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Paradox Of Time In Consumer Behavior

Life in America is FAST. Everyone rushes to get to the next better, whatever. In America the future is NOW. One has to run just to stand in place. Nothing is left on the vine to mature naturally. Everything is plucked hard and green.

Speed is a key aspect of the American aesthetic. Pragmatism and opportunity are two of its reflections. That's the American way, and for the most part, we like it like that.

Now, however, the pervasiveness of the Internet and mobile devices, plus fear and distrust and our Ponzied economy, have us Americans voicing a new narrative -- maybe I should go a bit slower.

Take convenience. It's a double-edged sword. People love convenience and hate convenience, because convenience itself speeds things up. We all live in a paradox of love it and hate it options.

People are caught up in a force-field of two Mobiusly entwined vectors:

1. Offense

I see more, know more, and want more.
This is an expression of a positive, exploratory mode; and



2. Defense

I see more and know more, therefore I have to watch out for more. Too much is incoming everthing. Duck!

People experience life as a series of staccato "nows" and must-do's that are metastasizing. A typical sentiment: "I used to have a list of chores to do that I could check off one at a time. At some point, my list was completed. Now, as soon as I get to the next chore, another has miraculously appeared at the bottom of my list. It's non-stop."

Perhaps the best description of the present paradoxical context of the world was stated by a 44-year-old woman in a focus group in Kansas City: "Things are always advancing, getting better, sometimes for the worse."

What's A Marketer to Do?

The usual marketing response is to offer the consumer an expectation of convenience. It's easy. But this does not show a detailed understanding of the real consumer experience.

The proliferation of communication channels and marketers' simplistic goal of maximizing eyeballs has created a frenetic ADDHD consumer. Content is now sliced and diced so thinly that narrative is abbreviated and fractured. Story is replaced by spectacle, gimmick or a "too much is never-enough" quick-cut snippet.

The consumer finds himself at a cognitive impasse, where America is presently "between mythologies." We are not what we once were, and we do not yet know what we will become. This is a hard place for a culture. Worse, because of the speed of the culture, and the perceived complexity and unpredictability of things, people experience the world as a series of unconnected dots.

Everything is commoditized -- connectivity, content, and time. In this context, context is lost, the familiar is the only thing that gets processed, creativity is subdued, there is no finding "YOU," your authentic self.

What Should Marketers Do?

1. Provide Coherence to the "Dots": This takes more than bells and whistles. The opportunity marketers have is to help restructure peoples' experience of the extremely puzzle-pieced environment so they don't feel completely overloaded and splintered.

2. The Reassurance of Professionalism: Give the consumer a sense that your products and services can help them make better sense of the world and their world. Convert the pressure of time to a feeling of time well-spent.

3. Shift from the Available to the Valuable: Be a curator of "easy." Don't be a provider. Be a partner. Care for your consumer. In the transition from connectivity to content to context, offer a partnership in assembling and integrating a user-generated entity. Help transition the consumer from requirements to possibilities.

4. Be a True Leader: Don't just be a bullhorn for sales. Do not seek control. Seek to help provide for the consumer's self-expansion such that they are the center of their own attention, not yours. That's the archetype of the benevolent leader.

5. Own the Relationship: That is really what makes everything easier -- for the consumer and marketer, alike.

Admittedly, there is no easy panacea. It's a long and winding road, but the quicker marketers reach the fork in the trail and contemplate the path less taken, the better off we will all be.

2 comments about "Paradox Of Time In Consumer Behavior ".
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  1. Bill Roth from NCCT, December 29, 2009 at 10:28 a.m.

    Thought provoking article Bob, well done! I would enjoy reading "chapter two" on your thoughts for how sustainability is emerging as a path consumers are beginning to adopt to "connect the dots." A key ingredient of The Secret Green Sauce is aligning value with values, very similar to your point #3, Shift from the Available to the Valuable.

  2. Gordon Hotchkiss from Out of My Gord Consulting, December 29, 2009 at noon

    Bob...also enjoyed your the point where I did a follow up post - - My question..can we still have common mythologies in our fragmented world?

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