Why it's time for marketers to recognise the power of now

Hamish Pringle is strategic advisor at 23red, former IPA director general, and has had five successful business books published. With an agency career spanning 26 years, he’s worked on more than 50 brands.

I recently opened a copy of the Daily Telegraph and was greeted with an ad from Next. It had no imagery, just one line which said ‘order by 11pm for next day delivery’. Then it hit me with a double-page-spread in colour. Next is a brand recognising the ‘power of now’ – move over ‘mañana marketing’.

Not such a long time ago people used to save up for significant purchases. Today they want it now. The average UK household credit card debt is £2,293, and just 5.9 per cent of pre-tax income is saved according to The Money Charity.

People used to take their time researching big ticket items, but they’re speeding up. The 2013 Polk Automotive Buyer Influence Study commissioned by AutoTrader.com shows the average time US new car buyers spent shopping – both online and in dealerships – has dropped by 5.25 hours, or 18 per cent, to 13.75 hours shopping in just two years.

We used to believe in linear marketing communications – A.I.D.A. and the like. Now we have the F.A.I.P.A. model urging us to keep the brand in the ‘media flow’ at all times, with multi-media strands of messaging.

In this ‘always-on’ world, customers can be far more impulsive, aided and abetted by increasingly ubiquitous mobiles. According to the IAB’s 2014 ‘Mobile Path to Purchase’ report:

  • Up to 46 per cent of shoppers now say mobile is the most important medium for their purchase.
  • 30 per cent of consumers are looking to purchase within the hour.
  • Nearly half of mobile users are looking to make a purchase same day.
  • 51 per cent of consumers expect to find a business within 8 kilometers.
  • 75 per cent of shoppers converted or plan to in the near future.

It’s vital that brands put themselves in the best position close to the point of purchase, or behavioural decision. In this context the 2014 McKinsey report ‘Digitising the Consumer Decision Journey’, by Edwin van Bommel et al makes scary reading. Those companies which aren’t set up to deliver an ‘always-on’ brand experience will lose out.

Their graphic below shows how a bank’s sales can leak at key points on customer pathways to purchase:

To minimise leaks, Apple has built a fertile ‘walled garden’ and accelerated the customer journey. I see, hear, and read PR about the launch of the new Apple Watch. Then I notice a new icon on my iPhone, I click through, and stop only just short of purchasing.

What all these savvy brands have in common is that they’re getting people to do things, and to do it now. Humans respond to a deadline. ‘Stoptober’, the smoking cessation programme, is based upon the fact that quitting for 28 days is five times more likely to lead to permanent giving up. Meanwhile ‘Red Nose Day’ is but one of many fund-raising events which grab attention and generate money by have a time-limited focus. Indeed The Drum has just launched a one-day initiative – Do It Day – to help create something that will make the world a better place.

Recent BUPA research commissioned by Mischief PR through Fly Research revealed the things that make people feel great. It’s interesting to note how many of these ‘little pleasures’ are active ones. Indeed about half the top 20 are things people do physically, as opposed to having feelings or thoughts.

1. Sleeping in a freshly made bed

2. Feeling the sun on your face

3. People saying ‘thank you’ or a random act of kindness from a stranger

4. Finding money in unexpected places

5. Having time to myself

6. Laughing so hard it hurts

7. Snuggling on the sofa with a loved one

8. Freshly made bread

9. Doing something for others

10. The clean feeling after a shower

11. When your favourite song comes on the radio

12. Finding a bargain in the sales

13. Listening to the rainfall/thunderstorms when you’re inside

14. Freshly brewed tea/coffee

15. The thrill of personal achievement

16. Having a long hot bath

17. Seeing a fresh coating of snow

18. Freshly cut grass

19. Chocolate melting in your mouth

20. Doing something active outdoors (e.g. bike ride, run, country walk)

Ekhart Tolle's global best-selling book, ‘The Power of Now’, proposes that living in the now is the truest path to happiness and enlightenment. His followers become conscious of how thoughts and emotions get in the way of their ability to live in genuine peace and happiness. It’s easy for the cynical marketer to dismiss such a philosophy as wishy-washy-pie-in-the-sky-hippy-think, but then corporate social responsibility was once ridiculed too.

In this context perhaps it’s not surprising that 87 per cent of those surveyed said they were in support of Joanna Lumley’s inspired idea for a pedestrian crossing of the Thames between Temple Tube Station and the South Bank.

The Garden Bridge Charitable Trust has only £50m of the £175 total to raise before building work can start in 2016, and be completed by 2018. People can already imagine doing the walk through the 15 ‘garden rooms’ and seeing the wonderful new vistas of London from leafy vantage points mid-river. And donating now means forever having credit for a great gift to the nation, and the world.

One reason why people get such a buzz out of doing things is that they’re triggering a feedback loop that most of them are unaware of. They, like so many marketers, see themselves as operating in a linear manner in which thoughts and feelings are in control of behaviour. However it’s often the other way around. Professor Richard Wiseman gives many examples in his book ‘Rip It Up’ which demonstrate how this works. His video created by Cognitive Media explains it in 84 seconds:

The WCRS digital interactive outdoor anti-domestic violence campaign through Ocean is a brilliant example of doing something leading to a change in attitude. Anyone who stood in front of these poster sites and, having done so, ‘healed’ the woman’s bruises, must have gone away feeling and thinking differently about the issue. This is especially good news for commercial challenger brands which have to overcome selective perception, and also brand leader ‘double jeopardy’, in order to gain market share.

The Doors’ 1966 song ‘When the Music’s Over’ was prescient: “We want the world and we want it...now”. The implication for marketers is clear. Customer journeys are getting shorter. People are being more impulsive. The technology enables near-instant gratification. Doing it now is rewarding. You can change people’s behaviour by getting them to do things, and you don’t have to change their attitudes first.

So please, no more ‘mañana marketing’. Now is the time to harness the power of now.

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