What brands should know about instant gratification

Many of us have grown up saving the lovely things in our lives for 'best', but in the era of instant gratification, brands need to take a different approach, writes Nicola Kemp.

I recently had to sort out, wrap and box up everything my husband and I own. It was a cathartic, if slightly alarming, experience. There, lurking in the back of every cupboard, lay my most treasured possessions, such as china left to me by my beautiful grandmother, expensive gifts and vintage fashions. All had been left untouched, saved for some, as yet undefined, moment, known only as 'best'.

I'm not the only one who adheres to this somewhat Victorian notion of 'saving things for best'. A fashion editor friend of mine never wore her most treasured possession as a child (a pair of bright red pixie boots) such was her mother's fear they would be ruined in the rain. The boots instead lived by her bed, never making it out of the house.

However, for members of Generation Y, who live daily in fear of joblessness, this notion of saving, in relation to experience, products or rewards, has lost its saliency. Delayed gratification, once one of the key pillars of luxury marketing, has, in many ways, lost its attraction.

Here is the first generation of consumers to have grown up without the almost ingrained belief that the curve of their life will automatically follow an upward trajectory. The certainty that they will succeed if they work hard has been irrevocably shaken by the downturn.

This shift has significant implications for brands, faced as they are with an increasingly demanding swathe of shoppers expecting instant gratification. Karl Lagerfeld, creative director of Chanel, says that consumers should buy luxury goods only if they can afford to wear them like everyday items. Back on Earth, while this is clearly not affordable for many cash-strapped consumers, the sentiment still rings true.

Here is a generation of consumers that aren't prepared to wait, and they have a point.

THE UPSHOT

- What brands should know about instant gratification

1. Patience is no longer a virtue

Now, more than ever, marketers must recognise the need to provide their products and services on consumers' terms.

2. Empathy is everything

Smart brands not only recognise that Gen Y is facing up to significant challenges, but are doing something about it. Those such as the London Evening Standard, which has blazed a trail with its phenomenal 'dispossessed' campaign, prove the worth of investing in actively improving consumers' lives.

3. Investment above all

With an increasing number of young consumers anxious about the future, proving you are on their side is vital. It is no longer enough to say you understand; you have to demonstrate it through every facet of your business.

4. Meet rising expectations

It's time to quit moaning that your employees or consumers have unrealistic expectations; it is vital to keep up with the pace of change. Paul Keenan, chief executive of Bauer Media, recently said: 'We, as employers, have as much to learn from young people as young people have to learn from us.'

Nicola Kemp is Marketing's head of features. Follow her on Twitter: @nickykc

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