Time is the only currency that matters – Part 1

“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”—Steve Jobs

In many ways, technology is turning us into a new species. This is a topic under hot debate by anthropologists, psychologists and media experts. However, you don’t need a master’s degree to realize that our perception of reality and our relationship to the world have been fundamentally transformed by information technology.

Our notions of space have changed as we’ve been given the magical ability to communicate, see and be seen across vast distances—like the other day when I saw a grandmother at Newark Airport Facetime with her granddaughter in Australia, and her niece in Germany. Our notions of choice have exploded to paralyzing proportions through Amazon, eBay, Tinder, and so on.

But perhaps the most important shift has been in our perception of time. What we can now do during a given span of time, and how time feels to us, has forever been altered. Think back to 30 years ago when we still used handheld calculators, there were no laptops or smartphones, there was no Wikipedia or Google, no Amazon or Netflix (in their current incarnations). Think about how much time it took to do simple things, like researching a company or learning about what breed of dog your family should own. You had to physically go to a Blockbuster to rent a movie. And then to return it. Can you imagine? How slow. How laborious and primitive.

As a result, we have become exquisitely conscious of how we use time, in micro units. Today, since you can effectively communicate to an audience of millions instantly through avenues such as Twitter and Instagram, a small unit of time—like a second, 5 seconds, a minute, 5 minutes—has an entirely different meaning.

We also know that the more time consumers allocate to a brand, the more they’re likely to buy. But they will only allot that time if you provide one or more of the following:

  • High utility—You help me accomplish something that’s very necessary to me, and I accomplish it well
  • Belonging—You help me feel like I’m part of a community or family
  • Social equity—You help me raise my status in a community that matters to me
  • Entertainment—You make me laugh, brighten my day or move me in some way
  • Meaning—You help me increase the sense of meaning or purpose I have in my life

If you flip this list upside down, you essentially get an analogue of Maslow’s pyramid. That’s nothing new. But what is new is that these needs must now be met by brands in much shorter increments. This means that brands and agencies have to exercise even more creativity, human insights, technological skill, and sheer agility than ever before.

Witness the speed at which the Twitterverse erupted around the show Scandal at key “Oh My God” moments during many broadcasts. Or how quickly a Kickstarter campaign can accelerate and raise millions of dollars for a cool new cause or invention.

In our next post, we’ll go from exploring increments of time, to looking at the continuum of time—our perceptions of past, present and future. But for now, we’re out of time.