Australia’s Toilet Paper Frenzy Is Really Just Behavioural Science In Action

Australia’s Toilet Paper Frenzy Is Really Just Behavioural Science In Action

In this guest post, Atomic 212°’s co-founder and chief digital officer James Dixon (pictured below) says, beyond the chaos, Australia’s toilet paper pandemic is merely a classic case of behavioural science…

In media mix models, the past is a solid a predictor of the future, and then BAM, a virus hits the global stage and we are set for a significant disruption to economics and flow through to marketing.

In the midst of this, it is fascinating to observe real life examples of behavioural economics dramatically overtake rational thinking and marketers can observe first hand the consumer defaulting to system one thinking in an exponential manner.

The rational system two brain should seek empirical science at this time, and I offer this by way of the graphs provided by, where data is taken from government issued statistics and modelled out to show the virus is closely following a traditional S curve and set to level out and dissipate in the next 30 days.

The irrational system 2 brain however. is running off with a scarcity mindset and is highly concerned about toiletry functions. I confess to have fallen into this trap despite past data and giving a strong indication that we will all be fine.

As quoted here:

‘When an object or resource is less readily available , we tend to perceive it as more valuable (Cialdini, 2008). Scarcity appeals are often used in marketing to induce purchases. Marketing messages with limited quantity appeals are thought to be more effective than limited time appeals, because they create a sense of competition among consumers (Aggarwal et al., 2011). An experiment (Lee & Seidle, 2012) that used wristwatch advertisements as stimuli exposed participants to one of two different product descriptions “Exclusive limited edition. Hurry, limited stocks” or “New edition. Many items in stock”. They then had to indicate how much they would be willing to pay for the product. The average consumer was willing to pay an additional 50 per cent if the watch was advertised as scarce.

Whilst the virus is undoubtably a cause for concern it is a fascinating example of the above, where a curiously low value survival item has been elevated to a status above water, food and common courtesy in the shopping aisle.

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