Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Time is getting thinner

I’m sitting at my desk, it’s any and every day of my life and as I lift my head and my gaze away from my computer I am bombarded with thoughts and observations that beg deeper investigation, analysis and hopefully understanding. My earphones are in my ears while my ipod charges off of my computer (can you believe my computer doesn’t recognize the word ipod, must be the only thing in the civilized world that doesn’t). My phone is within reach, locked but loaded. Dave Matthews and his band are keeping me entertained by singing their little hearts out through my ice white earphones. Subconsciously, a piece of my mind wonders off to be with the music while the other little pieces scatter over the multitude of things going on within the tiny little microcosm that is my desk, my office world.

One such thing is the unsolicited branded SMS I just got from FTV telling my I should join them, AMG, MUMM and Hugo Boss to celebrate their birthday. Delete. (How the hell did they even find my number? And more importantly how do I get them to lose it!) Funnily enough me reading the SMS was interrupted by a phone call from a delightful old lady from PAM GOLDING asking if I was interested in a house I saw on Sunday. No. (I told them in no uncertain terms on Sunday that I had no interest, I can’t for the life of me think what they think has happened that would have made me change my mind?) So in two minutes, as many brands have interrupted my already busy three minutes. I am changing songs to Alanis Morissette “uninvited” which seems a little more appropriate for right now. The words play; “And you, you’re not alone, you’re uninvited… like any uncharted territory I must be greatly intriguing… but this is not allowed, your uninvited… unfortunately”. But enough of that, that’s another whole topic by itself and I refuse to let it monster my initial topic.

The thought that got the mental ball rolling came while I was downloading audio books from my computer onto my new nano (the only reason I need to classify it as “new” is because the very clever people at apple MADE me buy it, even though I already have one but unfortunately my “old one” wasn’t compatible with the NIKE plus running kit, which I obviously needed, not wanted, needed! I’m a sucker I know, the product of my own creation. So downloading audio books didn’t seem too absurd until I gave it a little more time in my head. First of all they are all books which I downloaded off of a site which takes $7 off my credit card every month and gives my a book in return. Ok that’s not too weird, although 5 years ago I might have had another opinion. Secondly they are all business books, which isn’t that strange either but what it has done is instantaneously transformed the leisurely art of reading into something clinical and overtly functional. Which is ok with me, we all have to stretch our minds in different directions every now and then, especially as the world of business is a virtual tsunami of information that we somehow have to keep up with. Fair enough. What did make me stop and think was the fact that my ipod gave me the option of listening to the books “faster” apparently it doesn’t effect the narration but allows you to listen to the contents quicker if you want to.

So basically I didn’t have time to go into a bookshop and browse manually for what might have interested me. Nor do I have time to take time to sit and “read” the book. Instead I am going to listen to the book at 6am (the only time I have in my day to get to gym) while I am running | cycling | lifting weights, at a “faster” audio rate as I only have an hour at gym each day and I need to get through 4 books. All of this before I have even had my cereal and glass of orange juice and started my day.

The most incredible part of all of this was that until I sat back, looked out of the window, took a deep breath and thought about it, it all seemed perfectly normal. And maybe it is, but normal and scary are no longer mutually exclusive. In fact in today’s society they are more closely related then ever before.

Fortunately that’s not all that what was going on in my little space and mind (I would have hated to have been wasting time, whatever next!). My shiny little computer was concurrently busy with a whole world of stuff, stuff that I was engrossed in just before I gazed briefly out of the window to ponder a while. There are two clever little buttons on the sides of my mouse that allow me to see everything I have open on the screen at once so that I can hop between tasks to avoid getting stale or bored. It just so happens that I had open on my desktop, simultaneously; 1 advertising web site, 2 marketing | trend blogs, my mail box, itunes, a PowerPoint presentation, a book review, a company profile, a magazine site, A business week article, face book, and a meeting notification telling me I have 14 minutes until my next engagement (as well as a magazine sitting open next to me on my desk which prompted me to go to a website to try and win a Breitling – who wouldn’t?). That’s 12 things, all of which attracted a little of my attention, concentration and interest.

Ok ok so what’s the point, is this all pointing in a direction or is it mere observation? Someone very clever once told me that observation leads to insight, and insight leads to understanding and knowledge, so there must be something in all of this stuff. As the song switches it all becomes a little crisper and fractionally clearer. It’s the DOORS “Riders on the storm” and the first couples of lines strike a chord; “into this house were born… into this world we’re thrown… riders on the storm”. Life has not only become faster and more tumultuous, it has become tighter too. Innovation and progress constantly and persistently steam ahead, dragging us along while we fumble around try and take it all in, just when we think we are on top of it, it pulls ahead.
Subconsciously we are keeping up but I found that it’s only when we take a step back from our lives can we see the rate of change, and how we live a new life every day. Consumption has been compacted (cnsmptn) in every sense of the word and on every human level.

Thus our challenge as brand people is multiplying by the minute. Not only do we need to try and keep our heads ahead of the curve; old news is useless to everyone. We have to get our heads around the barrage of competitor products, messages and media all vying relentlessly for a rare and treasured spot on our consumers’ precious radar as well. And as if that’s not enough, we are all dead in the water if we fail to value the significance of the rapidly fragmenting consumer mind, how it divvies up its precious attention, digests that which resonates and spits out everything else.

As our time with our multifaceted and almighty consumer gets shorter, so it needs to get sweeter. It’s a given that the tables have turned, our moment and environment needs to be chosen with the precision of a surgeon, and on their terms (Nobody likes the guy who rocks up uninvited) Are we up for the challenge | s, are we being clever enough to take that cmpcted moment and stretch it into a memory?