In a recession, time expands as budgets contract. With a strengthening economy, the pendulum swings the other direction, compressing time. Americans are finding a need to budget their time more effectively, forcing it to bifurcate into “task” and “leisure” categories. By comparison, Americans work more than any other industrial nation on Earth, which means that their personal “leisure” time is now at a premium.
If we treat our leisure time as a commodity, then the goal of working through our “task” time is to be as quick and efficient as possible. For brands to make their mark in 2015, they’ll need to not only understand how much time consumers are willing to give them, but to enhance that interaction by giving consumers the control they desire for the category of time that they’re working against.
Fitbit. Health Tracker on your iPhone/iWatch. Nike+ and its FuelBand accessories. There are a number of fitness and health trackers/apps/devices in the consumer marketplace, but what cause do they champion? As many Americans have a hard time associating “workouts” with “leisure” time, the true merit of this wearable tech isn’t to inspire personal fitness but rather to give us control over the time we spend choosing to work out.
Think of it this way: If you run a mile, no one knows about it. Your doctor can’t download your data, you can’t share your route with friends through social media and most importantly, you’re probably not going to keep track of it yourself. By helping consumers keep track of their time spent exercising, these devices are enabling consumers to get a better sense of how much time they’ll need to keep “healthy.” This in turn helps them plan their day for a five-mile run, or to hit the gym if they haven’t burned enough calories toward their daily goal. In the end, consumers will have a better sense of how much time they need, which ladders back to their underlying desire for more control over their leisure time.
Implications: Health apps are not about your brand. To maximize mobile efforts, brands need to focus on the value their apps and hardware deliver to the end goal for the consumer: seeing their data. Fancy charts and colorful lines aren’t enough, however. What comes next after the daily run? Can my doctor download the information for my checkup? Can I get a discount on gas from the total miles I’ve run? Find the connections between your brand, your apps/devices, and the consumer’s journey to create an ecosystem worth belonging to.
Expected Value: High – Giving consumers some semblance of control over their bodies is empowering, and brands that can deliver that sense of confidence stand to reap huge rewards not only in patient satisfaction, but also with potential word of mouth. Proceed with caution, however; applications and devices need to be intuitive, and if the user experience lacks focus, usage and conversion will be unlikely.
This year, a miracle cure will be discovered deep within the halls of the University of California, San Francisco hospital. Across the globe, a tray of food and a patient’s daily pill dosage will be delivered in a wing of a hospital at the University of Cambridge. What makes these events extraordinary? Not a single human will be involved in the procedure, and for good reason: these tasks are completed by autonomous robots, freeing up doctors and staff to provide more face-to-face time with patients. Indeed, when it comes to how much time is needed within a hospital to keep patients healthy, robots help maintain efficiency and allow a much-needed level of humanity in the health care model.
Implications: Brands that can successfully automate their process save time for both customers and employees alike. The challenge, however, is to resist filling those reserves with an increased workload in the name of profit. For a brand to truly optimize their automation, they’ll need to up the humanity that their services offer in an ongoing effort to save everyone more time.
Expected Value: High – Automation can translate into functional benefits as well as brand equity. Especially with health care in mind, any hospital/clinic that utilizes automation to deliver care in a personal, timely manner will earn not only the respect of patients, but also the credibility of being received as a friendly, modern option.
Mind the Mind
“Hurry up and slow down” is the mantra of an increasing number of Americans, guided by a renewed interest in meditation. Overstimulated and barraged on a daily basis by numbers, information and data, it becomes clear why meditation is on the rise in popularity as it helps consumers mentally organize and uncouple from the daily grind. From an increase in focus to decreases in anxiety and sleep deprivation, meditation is not only a timely solution for managing time, but also for an increased awareness of personal health care.
Implications: Brands seeking enhanced productivity and a happier workplace will already understand the benefits of meditation, but for brands still uncertain on its value, consider the longevity of employees who find a renewed sense of self and confidence in the work space.
Expected Value: Medium – Mindfulness is not a cure-all for workplace drama and inefficiency. While it may help some brands find their center, others may find it can’t mesh with their core character. The important thing is that brands are investing back into their employees’ sense of self. Doing so can bring confidence and vitality back into the culture, helping to foster innovation and improve character of the space.