Issued by: Blast Brand Catalysts, By: Chris Midgley

Chris Midgley, Strategist with Blast Brand Catalysts, on what brands have to do to connect emotionally in the never ending busyness

Recent studies globally on human stress levels and productivity paint a particularly grim picture for those in the working world. Longer days, less time spent on leave as well as retirement at an older age than ever recorded before. Add to this the increasing economic volatility, job instability as well as rapid technology changes, making it increasingly difficult to simply keep pace.

Technology market research firm The Radicati Group Inc. found globally that business e-mail users received an average of 121 work-related e-mails per day. This number is up 10% year-on-year and is projected to keep increasing. Added to this, a mere 8% of the respondents (employed on a full-time basis) worked less than 40 hours per week in a typical week. 47 hours per week was seen as the average time spent working at the office in a typical week for white-collar employees.

A recent discussion on this matter, with a friend who is a clinical psychologist is summarised in these keys points:

  • Society places too much unnatural time pressures on itself. These have led to, and will continue to manifest, in a variety of psychological, physiological and social issues that directly impact on our lives in a negative way.
  • The constant state of busy-ness and continual rushed state is extremely detrimental and bluntly put, all people have a breaking point which we seem to be reaching. People today are operating on cyber time with a feeling that they need to be “always on” and constantly reachable (responding to work related e-mails out of work hours as they now come to our mobile phones is one such example). The trouble with this is it creates a feeling within certain people that they simply may not allow themselves to take a break.
  • The final issue that was raised was the continued struggle with diminished success that people believe they are facing, manifesting in a feeling of failure.

These points were all reinforced in a New York Times article by Tim Kreider titled “The ‘busy’ trap” which states that people are increasingly placing undue pressures on themselves as a self serving attempt to appear busy which they believe portrays success and fulfillment.

Busy-ness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

Society’s obsession with being continually busy is a reflection of the old adage “time is money”. With this firmly entrenched, many people live life as a race, resorting to multi-tasking as a means of trying to complete more effectively. The trouble with multi-tasking is that one is never truly present or focused on a single activity. In addition to the multi-tasking, there has been an increase in the search for methods to improve efficiency and productivity. Whilst many of these methods work, society then uses the saved time to add more tasks to the ever growing to-do list, rather than affording ourselves some downtime. This poses a major challenge for business and brands to then break into this space of constant, never ending busy-ness.

There are however a number of brands that have managed to break through the clutter of busy-ness. What is interesting to note is that these brands have not acted at breakneck pace or developed a means of improving efficiency and productivity. What they have done is the complete opposite. They have created moments that allow people to pause and simply take a moment for themselves (without being made to feel guilty about it). Brands that are able to do this immediately forge an emotional connection with their audience in a calmer space, removed from the day-to-day pressures, where they have undivided attention.

Nestlé and Kit Kat’s break-time campaign is a perfect example of this. As a re-iteration, and extension of the positioning “Have a break, have a Kit-Kat” benches were created and placed in areas that allowed people to stop what they were doing, sit down, relax, even socialize and simply pause and take a break. McDonald’s McCafe have a campaign running which highlights all the busy-ness that society is facing. They have then developed moments where the “just pause” approach is used to create “a little big moment” in your day with a breakfast from McDonald’s McCafe. KFC went so far as to create a menu item focused entirely on a “just pause” moment with a “Mom’s night off” meal. The benefits of campaigns like these are that they are focused on real problems people are facing – no time for themselves, and they allow the brand to be a solution to that need state.

Whilst there are a number of product categories that can and do utilise this “just pause” approach and strategy (bath related products, teas, coffee even crisps), the way in which these are executed is key. Rather than focus on the on-the-go type campaigns, the key is to focus on creating personally “owned” moments in customers’ days which are more meaningful and personally enhancing, rather than simply being an interruption.