Fast Consumers and Smart Brands

Fast consumers and smart brands

Research from 32 cities around the world has revealed that people are, on average, walking 10% faster than they did just 12 years ago. Psychologists believe that this trend indicates a culture built on immediacy; patience is suddenly not such a virtue.

Short deadlines and long working hours have made the ability to multi-task a valuable commodity, both at home and at work – especially when we have so many means of rapid-fire communication while being entertained.

The first “fast” revolution started in the 50s – it revamped the whole food serving industry, and the trend is still seen today. Consumers are still clearly in love with fast food; they spent almost $200 billion on it in 2012, in the US alone. This category is still the strongest in the global consumer food servicing industry. 7 of the top 10 brands are within the fast food category, and according to Euromonitor, it continues to be a major focus of global innovation.

The world is undoubtedly becoming a faster place every day – consumers demand more than before, while simultaneously losing their attention more and more easily.

The “fast” concept has also taken off in the fashion retail industry, transforming operations from a product-driven concept based on a manufacturing “quick response” model in the 80s, to a market-based model of “fast fashion” in the late 90s.  Zara has been at the forefront of this fashion retail revolution and the brand has almost become synonymous with the term. It re-engineered and streamlined the retail operation and supply chain to minimize stock numbers and reduce the product life cycle.

The emergence of fast fashion has created the trend for fashionable, affordably priced clothes, offered in a shorter production lead-time, and has cultivated a greater sense of urgency of purchase. But the length of time consumers spend with the brand and its product is consequently shortened.

“Fast” tremendously influences the way we receive and collect information; in order to get consumers’ attention, brands need to think about how to operate in real time and, today, digital has provided the opportunity to do so more than ever.

Oreo is one of the brands who has risen to the challenge of crafting a creative, “fast” campaign, and recently gained global attention following the success of its last minute ad during the Super Bowl blackout. As the lights went out and electricians scrambled to get them back on, the company rushed out a timely blackout ad via Twitter with the caption “Power out? No problem” reminding Oreo eaters that you can “dunk in the dark.” The timeliness and pithiness made the pitch funnier, more effective and undoubtedly millions of dollars cheaper than Oreo’s actual Super Bowl commercial.

The creative went viral across Twitter like wildfire, and has been re-tweeted more than 14,000 times. Oreo posted the same image to their Facebook page and received more than 20,000 likes.

“It’s not necessarily about developing creative in real time. It’s about having a creative approach that allows you to operate in real time. Whether it’s actually creating an image, like we did for Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark,” or being able to participate in conversations in real time,” suggested Bonin Bough, the Vice President of Global Media and Consumer Engagement, Mondelez International.

However, brands have to pay 100% attention to real time marketing, as it has the potential to be disastrous if not handled carefully. McDonald’s Singapore has apologized for its “PSI” advertisement (Peak Sauce Index) to its consumers which some felt was tasteless when it was published in The Straits Times on 20th June 2013.  (The advertisement, which carried the sentence “Today’s Peak Sauce Index is looking deliciously high”, was published the day Singapore experienced its worst day of haze.) If the advertisement had been used when the Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) first came up, the joke might have worked. But when the PSI hit 300, it was not a joke any more.

Brands nowadays are putting a lot of effort into improving their images on digital platforms and creating content that fans will like and share. But is their creative process happening in real time?  They need to re-think their communications’ team structure: the current model usually requires rounds of approvals and “focus-grouping”, which makes brands fail to participate in real time digital activities.

Once brands have learned to be fast, like answering within 24 hours, speaking in 140 characters, being on the first page of search engines, then they will see new challenges that arise. More so, they need to learn how to take advantage of real time insights and data.

“If it’s older than three hours, it’s not real time,” said Noah Brier, co-founder of Percolate. “Being a real-time marketer is being relevant within the day.”


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