Monday, May 11, 2009

The human mirror

The economy may be slowing down, but everything else is speeding up. Margins collapse like a deck of cards, profits plunge (Fortune 500 companies earned 85% less than they did last year), and shoppers turn their backs in a flash. John Bargh from Yale reckons that we evaluate everything as good or bad in 0.25 seconds. That’s fast!

When we started exploring Lovemarks, we looked closely at some work done by Susan Fournier of Boston University. It was compelling. She had analyzed the kinds of relationships people have with brands in terms of relationships they have with other people. Is your relationship that of best friend or family, casual or childhood friend, arranged or romantic marriage? There were 14 kinds of relationships to consider.

As an aside, we developed a parallel idea in sisomo: the Future on Screen by looking at the relationships people have with different kinds of screens. From mobile phones to billboards to that totem digital screen dominating the living room. We even gave the different screens favorite songs. The totem screen? "Look at me" by Buddy Holly.

When you’re dealing with people, using human relationships as both model and inspiration makes compelling sense – and all the more compelling right now when speed is added to the equation. Everything is moving so fast it can be hard to keep track, so using our everyday relationships as a mirror can really help.

Even when you know that people make decisions fast, sometimes how fast is a real surprise. A recent study clocked the time men take to fall in love at 8.2 seconds. Well, that was the headline anyway. In a rather weird test, Dutch and Canadian researchers studied how 115 students reacted when they mixed with good-looking actors and actresses. And yes, the better looking the person, the better the results were – for the men anyway. Men only took about four seconds to decide whether or not they were interested in one of the women, and after 8.2 seconds: game, set, match. Women were not influenced by looks in the same way and gave all prospects almost equal contemplation. Research on speed dating comes up with similar results. It also parallels the time needed for a purchase decision to be made in store: three seconds.