Limited Edition

What is Limited Edition?

LE SnickersNowadays, many brands are introducing limited edition (usually abbreviated as LE) products as part of their product lines. These products represent special forms of line extensions, which differ from typical extensions by their limited availability, sometimes coming together with atypical variations of product attributes. The following definition of limited edition products provided by Suzuki (2008) seems to deliver a comprehensive definition of this concept: “products sold in a state that makes them difficult to obtain because of companies limiting their availability to a certain period, quantity, region, or channel”.

The very essence of limited edition products lies in the fact that only a predefined number of consumers is able to purchase these products regardless of their willingness to pay a premium price. Thus, product scarcity, which has a largely positive effect on consumers’ preferences for a brand when created by either supply or demand (i.e. not randomly), is supposed to be the main characteristic of limited edition products. In their turn, scarcity messages delivered by limited edition products make consumers feel that these products are special, unique, and valuable. Therefore, limited edition products foster a perception of exclusivity among the target consumers, making them able to signal their uniqueness and resulting in a positive influence on product evaluations by these consumers.  Furthermore, besides the ability to signal uniqueness, limited edition products help luxury consumers to manifest their belongingness to a high social milieu or the possession of a high status.


What is the difference between Special Edition and Limited Edition?

Jägermeister MANIFESTManufacturers often use terms like “Limited Edition” and “Special Edition” as incentives for marketing activities for all possible types of products: originally including only published products relating to the arts (books, prints, video games, recorded music and films), but now comprising other products like clothing, cars, wine or whisky and the like. These terms sound very similar, which often leads to confusion on the side of consumers, who have no precise information on what they are actually going to get. However, there are certain characteristics of limited edition and special edition products that help to distinguish them from each other. While the former group encompasses products, whose production is limited to a certain number of copies (which can be either very low or very high), the latter, which can be created for various occasions, includes goods, whose production implies the use of extra materials of some kind. Thus, limited edition products must be restricted to a certain number, but do not have to (although they may) include adds-on, while special edition products are not predefined in number, though they must be equipped with extra features. Despite these differences, both types of products serve the same aim – increasing the sense of value of the products in question for consumers.


What does Collector’s Edition mean?

Another frequently used term is a so-called “Collector’s Edition”. Although widely applied in a number of contexts, there is no conclusive definition of this concept. However, it seems logical to define collector’s edition products as exquisite or rare objects, that are worthy of the interest of those ones, who collect such things. Collector’s edition products may both refer to special edition and limited edition products and adds to the semantics of this notion by suggesting that collector’s edition goods include additional features or items that regular versions do not have. In the context of books, these special features can be a writer’s signature, a hardbound edition of a book or an edition that was printed by an author themselves or under their direct supervision.

Speaking about DVDs, these extra features, which represent high value for DVDs collectors, can be behind the scenes comments or packaging with unique designs. In the case of CDs, collected by melomaniacs, it can be a song text in a special booklet. An extreme case of creativity can be observed with video games, when bizarre extras like a racing car, a role in a Hollywood movie or a statue set with 6,000 Swarovski stones are offered to true gamers. Whatever these special features or items are, they must represent additional value to collectors of a product in question, so they feel inclined to buy these collector’s edition products.


Why has Limited edition become a powerful marketing strategy?

Recently, launch of limited edition products has become a prevalent marketing strategy. But why?

Limited edition is a supply-driven scarcity tactic, which (in terms of a signaling theory) cues a sense of exclusivity based on the limited number of units produced. Besides that, the scarcity principle says that opportunities appear to be more valuable, when they are limited. Thus, product scarcity is a powerful marketing instrument that has a positive impact on consumers’ preferences for a brand when purchasing for themselves (and not for others, when product popularity takes an upper hand in a purchasing behavior) as well as drives consumers into positive brand evaluations and purchase intentions by creating a sense of urgency among them. Therefore, a limited edition tactic has a positive impact on the profits of brands while enhancing price competition between them.

Limited Edition (self and other)

How can companies utilize this scarcity effect in their promotional activities?

