Meaningful Connections: The Access to Ever Tighter Consumer Schedules
Do you really have time for this article? You may simply take the time to read this because you expect it to be of some use. Well, thank you very much for that, because I can imagine how short your time is. Anyways, our days are full of activities that are important (or that we at least consider important). Curiously, the older we get, the further we climb up the career ladder, the more things we pull around us, the more our days get crowded and the less time we have. The actual time that we have daily at our disposal is therefore only used for the things that have meaning to us - because our time is finite.
So it's no wonder that we think very carefully about which brands we give our limited time and dedicate our voluntary interest to. And yet, it is surprising that as a consequence, people wouldn't be interested if 3 out of 4 brands disappeared from now on. Yes, you heard that correctly, 74% of all brands.
The reason for this is simple but multi-layered: these brands are meaningless. They make no sense to us. They are simply not worth sacrificing our time to deal with as their messages are superficial. Choosing these brands would inevitably be a decision against one of the many alternatives for which we devote our time to and which we consider to be subjectively meaningful. Therefore, brands face a 'meaningful competition' with content of all kinds; conversations with our family, a new series on Netflix, walking with the dog or our favourite influencer vlog.
This has two clear consequences for marketing and communication:
1. Too much does not help too much: The quantity of offers we can deal with does not automatically increase our commitment. The available time is non-linear to the offered content. The numerous forms of branded content are maybe creative, but at their core they lack meaningfulness. For instance, every day my father used to preach to me that I should turn off the lights when I leave the house. I understood the message - he was interested in saving energy - but it did not reach me. It had no meaning for me because I didn't have to pay, and besides, how expensive could electricity be? If you want someones commitment, you have to create meaningfulness and not repeat insignificance.
2. Meaningfulness first, awareness second: Awareness should be the result of a meaningful connection that needs to emerge between brands and us. Just being loud as a brand is not enough. There is no point in behaving like a child in kindergarten, shouting and screaming. On the contrary, screaming children lose sympathy and attention, because one day we simply fade out the cacophony. Brands act in the same proverbial kindergarten. Those who want people's attention must give a compelling reason for their attention, proving that dedicating time to them is worthwhile, that it is used wisely and not just wasted.
Thus the search for meaningful connections between brands and people becomes - or remains - the linchpin when brands want to find a way into the ever more closely timed lives of their target groups. When it comes to getting into people's wallets, brands have to ask themselves what measurable meaning they can provide in return. Whether functional, personal or collective, brands can find many ways to be a meaningful addition to people's lives and thus making it worth dedicating time to them.
Rarely is the search for this meaningful connection easy, sometimes it only leads to a partial success. But we should never be afraid to search for this connection.
So I hope I have established such a connection with you. If not, you probably will not read this sentence.
Mathias Staar is Head of Strategic Planning at Havas Dusseldorf