stage.
Don’t limit your thinking to your product
The potential of your brand extends much further than the product(s) you sell. Build a limited-time event or experience that embodies and expands your brand boundaries. Like Red Bull’s yearly #flugtag. Or Great Lakes Brewing Company’s annual Christmas Ale #FirstPour.
Or its slightly less heralded cousin: the Christmas Ale #SecondPour.
Have an amazing THIS WEEKEND ONLY weekend, everybody!
– Your exclusively inclusive friends at Brokaw.