What doughnuts, Nintendo and Cartman can teach you about creating demand

7th July, 2017

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a plentiful supply must be in need of a demand – but can you create a demand because supply is limited?

Seeking to capitalise on the new wave of nostalgia created by ’90s kids becoming fully-fledged adults, Nintendo has announced plans to release the Super Nintendo Mini.

Pre-orders will be though the roof, not only because the Super Nintendo is awesome, but the previous Nintendo release ended up creating extra demand because of a lack of supply.

Normal economic theory holds that if there’s ample supply, then demand will drop.

But there’s a way to create demand when a lack of supply creates an air of exclusivity.

It’s a tricky line to ride, but it can be done – as the following examples demonstrate.

A miniture outrage

Released last year, the Nintendo Mini quickly became impossible to get as retailers soon sold out of the limited supply they had.

As gamers started to spread word of the limited supply, they started scouring the internet to find systems on sale – crashing servers in the process.

Soon news stories monitoring the panic appeared, adding to the PR value of the unit.

Whether Nintendo ran into manufacturing difficulties, it was caught off-guard, or it was a deliberate ploy – Nintendo is now well placed to capture pent-up demand.

The Krispy Kreme Caper

Before 2014, the lines at Australian airport outlets of Krispy Kreme were significantly longer for one reason: Western Australians.

Western Australian travellers were under orders from family and friends to bring boxes of doughnuts back with them on flights from the eastern states – as the sugary treat wasn’t available in Perth.

Perhaps noticing the trend, Krispy Kreme enjoyed some spectacular results when it finally opened up a shop in Perth.

Perth set the official world record for opening day sales for a Krispy Kreme store, with 73,200 doughnuts sold that day.


While this does delve into the realm of the fictional, it demonstrates the principle that creating an illusion of exclusivity around a product can create demand.

In a season five of South Park, Eric Cartman purchases an amusement park for the sole purpose of kicking everybody out – so he could enjoy the rides alone.

He even goes as far as producing ads telling people they couldn’t come.

Soon, the exclusivity created led to more demand for the park than ever before.

Other businesses start to adopt the “You can’t come!” method and Cartman is hailed as a genius by business analysts – despite being anything but.

3 ways can you actually use this

You don’t need to do anything quite so dramatic as messing with your supply numbers or literally kicking everybody out of your business, but there are some practical ways to harness these principles.

In each case, it’s very important that the shortage in your stock is legitimate or you may draw the ire of the watchdog.

1. Create a stock counter

One of the things you’ll now see on many eCommerce sites is a counter down the bottom of the page letting customers know exactly how much of a particular item is available.

This creates a sense of the finite, and your customers won’t assume that plenty of stock is available.

2. Limited time only!

Sometimes some of the oldest tricks in the playbook are the best.

By advertising your product as a ‘limited edition’ or available for ‘a limited time only’, you can create a sense of exclusivity and tap into some good old-fashioned FOMO.

Again, it’s important to note that the supply shortage is legitimate.

Also, you can only pull this rabbit out of the hat so many times before your customers catch on and you become the ‘Retailer Who Cried Limited Time Only’.

3. Invite only

The ‘sales event’ has been around since the dawn of commerce, but what if you restricted your sales event to a select few?

By limiting the number of people who can attend, those invited may end up with the perception that this is an exclusive event – which by definition it is.

Those not invited (this time) may end wondering about the sorts of deals and experiences the sales event holds, so next time around there may be a pent-up demand created.

Just be sure to make sure that the event is a good experience for those who do go.