Instant Gratification

Without exaggerating, we can say that 2001 was a year of catastrophe. One reflection of the collective insecurity we developed because of 2001’s tragedies has been the uncertainty grown around some of the world’s most respected and established icons — structures, personalities, companies, and brands. Close to 1 million people lost their jobs, millions lost their savings, companies folded, and the airline industry took a severe battering as a result of the ghastly events of September 11 and the attack’s ongoing after-effects.

What’s the result? My belief is that kids and teens are likely to change their behavior dramatically. Having witnessed startlingly sudden loss of life on a massive scale, this generation will start to question the point of planning, anticipating, and developing long-term goals. They’ll question the virtue of patience and simply want instant gratification.

Instant gratification has been a feature of our everyday lives for a long time, anyhow. Just think about it. You play a game and instantly experience the gratification of your win. You watch a movie and in 90 minutes have found gratification in the story’s denouement. You chat and enjoy the gratification of instant feedback. You no longer have the patience for a snail-mail reply time of four weeks; you expect an email response within 24 hours.

So the instant gratification mindset has been on the way for years; 2001 just hurried along consumer adoption. You no longer save up millions of points on your airline frequent flyer account — you use them instantly. You no longer hang on to that gift certificate — you redeem it right away. We’ve arrived at a point in consumer evolution that requires brand builders to work with the instant-gratification generation. Yes, brands are still here, and, yes, they should maintain and communicate their solid values. But they now need to reward their customers immediately.

Forget about long-winded loyalty programs, discount campaigns, and points systems. Give your customers their rewards now, and keep your promises. The better your brand is at keeping its promises, the better chance it has of being trusted. If your brand is one of the many millions running reward programs, dismantle it. Allow consumers to use their points instantly on smaller rewards. If you’re a retailer, consider changing the twice-yearly sale cycle. Just two sales periods might be insufficient to gratify your customers. They may no longer have the patience to wait for those usual sale times. Offer your customers a small selection of year-round sale items. If you’re looking after fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs), forget about drawn-out competitions. Let your customers know if they’ve won straight away.

The past year’s events have placed more pressure on marketing’s accelerator. Consumer patience has been spent, so you’d better tune your brand’s engine to 2002’s conditions. Your competitors are likely to travel faster than ever before, just to catch up with the instant-gratification generation.

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