#9, February 2001
years ago when we last wrote about how consumers
looked at time, it was clear that we were in the
process of moving to a new paradigm. We identified
early signals in the growth of the 24/7 economy,
the use of all kinds of hand-held mobile devices
and the collapse of space and time by the
Internet. Consumer insight showed many people were
feeling increasingly pressurised, seizing
fragments of time and searching for new mechanisms
of control. Stress was becoming the new mantra.
From 1995 onwards, consumers have been
experiencing a very new journey due to the
magnitude of change especially in developed
markets. It is therefore interesting to re-open
the debate about the way we look at time, coping
strategies, target groups and the companies and
brands using time as a differentiator. Time is one
of Through the Loop’s forces of change in our
Knowledge Development Programme.
seem to be three specific target groups with
different relationships to the concept of time.
These are the time-poor, time-rich and an emerging
group, which we are calling time-slippers.
is therefore not surprising that consumers are now
trying to “win” time by adopting new
strategies. The coping strategies that we observe
include the following:
Voluntary simplification to make a complex
Searching for new mechanisms to give a
greater feel of empowerment and control. Some of
these solutions will be technological.
Using captive time more productively when
travelling or commuting. Mobile technologies can
Actively finding pursuits which allow
precious time to be enjoyed. A good analogy is the
difference between savouring and enjoying a coffee
versus gulping it.
both the target groups and their coping strategies
mean that brands can better target consumers with
different time perceptions and communicate using
new cues and sometimes, new media options.
date, there has been considerable focus on the
group perceived to be time-poor. This group are
assumed to be time-poor usually because of
disadvantageous working patterns. They are most
likely to be working in the 24/7 service economy
and are usually contactable anytime and anywhere.
These people look for control mechanisms to
reassert order into their lives. They have short
attention spans and one writer talks about
appealing to this group through liquid culture.
There is also a gender issue here because more
women than men claim time poverty due to the
element of unpaid work around the home. In the
future, time poverty may become a more
intermittent rather than permanent strategy
because of changes in the employment market. The
Yankelovich Group sees some of these time-poor
consumers pulling back from the market-place in
the US. They may even trade-off pay to get a
little more free time to do all the things that
conventional assumption has been that those who
were time-rich were thought to be older and less
affluent than the first group. The simplicity of
this perception needs to change as we move towards
a more flexible employment market with more
temporary and contract work. Some people may be
time-rich for periods of time. For many,
time-richness is an odd phenomena out of kilter
with a rushed world, they do not acclimatise
easily. This segment may need to be helped through
the maze. For others, time-richness is associated
with what we currently call retirement. In the
future, the retirement process
is also expected to change.
New Group of Time-Slippers
third group is very interesting in that they found
ways of slipping and savouring time. These
consumers are experientialists and are looking for
new paths in entertainment and enjoyment. They are looking for layers of
fun and experience in everything that they
consume. This is the group that go to Starbucks
because it has genuinely transformed coffee to a
more emotional experience. This is the group that
eats in the first of the new theme restaurants.
The retail environment can reach a different level
when it takes on new layers of enjoyment and
becomes a leisure activity. There is even now a
Slow Food Movement which has as its clarion call,
“the defence and the right to pleasure.” This
is the group that will buy “devices” to put
into their smart home to change room mood and
atmosphere. Some of them will go to day spas to
pamper themselves. This group are willing to try
new products and services which offer the
potential of greater enjoyment. Appealing to their
senses is very important. Design plays a huge role
for this group and forms part of the brand
experience through a number of different guises.
Variety of design will become more important.
Hour Can Seem Like a Minute
could be argued that the third group has a
different perception and experience about time.
The way we think about time determines the way in
which we experience it. As Albert Einstein said:
you are sitting on a hot stove, a minute seems
like an hour, but if you are doing something
pleasurable, an hour can seem like a minute.”
loyalty in the third group is a real challenge
without offering product and service innovation to
build levels of experience.
foresee that the structured day will give way to
different forms for the three groups. The
time-poor group will shift to some form of 24 hour
cycle. Even sleep as a solid block of time may
disappear for this group. Catnaps will become more
common and homes and workplaces will be structured
to accommodate this. Time will have a fragmented
and discontinuous appeal. The time-rich may be
expected to keep to a more conventionally
structured day. The time-slippers will vary
enormously and expect to experience when they
the future, we expect brand strategies to be more
finely attuned to the needs of these three target
groups or segments. For the first time-poor group,
brand strategies will need to be optimized to
appeal to short fragments of time and
communications to short attention spans. The
second segment who are either temporarily or
permanently time-rich, will fall at the other end
of the spectrum. Imagine marketing new learning
experiences to this group. In many ways, the third
group is the most eclectic and they may be the new
early adopters for new products and services.
Innovation will be critical to appeal.
the Loop believes that these are global groups,
even though they may appear at different levels of
needs to be true understanding of the three main
target groups, time-poor, time-rich and time
slippers and their coping strategies.
Brands, products and services need to be
reviewed to see where they fit in terms of time
New markets will be created. These include
home and office environments, smarter forms of
both to encourage mood, diverse forms of lighting
Examine the sensory appeal of your product
or service to see how to add layers of fun and