Take Paul McCruddon, a London-based blogger and digital strategist at Imagination Digital who grew weary of brands believing that his time was less valuable than their own and decided to take matters into his own hands.
Between 15 June and 31 July, McCruddon used online life-data-tracker Daytum to record how much time he spent waiting for service in restaurants, shops, public transport, etc. Having calculated that his time was worth £102 per hour, he invoiced 50 consumer brands a total of £6,250 for his time they had wasted, generously offering them a 75 percent discount on his shelf price.
On the homepage of his site, he writes:
What riles me is that all this time ultimately helps the company’s bottom line and market share – and I get nothing back for my time as a result. The fact that I’m in Pret a Manger and not EAT on any particular day results in the former having my attention – and wallet – dedicated to their brand, as opposed to their competitor’s. What’s more, other people who are not yet customers at that moment in time with the brand that I’m giving my time to are more likely to want to interact with a company that has an ABC1 male (if that’s what I’m called these days) interacting with them, and so give that brand their attention too. And yet this time and attention is not reflected in the cost of these companies’ products and services. Prices instead are dictated by raw costs, overheads and item mark-up, with a calculation made as to the number of customers, covers, viewers or users who will support that brand over a period of time. At no point in this calculation is any credit given to consumers for spending their time with a brand – and I believe it should.
So far, four of the companies McCruddon invoiced have actually paid – a shrewd marketing move on their behalf. Pret a Manger even took it one step further, paying the invoice, plus the cost of his lunches during the period (£22), interest on the amount owed and £1 to cover his walk to the post box to mail the invoice. Other brands to come to the party so far are EAT, Little Chef and Squat + Gobble.
In contrast, the managing director of Cranberry shot an invoice back to McCruddon to cover the time spent reading his letter and blog. Since then, many people have sent McCruddon counter-invoices for the time they have spent reading his blog and Twitter site. (McCruddon has featured his favourites online.)
All of this is most certainly a publicity stunt – McCruddon has already acquired a degree of fame from it – but it says far more profound things about the state of play between brands and consumers.
In the age of social media, brands need to do everything they can to meet their customers half way, or at least be publicly perceived as avid listeners. If they fail (or should that be #FAIL), their customers can rise up in a matter of minutes and raze to the ground reputations that have taken decades to build.
And this demonstration of empowered consumer impatience is brought to you from England, the birthplace of the queue.