Actually, brands can implement two types of scarcity messages for their limited edition products: limited-time scarcity and limited-quantity scarcity. When brands utilize limited-time scarcity messages, they try to encourage consumers to buy as many of their limited edition products as possible for a limited duration of time. When brands resort to limited-quantity scarcity messages, they purposefully shift the attention of their customers to the limited availability of their limited edition products to a predefined quantity. The empirical evidence shows that limited-quantity appeals affect purchase intentions to a greater extent than limited-time appeals. This happens because consumers create a sense of competition under the limited-quantity scarcity messages condition. Especially in the case of conspicuous products (i.e. products that signal high social status, wealth and power to surrounding others), this type of messages has a positive effect on purchase intentions of buyers of these products.

There is another very interesting research finding: high need-for-uniqueness individuals, who have already purchased the limited edition product, will not provide word-of-mouth recommendations under the limited-quantity scarcity messages condition, because they want to maintain the ability to signal their uniqueness and exclusivity to others by possessing this product.  As far as limited-time scarcity messages are concerned, they can be also quite effective and they are frequently used for nonconspicuous limited editions products (i.e. products that are not associated with signaling high social status, wealth, and power), enhancing intentions of consumers to purchase these products.  It was also empirically proved, that limited edition products with a shorter time constraint (e.g. one week) are assumed by consumers to be of higher quality than those that have a longer time constraint (e.g. one month).

Moreover, consumers feel a stronger time pressure with a stronger (i.e. shorter) time constraint, which makes a limited edition product very attractive in their eyes. Consequently, brands should select appropriate scarcity messages for their promotional strategies of limited edition products, based on the main benefits consumers are looking for.

Limited Edition scarcity message

Does it always make sense to offer limited edition products?

No, it does not. Although a launch of a limited edition product has a positive direct impact on brand profits as a result of increased willingness of consumers to pay a higher price for this product, it will have a negative strategic effect in the form of a greater price competition between brands, resulting in lower profits for a brand introducing a limited edition product. But this will be different for a brand having a monopolistic position: it can increase its profits by adding a limited edition product to its product line without incurring the negative consequence. It can be also profitable for a brand to introduce a limited edition product, when there are quality differences between competing brands: while high-quality brands launch limited edition products provided introductions costs are not too high, low-quality brands can do that only when introduction costs are small. This results in a greater propensity of limited edition products to be launched by high-quality brands: a high piano brand Steinway offers more limited edition products than its lower-quality counterpart Yamaha and a luxury car maker Jaguar introduces limited edition cars more frequently than other nonluxury brands.

Moreover, a launch of a limited edition product by a high-quality brand can be a good offensive marketing strategy competing against a low-quality brand provided neither brand offers a limited edition product. A low-quality brand, which will be forced to introduce a limited product of its own (i.e. will respond with a defensive marketing strategy), would rather prefer a situation, where brands do not compete on the basis of a limited edition product due to its lower profit. At the same time, if quality differences between two competing brands are less significant, brands should avoid competition on the basis of limited edition products, because an introduction of these goods may decrease industry profits.

A vivid example can be seen in casual apparel such as jeans, where competing brands with low quality differences seldom offer limited edition products. To sum it up, marketers should take into consideration both the direct and strategic effects of adding limited edition products to their product lines in a competitive environment.

Limited edition marketing strategy

Does an introduction of a limited edition offer help in the face of core brand image dilution?

Yes, it does, though this is empirically proven to hold true only for luxury brands. In fact, it was found that a launch of a limited edition product enhances consumers’ brand attitude in terms of satisfaction, repurchase and positive word-of-mouth intentions toward a brand more for a luxury brand with a dilution problem than for a luxury brand with no dilution problem. Moreover, this effect is more pronounced for consumers with higher self-presentation motive (i.e. those, who are motivated to consume luxury brands to conform to peer pressure and societal trends) than for those with higher self-expressive motive (i.e. those ones, who consume luxury brands as means of value-expression). Thus, the use of limited edition offers can solve the problem of brand dilution for luxury brands by redeveloping a positive brand perception, as a limited edition product sets one apart from others in establishing status.


What industries offer limited edition products?

