Originally published in Campaign UK.
It happens in waves. A need is seen, then a need is met. In and around the 1990s, it was the prevalence of dismal service design. So along came First Direct, Pret, Orange and easyJet. New paradigms were introduced and sluggish categories were disrupted.
In and around the noughties, it was the rise of hyper-connectivity. So along came Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram. A new world of media was created, where each one of us could be a publisher and broadcaster. Media went social.
We are at the crest of another wave now. This time serving the need of immediacy. The wave had begun well before the pandemic, but its force and scale has been intensified by the expectations of a public that, through numerous lockdowns, has learnt to live more remotely. And more instantly. We want it here. And we want it now.
Takeaway delivery services are one of the primary beneficiaries of this "here and now" accelerant. And not just Domino's or the aggregators, such as Deliveroo, Just Eat, UberEats et al.
There is also a new wave of ultra-fast grocery delivery brands advancing across London and other major cities. Brands such as Getir, Jiffy, Weezy, Gorillas, Dija, Fancy and Zapp. Their delivery guarantee times, which vary from 10 to 15 minutes, have prompted George Nott in The Grocer to conclude that "grocery delivery is entering warp speed".
If home is the epicentre of "here and now" culture, its impact is to be felt much more widely and much more generally. Whole new categories are being built around the proposition of value for time.
Take the formerly laborious process of buying or selling a car. Now you can do this from the comfort of your armchair (or park bench) via a growing number of digital marketplaces including Cinch, Cazoo, WeBuyAnycar and Motorway. A formerly laborious, supply-driven category has been simplified and disrupted in favour of the consumer.
And that's really the point. Any brand that isn't simplifying on behalf of the customer is essentially waiting for a disruptor to do so instead, via the familiar act of disintermediation.
Any brand that relies on the insulating effects of legacy and inertia will discover that such protection, at best, only delays an inevitable outcome. An outcome that dictates, in truly competitive markets at least, that demand will always beat supply. Sometimes gradually, sometimes abruptly, supply-led strategies will fall prey to more agile, demand-led thinking.
This is why disruptors follow demand so assiduously. It's their lifeblood. With no legacy, they can write the rules from scratch. And right at the moment it is "here and now" culture that is setting the demand agenda.
Not every brand can be as fast as Getir. Not every brand can home deliver like Domino's. But every brand can get a bit faster, a bit closer. Every brand can do more to stay in touch with the demand curve, to match its service more closely to the evolving experience of customers.
This is one of the reasons why experience maps can be such a valuable marketing tool. The danger with customer journey analysis is that it can leave you within the supply chain.
For instance, if you're an on-trade drinks brand, it's likely that your customer journey analysis will focus on pubs, clubs and bars. In contrast, an experience map might tell you that drinking occasions have become more spontaneous and more venue agnostic. It might therefore highlight a whole new area of growth, such as the hard seltzer category. It might even help you redefine what on-trade means – by making it much more here, and much more now. As opposed to there and then.
Like all waves of change, the effects of immediacy culture will ripple and eddy through consumer markets in a multitude of ways. One of the things I've noticed most since I started writing this article is the chronological fixation of the TV ad break.
In just two ad breaks either side of half time on Saturday I was promised that I could boost my credit score instantly, have my groceries delivered in "as little as" 20 minutes, get a loan in 90 seconds, cut through seven days of stubble, get 72-hour anti-sweat protection, receive instant ink, start-up my laptop faster than the re-creation of a classic gig... I almost needed a stopwatch to keep up.
Value for time has always been a key driver of brand preference. In many markets it is perhaps now the defining metric. The pandemic has forced us to reappraise how we use our time and, in the process, has helped us recognise that it is our most precious asset. The customer of today, let alone tomorrow, will be unforgiving towards brands that waste it.