As I write this, I am undistracted by the clock at the bottom-right of my screen. Why? I’m not racing toward close-of-play deadlines or mentally fried from an unrelenting day at my desk.
Instead, I am operating in the “my time”—a COVID-born phenomenon that has enabled many of us to work to our natural biorhythms throughout 24-hour cycles, at intervals when we are at our most productive, creative, and receptive.
No longer are we at the mercy of the agrarian clock, which, for centuries, dictated the rituals and rigmaroles of the 9-5. The clock is different now. Yes, the minutes, hours, and days still tick by—but, crucially, we are not letting them drift by. The pandemic has taught us the simple art of savoring time.
That means we can pick up a book and keep reading, enjoy quality moments with our families, and abandon our laptops (without guilt) for a recharging stroll, swim, soak, or Spotify playlist.
Work, exercise, socializing, meals, primetime TV, and to-do lists have all been reset to our individual clocks. Consequently, we are finding joy in the moments, not frantically tracking the minutes—all while better fulfilling the expectations of our employers. Those working remotely for reasonable companies and managers now have the flexibility to devote ourselves to work when we are most productive (day or night) and to personal pursuits that revitalize us when we’re not. Which raises the question: Why did it take a pandemic for us to figure this out?
Living in the moments
As marketers, we used to promote luxury products such as watches. Now, we need to market the luxury of time itself—quality time with loved ones, or alone. In dual-career households with children, remote work has afforded parents with flexible employers the luxury of finding a schedule and approach best suited to balancing work, play, the children’s education, household chores, and personal care. Rigid boundaries in place before the pandemic—barriers that kept many parents out of the home for 10 or more hours a day—have collapsed. And even as more of us return to some semblance of “normal,” we are opting out of those aspects of the traditional approach to work that our salaries no longer seem to justify.
Having experienced this newfound work-life dexterity, we are trying on new buying habits and behaviors—as reflected by surging sales of RVs, camping equipment, bikes, and books (printed, e-books, and audiobooks). Consumers are seizing moments, basking in the freedom of flexibility, and determined not to return to counterproductive work-life structures of the “before times.”
The “great pause” of the pandemic also whetted our collective appetite for information, learning, and longer-form content. Where once the constraints of time blocked many avenues of curiosity, now we are making time for voyages of discovery.
Online learning is booming. (I can attest to this trend since I’m now halfway through an online master’s program.) Prior to the pandemic, some may have dipped their toes into extracurricular indulgences such as advanced education or upskilling, but how many found the time to complete the course? Mostly, it was a matter of wake up, work all day, back for dinner, a glass of red, go to bed, and repeat. Now that time is on our side, rather than a malevolent force intent on running us ragged, people are lining up to upskill their way to better futures. The e-learning market is expected to grow 110 percent by 2026.
But edutainment isn’t exclusively about job skills. I used to rush through online grocery shopping. Now that I’m on a 24-hour clock, shopping is part of the flow, not an imposition or interruption. And so I find myself browsing for interesting products to try and, thanks to apps like Honey and Rakuten, have turned discounting into an art form. I’m not alone in this.
Online shoppers are drawing out transactions—embarking on deep-dive information gathering before committing to “buy now.” Brands are catching on, recognizing that more customers are leisurely educating themselves before parting with their cash rather than cramming purchases into narrow windows.
Luxury shoe brand Manolo Blahnik recognized that its customers were missing the experiences that were a part of in-store shopping prior to the pandemic. And so they eschewed “curbside collection” in favor of Manolos at Home, an in-home concierge service for customers in London. An adviser replicates the boutique experience by bringing an array of shoes for the customer to try on. Those who prefer a more socially distant approach can arrange for a virtual consultation instead.
As Manolo’s Chief Marketing Officer Carla Filmer puts it, “Buying a luxury product is always seen as an investment of time prior and during and post-purchase. In this climate, customers are now much more aware of the importance of ‘their time’ and how they spend it. This is crucial, and we have recognized it and adapted to it.”
This June, the company’s store launch on New York’s Madison Avenue was a virtual affair for some. A fortunate few were invited to viewing parties at which they were treated to a hamper of Italian favorites from Carbone while being entertained by cabaret performances.
From “too much” to “just enough”
While conducting research for a book I’m writing, I recalled from my past work with Volvo (one of the great Swedish exports) the Swedish and Norwegian term Lagom—meaning “just the right amount.”
Lagom encourages us to savor a moment—such as that first cup of coffee in the morning or slipping between freshly ironed bed linens. In an era that has introduced us to the simple pleasure of owning time, many of us have embraced lagom living without even being conscious of it.
Of course, the world post-pandemic is difficult to predict. Will we revert to our old agrarian ways—hurrying the kids out of the house, impatiently shopping for essentials, ruing the lack of me-time, frazzled from the 9-5, drowning ourselves in oversized coffees? I doubt it. As I see it, the potency of “my time”—owned time—will prove too formidable a force for pre-pandemic norms to reckon with.
If this prediction comes true, we can expect a significant shift in luxury marketing—leading to a future that revolves less around time-telling accessories for the professional on the move and more around a yearning for learning and savored moments.
Today, at the very least, marketers should be focusing on providing consumers with products and services that help them make the most of their time—emphasizing the “just enough” over the “too much.” After all, in marketing, there is no time like the present—and, in 2021, no present more valuable than time.