Research has shown that today many brands introduce limited edition products as part of their marketing strategy. A classic example of this strategy is a launch of limited edition pianos with a special mahogany finish by Steinway in 1993 (i.e. on its 140th anniversary), when the production was limited to only 140 pianos. These grand pianos were sold out to dealers within hours of availability. In the following years, Steinway has consistently continued its tradition of offering limited edition pianos (e.g. launch of eight Rogel Williams Limited Edition Gold Pianos in 2004). In 2006 Steinway’s competitor, Yamaha, also began to offer limited edition pianos: it introduced the Elton John Limited Edition Signature Series Red Piano, autographed by the pop star legend. Shortly after limited edition products have spread their reach to other fields and nowadays they are frequently used as marketing incentives in such industries as automobiles, fashion, video game or beverage goods and the like. So, let’s take a closer look at them.


Visual Art

In the world of visual art, limited edition denotes the available number of versions of a particular artwork. All these versions should look exactly the same: those that do not fulfil these requirement will be excluded from the relevant edition. The number of versions available for a particular artwork is determined by the artist, by the printer or by the publisher. A limited edition and a reproduction are not the same: while the former represents an original work of art, the latter is just a copy of other art pieces. This adds to the value and price of limited editions. Artists use limited editions to restrict the total number of artworks produced in the edition, which guarantees that every individual work will retain its value over time. Very often artist destroy all the materials used for creation of these works, so that nobody can add to the edition later on. Sometimes artists decide to extend their limited editions. If they do so, then these subsequent editions will be labelled as a second edition, a third edition, etc. There is a special type of editions called “posthumous editions” – these editions are created after the artist’s death. The value of these artworks will be lower in comparison to those from the first edition, because they are far away from the original intention of the artist.

With limited editions prints, a collector can get the following: numbered prints, trial proofs, “bon à tirer” proofs, artist’s proofs and printer’s proofs. Every limited edition print has a running number (usually written in pencil in the bottom left-hand corner of the print), which shows the number of each piece followed by a slash and the total edition size (e.g. 1/100 or 100/100). These numbers can determine the value of the limited edition print: the smaller the number, the higher the value. However, this is not always the case as artists number their works at random when they are signing and dating them, so that running numbers have no impact on the resale value of limited edition prints. Trial proofs are incomplete prints, that were created during various working stages to test different ideas or colors and that differ from the final version.

A “Bon à tirer” proof (a French expression, which is usually abbreviated as B.A.T. and which means “ready for printing”) serves as an example of how a final art piece will look like and this mark is made when the artist is satisfied with the final version. Artist’s proofs (also known as “épreuve d’artiste”) are identical to standard edition prints, but unlike regular ones they are usually marked with A/P, A.P. or E.A. (eg. A.P. 1/3, where the 3 indicates the number of artist’s proofs). Usually artist’s proofs are kept by artists, so that they are able to borrow them to various institutions for exhibition purposes when the rest of the edition is sold out. Apart from these proofs, there are also printer’s proofs marked with P/P or H/C, which represent complimentary prints given to the publishers. Proofs are particularly appreciated and highly desirable by collectors due to their rarity as well as an opportunity to get insight about the artist’s creative process. However, making a purchasing decision can be quite a challenge for collectors, as many aspects should be considered. But if a thorough research is done, true art lovers have good chances to obtain something very unique and really valuable.


Books/music albums/DVD films/video games

All these types of goods have three things in common. First, they represent ultimate results of the activities carried by creative industries. Second, they relate to the sphere of art. Third, all of them can be offered as limited editions.


But do limited editions of these products have same characteristics?

Limited edition books are printed in a limited number, which is much smaller (usually less than 100 copies) than publishing industry standards suggest. When purchasing a limited edition book, a consumer can be sure that in comparison to open-ended trade editions no further printings with the same design will be released. Like artworks these books can be numbered (e.g. “copy 1 of a limited edition of 50 copies” or “1/50”) or lettered (e.g. “A of 50” or “Copy A”), so that each one exemplar is different in the edition. Moreover, they can contain the signature of the author, illustrator or other contributors. Sometimes, additional material, which is absent in mass market versions, is included, making limited edition versions more exclusive and collectible. The use of slipcases also adds value to these limited releases. All in all it can be said, that limited edition books are highly sought after and feature in the collections of both private collectors as well as institutional collectors like private and public libraries.

