Cigarticle: Feeding Frenzies - Rumor, Fear and the Madness of Crowds
Marketing and group dynamics
The creation of scarcity can be either intentional or unintentional, but to be successful at raising demand it must be combined with a sense of urgency. In other words, a product can be rare and only moderately interesting, but let word of its scarcity spread and that same product rapidly goes from interesting to fascinating to mesmerizing.
The busy signal at the other end of the line redoubles your resolve and you begin to mutter curses under your breath as you stab at the push buttons on the phone. The postings from other members of the bulletin board crowing at their successful purchases simply heighten your frustration as the infuriating busy signal drones on and on in your ear.
Enter the Internet
After what seems like an eternity, the harried sales person at the cigar retailer answers the phone. "Unbelievable," she mutters, "The phone hasn't stopped ringing all morning!" Elated to have finally gotten through, and oblivious to both your budget and the rent payment hanging over your head, you breathlessly ask how many bundles of this coveted cigar remain in stock and order far more than you either need or can afford.
A history of madness
Within hours, sometimes minutes, the cigars are sold out and the frenzy abates. Talk on the board turns to the cigars themselves. Glowing, almost reverent descriptions of the quality, value and especially the luck of obtaining the sought after cigars continue for weeks, even months. Those people brave or foolish enough to take contrary opinions are shouted down as heretics until the next big frenzy explodes on the scene.
Coolers full of booty
Mitch Radcliffe is famous for saying, "A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history - with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila." It's when I peer into my dusty basement, my humidors, like pirate treasure chests stuffed to overflowing with rare cigar artifacts gathered during the frenzies of yore stacked up to the rafters, that I truly appreciate the power of this phenomenon. And yet, despite the bounty secured below decks, I must admit that seeing another post this morning on the availability of "sweet milky caramel cocoa marevas" had me salivating. The Por Larrañaga Petit Coronas Cabinet appears to be the latest cigar to achieve this notoriety.
Now, anybody want some VillHats?
Roger Farnsworth (ElkTwin) is a husband, father, globally recognized marketing sage and erstwhile gentleman rancher with a slightly irreverant view of life. Roger has enjoyed cigars on six continents and in 18 time zones. His musings on technology can occasionally be found in respected periodicals and trade journals.