In the St. Nick of Time

David Ward this week takes the time to point out that in marketing, just as in many aspects of life, timing is everything.

A disturbing thing happened to me about 2 weeks ago. But before I tell you what that was I wanted to share with you something I read in an edition of New Scientist from the 24th October. The article looked at how the brain perceives time. Have you ever noticed how sometimes particular events in our lives appear to happen at differing speeds? If we are having a bad day where things are going poorly, the day can seem to last an eternity. On a good day it can appear to speed along and, before you know it, the day is over.

In one experiment carried out by David Eagleman at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, a man was dangled off an eight-story-high tower and dropped. After a drop of several seconds, he landed unharmed into a safety net below. Eagleman wanted to know whether during the drop or extreme events the brain’s clock accelerates, making what’s happening around us appear to happen much more slowly. Other than this experiment, the article also discussed how we perceive what happens around us as series of frames rather than a continuous stream and we collect information through discrete snapshots.

“Time,” as Eagleman puts it “is weirder than we think it is.”

I said at the start of this Thursday Night Insight that something disturbing happened to me about 2 weeks ago. No amount of peculiar perceptions or warping of time could account for it. I am sure I experienced what I did and I refuse to be told otherwise. And what was it that I experienced, I hear you ask? At the end of October, in a coffee shop in Bramhall, I heard the unmistakable sounds of Christmas music coming from the speakers. Yes, that’s right. Christmas music. Even before the celebrations of Bonfire Night were upon us, there it was, Christmas.

Now this isn’t a tale of Bah Humbug on my part. I happen to not mind Christmas one little bit. It has its merits. With presents, time off work, time spent with the family, and a special time religiously for some, what’s not to like? Christmas, however, seems to be rammed down our throats earlier and earlier each year. Unlike the Americans, we Brits don’t have a barrier such as Thanksgiving to provide us with a shield to the festive season starting too soon. Now, 2 weeks after the first disturbing signs of Christmas, the commercials on TV are increasingly becoming Christmas themed. By the time the big day comes around it’s a wonder we’re not all sick of hearing about it. I don’t know, maybe we are!

My message this week is twofold. Firstly, timing in marketing is an important thing. Targeting the right people at the right time with the right message about your brand and your offering is a key element. Too soon before a new product is launched, for example, and people forget. Too late and there’s not enough time to get your message across. Drag it on for too long and its effects can be negative. Secondly, let’s start the run in to Christmas later than October. I for one would love to hear nothing of Christmas until mid November. Let’s try not to warp time by attempting to stretch what is one day of the year into 8 weeks.

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