I have been thinking about the biggest and most pervasive societal epidemic affecting our world today – time-starvation. I recently left my job as CEO of Epsilon Agency Services to take some time off, finish my next book, play golf, and spend quality time with my family. A way to stop running hard and to find time for things that are personally more important and fulfilling. I thought I would have loads if time. I was so wrong… I still feel like I’m trying to squeeze all I want to do in (with good reason – stay tuned!). I’m not alone. All of us are in the same state. People are working more and sleeping less – in fact, I read this article in Adweek about a new company called Dash Locker. People are literally working so much that they don’t have time to drop off and pick up their laundry between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. so a 24/7 service was created. I find myself wondering – with all of the convenience and technology, why do we have less free time than ever?

Technology should make our lives easier and give us more time, but it’s not working out that way. People are connected to their computers, phones, tablets and readers. E-mails, texts, calls, chats, tweets, news, recommendations, shows, videos, etc., etc., etc. You get the picture. Every minute of the day and night, we are always on. Any message can be important. We can’t risk ignoring any of them. There’s no reliable way to prioritize, let alone wall off some quiet time for thought and reflection. The amount of content has become totally overwhelming. Guess what. Technology instead of making life easier is in many ways, making it harder. One of the results is that we now make more decisions but spend less time thinking about them. We willingly forgo choice for convenience. Saving time, an oxymoron if there ever was one, has become a growing preoccupation.

Many marketers have noticed the symptoms, but few have understood the underlying causes. Think about reality then and reality today: Then, families sat down to evening dinners that often involved half a day of food preparation by a stay-at-home housewife, leading to an hour or so at the table discussing the day, and often followed by another half an hour or more cleaning up. Now, both spouses likely work (if there are two adults in the household—half of all children in the U.S. at some point live in single-parent families), meals are catch-as-catch-can affairs, either assembled on the fly at home or consumed in a restaurant, and clean-up involves loading the dishwasher and tossing the wrappers. Then, people had time to read for entertainment. Now, they park themselves in front of the tubes, which might be a TV screen, a computer monitor, or a tablet, and “time shift” only those pieces of programming that attract their interest. What’s more, instead of viewing together as a family, they’re often locked in on their own specific media, reflecting fragmented rather than socially unifying tastes. In 1960, people “consumed” five hours of media a day, according to a study conducted by the University of California, San Diego. Today, the average is twelve hours a day. A new survey from Experian found Americans spend on average, 16 minutes of every hour online on social networking sites. According to Nielsen, 65% of U.S. tablet owners surf the web while watching TV. Among such viewers, 60% of women and 44% of men visited a social networking site while watching a program. 29% of people watch TV and use Facebook concurrently and a whopping 61% of people watch TV and use the Internet concurrently.

And one of the craziest things about social media is that you are connected with people you hardly know. Suddenly the world feels smaller and you are Facebook friends with people you barely said hello to in High School or LinkedIn with mere acquaintances who then feel compelled to reach out for networking favors. Then you can get sucked into Instagram – sharing photos throughout the day and there’s all the pinning and checking out the pins of others on Pinterest and the list goes on. That’s another bunch of time corresponding with people who otherwise wouldn’t be in your life. I’m not even going to start about the time-suck called YouTube…

So how do we as marketers become more effective in this time-starved world? The fact is that consumers are in charge now. They don’t have or take time to wait for anything. They demand fast, real-time content and interaction with your brand. They have the power and they need to connect where they want to connect, when they want to connect. Marketers must act and react in real time. There is nothing to stop a disgruntled customer from sharing their bad experience. Brands need to find a way to be more authentic and credible. We’ve learned that consumers trust their peers and their social networks more than they trust any brand. As a marketer, you have to give them the ability to have a dialogue with the brand on their terms – even if they are connecting with you on Facebook while watching TV and speaking on their phone. One of the keys is finding a way for the consumer to propagate and promote the brand within their social networks. The need to manage their relationship with the brand and their networks by themselves is critical.

Which brings me back to Dash Locker… this is company that completely gets the time-starvation problem. They give you the ability to drop off and pick up your laundry from a locker 24/7, often in your own apartment building. They offer an app called Closet 2.0 that is a digital wardrobe with pictures of all the garments you’ve ever dropped with them with the ability to check the last time a garment was cleaned, leave notes about stains, or request alterations. They offer transparent pricing, itemized receipts, the ability to track spending and manage the payments, a sophisticated order tracking software with the ability to see exactly where the garment is in the process and socially connected customer service reps who will make any problem right in real-time and this can all happen without leaving your desk.

A brilliant innovation. Every brand has the ability to do this. The question you need to ask. How can I help save some time for my customer? Look at the entire process. Can I save them time while they shop, when they buy, while they use/reuse, or when they have to get another one? At each stage, there are opportunities for saving them time. These will quickly become evident when you follow your best and most bonded customers (not broadly defined prospects, as most companies do) during their purchase and use cycle.

By helping your most-bonded customers’ find a cure for time-starvation, these innovations will create exponential value for your brand and deepen your bond with them.

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