Launch of Special, Deluxe, Expanded and Limited Editions for movies, albums and computer games has become a widely used marketing strategy. These disc products represent improved versions of film DVD movies, music albums, and video games, which are often packaged with bonus materials and enhancements that standard versions of these disc products do not contain. Such bonuses represent different features or supplementary materials like special packaging, printed artworks, extra discs with additional content, digital download codes, certificates of authenticity, special scents or forms and other items of any nature. Like almost all limited edition products, these special disc products can be numbered, thus enhancing the feeling of uniqueness and exclusivity on the side of their owners. Due to marketers’ creativity, this endless variety of special extras created such incredible products as vinyls full of singers‘ own as well as others’ blood alongside with full-size skulls made of chocolate containing brain fluid-flavored candy or video games that include acting lessons, an off-road driving course, a stuntman and a parkour training.

Coming back to the raised question one can say that limited editions of books, movies, albums and video games do share common characteristics such the use of running numbers or extra items not available in the standard release. However, limited edition disc products seem to enjoy more freedom in terms of creativity than limited edition books – a fact, which is quite in line with the increased digitalization of the world.


Fast-Moving-Consumer-Goods (FMCG)

While the use of limited editions in high involvement products like watches or art prints has a long tradition, in recent years the utilization of the limited-edition-strategy has also gained in popularity with respect to FMCG. Actually, nowadays FMCG limited editions have become one of the most popular product types, whose availability is artificially limited. This tendency was driven by the fact that this kind of strategy is associated with additional growth potential and the possibility to distinguish one’s brand from the others. Consumers like limited edition products, because due to their extraordinary characteristics they can promise new and exciting experiences. As a result, consumers demonstrate a distinct openness to related innovations and new sensory experiences. And the restricted availability of a limited edition product, which signals a “use-it-or-lose-it”-situation, serves as an additional sales appeal. Therefore, FMCG limited editions are very effective tools for driving sales up, as they meet customers’ desires and are able to counter declining customer loyalty or strengthened private-labelled offerings.


But do limited edition offerings in FMCG always lead to consumers’ positive reactions?

No, unfortunately not. There is an empirical evidence, that an intensified effect of the limitation (which is associated with exclusivity) on the attitude and the behavioral intentions of consumers occurs only for exploration seekers. Thus, before companies decide to introduce FMCG limited editions they should make sure that their target audience has an exploration tendency.

Moreover, if they want their customers to recognize the limitation, this product limitation should be communicated visibly, so that it can generate a positive scarcity effect. The latter, which leads to a more positive attitude towards a product and a stronger behavioral intention, depends in its turn on the processing depth: a positive scarcity effect will occur only if an intensive cognitive imagination is involved. Therefore, marketers should pay attention to those activities that stimulate consumers’ cognitive processes, which are fundamental for increased attractiveness caused by scarcity. Nonetheless, marketers should also take into account that due to a large number of other alternatives in the price-sensitive FMCG market a high level of perceived scarcity (which is closely connected with higher prices) does not necessarily enhance consumers’ purchase intentions for FMCG limited editions.

Companies should also pay attention to the limited edition type (i.e. creation of limited edition products due to seasonal, event or cooperation-based reasons) and to the strategic fit (low vs. high) between the product category and the limited edition type. Both of them have a direct impact on consumers’ purchase intentions and are therefore key success factors in creation of limited edition products. There are also two other important findings: first, weak parent brands can profit from reciprocal effects of limited edition products (in the case of strong parent brands attitudes towards brands remain the same) and second, introduction of limited edition products has a positive effect on the perceived brand creativity for both weak and strong brands. Consequently, especially weak brands can benefit from the launch of limited edition products, which may lead to the improvement of the overall-attitude towards these brands.



There was a time, when owning a Bentley or a Lamborghini was already enough in itself. The time has changed and now car enthusiasts want some kind of special edition model, which represents fantastic value for money. Limited edition models are special forms of art that demonstrate the style and performance of a model from a particular manufacturer. These models will often be released in a strictly limited run and be available only for a limited time. An odd paint color, a one-off bodykit, an extra sticker or a list of smart gadgets – all these features can add an extra appeal to a standard version of the same model, it into a very special and expensive vehicle, which only a limited group of people can afford. While some of these models are built in the thousands, others are limited to a few hundreds or even less. The respective prices of these vehicles usually depend on how rare they are. Special and limited editions models allow car manufacturers to offer their demanding customers an endless stream of novelty and to satisfy their desire to become a part of an exclusive club.

