So many brands and products emphasise speed, because millions of consumers need speed in their lives. The most obvious reason for this is that people love the thrill which speed provides. That is why many ultra-wealthy men lust for incredibly fast cars such as Bugatti, Ferrari and Porsche, which reach marvellous top speeds of over 400 kmph. That is why so many other brands of cars, which are somewhat less expensive, also talk about the speeds at which they can accelerate or cruise. That is also why Formula 1 Racing is such a large and prosperous brand today. And it is the surge of adrenalin that speed provides which causes so many perfectly law-abiding adults to suddenly turn irresponsible on roads ever so often, and drive well beyond the legally permissible speeds.

Primal urge, hectic lives

But thrill is not the only reason why people need speed. It appears that running and speed is a primal human urge, much like eating or mating. According to an anthropological study which was published in the science journal Nature a few years ago, humans began to jog around two million years ago, and the human body has many features which are designed specifically for running with reasonable speed and great endurance, and not just for slow walking. These include long spring-like tendons such as the Achilles Tendon, the longitudinal arch of the foot, and long legs, all of which deliver speed. Brands built on the foundation of running and athletics, such as Nike, have appealed both explicitly and subliminally to this primal human need for speed, and see how well they have done!

A third need for a different but related type of speed has arisen from the pace of our hectic modern lives. Our daily routines are today so much more crowded than a few decades ago. There is so much more we try to do every single day – multitasking at work and at home, rushing around from one place to another, trying to pursue our passions and interests alongside our livelihoods, commuting through traffic, planning exciting evenings with partners and friends – that we do not have the option of leading a slow life. Speed is essential, in everyday tasks such as shaving, bathing or cooking, if we are to successfully pack so many activities into a single day. No wonder then that microwave ovens, which help cook food in an instant, have become a commonplace feature in most well appointed homes.

Technology & the need for speed

A fourth and equally compelling need for speed has its roots in a relatively recent phenomenon – the rise of the internet and digital devices. Today, with easy access on their mobiles and laptop computers to powerful search engines such as Google, consumers can find information with incredible speed, virtually in an instant. Compare this to the pre-Internet era, where the same people would have had to trudge to a nearby library and search through musty pages of a printed encyclopedia. (How long is it since you have seen one of those?)

The consumer research psychologist Kit Yarrow, in her book Decoding the New Consumer Mind , says that such technology has made all of us less patient and less able to focus, hence we all want things faster. In fact, she says that today’s young people have adapted to extremely accessible information, and in the process, their brains have been trained for speed. Digitally enabled activities such as online shopping at the click of a mouse have added new dimensions to speed which were virtually unheard of a few years ago.

Brands and speed

The discussion makes it clear there are multiple powerful reasons why so many consumers desire speed. Hence, brands that cater to and fulfill this need are very likely to appeal to large numbers of consumers.

We are familiar with many successful brands which have, over the years, chosen speed as one of their key attributes. Here are a few well-known examples, which are drawn from diverse categories:

•Maggi, which has positioned itself as “2-minute noodles”, emphasising how fast it can be prepared

•Domino’s Pizza, which promises delivery in “30 minutes or free”

•New Horlicks, which says it “dissolves in two seconds”

•Amazon and its “Single day delivery option”, including thenew Amazon Prime Fresh

•Meru Cabs, which enable you to “book a cab in less than 60 seconds”

•Good Knight Xpress, “ 9 minutes mein macchar gayab ” (mosquitoes vanish in nine minutes)

•Fewikwick instant adhesive, which ensures “ Chutki mein chipkaye ” (affixes together in an instant)

•Lifebuoy Liquid Handwash, which “protects the user by removing 99.9 per cent germs within 10 seconds”

•Eno Fruit Salt, “gets to work in 6 seconds”

Notice how the speed promised by these brands varies from days to minutes to precise seconds, thus catering at every level to consumers’ impatience and desire for speedy action.

The speed opportunity

These examples highlight the speed opportunity ahead of marketers – because as human beings increasingly need speed, virtually every category can leverage this attribute. For instance, could there be a brand or sub-brand of toothpaste which promises you that it will clean your mouth within one minute? That could save precious time early morning on a weekday.

Similarly, can airlines promise flyers that the entire check-in process at the airport would be completed in a maximum of five minutes, if you are a business passenger? For busy, travelling executives, that promise would constitute an attractive benefit. Perhaps retailers can build a proposition around how speedily the shopping process or billing process in their stores can be completed. No one really wants to wait in a queue at the billing counter, and this time lag is often a source of intense irritation for most shoppers. The car that promises to park itself within 15 seconds, in all types of parking slots, is likely to be a clear winner. A ready-to-eat packaged meal that can be digested speedily in a specified maximum period of time, say two hours, would be equally attractive. A brand of beer that assures you heady intoxication within 60 seconds would be an interesting proposition, as would be a newspaper that you can read end-to-end within ten minutes. And we await with bated breath the arrival of a super-express online retailer who promises to deliver any order to your doorstep within three hours.

While some of these examples may be more distant than others, there is no doubt that many more categories of products are soon likely to have brands which are “speed champions”. Because where there is a clear consumer need, there will always be marketers wanting to move in – with speed.

The author acknowledges valuable inputs from Niranjan Sane, Tata Sons, in the writing of this article. Harish Bhat is author of Tata Log: Eight Modern Stories from a Timeless Institution. These are his personal views. >bhatharish@hotmail.com

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