People profess to being so time pressed and working such long hours these days, you’d think we were in the middle of the industrial revolution. Wasn’t the digital age supposed to free up our time so we could concentrate on the important things in life - or does the “always on” nature of modern life mean our time is never our own?
It turns out we are not really as busy as we like to make out. We questioned 10,000 people in 28 markets around the world on this issue for our network study, the Havas Worldwide Prosumer Report 2015. The study showed that fewer than one in three people feel they have too much to do, and a lot of us, 42 per cent, admit to sometimes pretending to be busier than we actually are.
There is a growing stigma around having free time. If you’re not in demand 24/7, you are deemed less important. While the people we surveyed admire those who live in the fast lane, many feel that if you’re always on the go you miss out on the important things in life.
We want to appreciate life more, but don’t want to slow down enough to do it, and so we get caught somewhere in the middle. This is spurred on by the fact that there isn’t the same delineation between work and life anymore – we’re checking emails at the dinner table and our friends’ Instagram feeds at the office.
The endless interaction with data means that we don’t fully engage with our lives and continually feel harassed, stressed and unfulfilled. Here is where brands can help. Brands tend to operate within the confines of their own “inside out” business models, driven by their products or sales channels. But there is a clear opportunity for operations to be led by marketing and a deep knowledge of how customers behave in the real world. Armed with this understanding, brands can come up with new ways of relieving their customers of some of the difficulties and complexities of their 24/7 lives.
Brands could even help people focus on those activities that are helping them lead more satisfying lives while eliminating behaviours that offer little to no fulfilment. Some can help by interacting with their customers in the slickest, easiest way possible; others will be able to create new services that offer real problem-solving utility. Some could even go as far as DBS Bank in Singapore, which remodelled its entire business structure around its customers. Many of the world’s most successful companies, such as Apple and Amazon, have customer-centricity built into their DNA.
Only by showing we know, understand and can help consumers with the everyday issues and conflicts they are facing will we earn the right to some of their very precious time.
Tash Whitmey is Group CEO of Havas helia.