Moreover, there is also a financial incentive for customers to purchase these vehicles since they can be good investments: owners of the 499 Ferrari 458 Speciale Apertas can increase their fortune by selling their vehicles for a current price of £1,000,000, which cost them originally only £250,000 (i.e. a profit of £750,000!). Nevertheless, investing in cars can be a tricky business, since there is no guarantee, they will be able to retain or even increase their value. Some analysts predict a downward trend in the supercar market (excluding only truly exceptional models that still rise in value), which enjoyed rocketing prices in the last years. Nowadays, potential buyers of these exceptional models can get well informed about limited and special edition cars by just checking infinite websites that promise getting insights about most expensive and exclusive or the top lamest and weirdest vehicles ever made.


But why do carmakers offer special and limited edition cars?

Manufacturers may introduce limited or special editions for their cars either after a certain number of years of their production or during the launch of these cars. Their motivation to launch these models can be explained by several potential reasons.

First, a car brand can ally itself with a famous brand from the same or another industry: in 2016 DS Automobiles in collaboration with Givenchy have introduced the New DS 3 Givenchy Le Makeup Limited Edition, designed to enhance modern-day women’s beauty, “who are always on the go”.

Second, a special edition may be launched as a way of celebrating recent success in motorsport: Sir Jack Brabham Holden Torana, Chevrolet Celta Piquet, Mercedes Benz SLR Stirling Moss, Fiat Stilo Schumacher Edition and Fiat Seicento Schumacher Sporting Edition are among those limited edition cars that were named after Formula one drivers. Sometimes special editions are created to comply with homologation requirements in motorsport, thus playing a big role in a car’s development.

Third, carmakers may also introduce limited or special edition models during the initial launch of a car to persuade people to pre-order or purchase them during the early days of their arrival. Fourth, manufacturers can launch these models simply because they want to rekindle interest in a car (which is due for replacement) by featuring extra kit or adding interior design features to it. Whatever the reasons are, one should do a research on how limited/special a particular model is to evaluate its uniqueness and real value. Moreover, one should make sure that they buy a particular model not only for investment reasons (as you never know whether it will be able to hold its value), but also because there is something special about this vehicle that one really loves.


How can consumers protect themselves against fake limited edition products?

Searching for limited edition products can be a complicated endeavor: one should check a couple of things to be able to establish how limited a particular product is and to determine its real value. The golden rule is simple: do a profound research and you will be on the safe side. But what to do if you have already bought a product, that was falsely advertised as a very special/limited one?

Well, luckily enough, in some countries limited edition goods are regulated by law, so that consumers can enjoy protection. For example, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 – a United Kingdom statutory instrument – lists “commercial practices which are in all circumstances considered unfair”, among which are activities “falsely stating that a product will only be available for a very limited time, or that it will only be available on particular terms for a very limited time, in order to elicit an immediate decision and deprive consumers of sufficient opportunity or time to make an informed choice”.

Another example of a similar regulation applied in the United States is the New York City Consumer Protection Law. According to it, “items may not be called «limited» unless there is a predetermined maximum quantity available, or a reasonably short ordering period. All ads must clearly and conspicuously state the number of copies produced, or the length of time the product will be offered for sale”. Moreover, this law says that if there is a range of prices, then both the highest and the lowest prices must be stated in figures. It seems logical that the number of corresponding regulations increases when the price tag size of a certain limited edition product gets higher. Especially very expensive goods like limited edition art prints find themselves under thorough control and supervision, which has led to the appearance of a number of strictly administered regulations for all processes and aspects related to them. The Georgia Limited Edition Art Reproduction Act represents such a statute directed towards art dealers, artists or auctioneers, who must supply information to perspective purchasers about the nature of the print, the number of prints and editions produced, and the involvement of the artist in the creation of the print. It also regulates punishment for violators of corresponding provisions of the law as well as remedies to purchasers. Besides that, it includes a provision on the statute of limitations.

To sum it up it can be said that purchasers of limited editions products who have become victims of commercial activities of the companies offering fake limited edition products, should check whether there is a corresponding national consumer protection regulation, which can protect them against these unlawful actions and compensate for their financial damages.