Recently, I was taking an Uber while speaking to a colleague on the phone and simultaneously switching between Instagram, news headlines and texting a partner in Singapore on WhatsApp. Ten years ago, these activities did not and could not coexist; today, I can do them all simultaneously.
Most individuals love to think that time is scarce. There are only 24 hours in a day, right? Well, maybe not.
In Activate’s Tech and Media Outlook 2016, there is an interesting statistic derived from data at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nielsen and other leading sources suggesting that the average U.S. employed adult’s daily activity is equivalent to 31 hours and 28 minutes. In other words, the day is now apparently 30 percent longer than it used to be—and this will only continue to increase with the rapidly advancing trends of Internet of Things, the normalization of the “sharing economy,” autonomous vehicles, wearables, automation and artificial intelligence.
Time is a fascinating component of humanity: It must be used every day and is a resource one cannot hoard. But what if you challenged the notion that time is actually finite and scarce and instead began to look at the potential for its emerging abundance due to these trends? The winners in this scenario will be those marketers who can fill this new time—these new opportunities—in meaningful ways. More time does not equal less busy.
In 1955, Cyril Parkinson wrote an essay in which he stated, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” This notion, which is known as Parkinson’s Law, is simple human nature. The same can be said about how we live our lives outside of work as well.
Mobile devices are the easiest way to grasp the notion of maximizing time as they provide a more frictionless way to read more books, to listen to more music, to send more emails, and to speak to more friends during moments that were previously not as convenient. Similarly, the rise in autonomous and shared vehicles provides consumers with time to enjoy more of what they want while giving smart brands and marketers opportunities to engage more deeply with them. For example, to Google, these self-driving vehicles are merely an accessory to one’s mobile device and enable more searches.
But what about other industries that may not be so obvious? In August 2016, Morgan Stanley published a piece of research titled Shared Autonomous Mobility: Potential Growth Opportunity for Beverage and Restaurant Firms.
Recognizing the serious social, public health and safety implications of such a study, Morgan Stanley noted that the introduction of ride-sharing services has also coincided with the reduction of DUI arrests in certain cities in the U.S. San Diego, for example, a city with one of the highest DUIs per capita, saw a 14 percent decrease in arrests between 2011 and 2013 when Uber began its operations. Conversely, the study also points out that when the city of Austin, Texas, temporarily banned Uber, there was a reduction in alcohol sales.
From a consumer and public safety perspective, the implications of the sharing economy in this instance are immense. And the impact for brands and marketers in it is real as well.
At the time of this study, the total global alcohol market was roughly $1.5 trillion. It was calculated that the incremental growth opportunities presented from shared mobility increased the total addressable marketplace by over $31 billion in 10 years based on a +1 increase in drink consumption per month. This is immense growth for a change in behavior that would otherwise be barely noticeable.
But this does not only occur in the sharing economy. Advances in IoT, wearables, automation and AI will all continue to increase the ease of multitasking for consumers—while the world will continue to recalibrate to these new norms with the perception that nothing feels different and everyone continues to believe they are stressed for time.
Marketing only succeeds in these extra moments when it can provide increased value or native utility to the consumer’s expectation. In his book The End of Advertising, Andrew Essex articulates this as the need to move away from producing “the thing that interrupts the thing.”
This is why Taco Bell’s Cinco de Mayo lens on Snapchat was viewed 224 million times in one day last year; why consumers have such an affinity toward Citi Bike in New York City; or why SSGA’s Fearless Girl has had over 2.3 billion social media impressions.
“Time is money” is an adage that Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, and, in an era of time abundance, the marketers who navigate this moment properly will be the true winners.