The When is the new What

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Illustration by:

I'll start from the end. Whether it's a business brand or a personal brand, the question that matters is no longer ‘What can you do for your customers’, but ‘When can you do it?’

This is a question that forces us to think differently when offering others our products or services - thanks to social networks and media, that means everything that spreads before our eyes, including ourselves. But it is also the question that reflects the change of context caused by the digital revolution more precisely.

In fact, that is the question on which the digital economy is based and, more crucially, the way in which the next generations will consume information and knowledge. Knowledge in the B.G. (Before Google) era was a treasure that we accumulated for when we would need it. Do you remember? Knowledge did not take up any space, even when all was printed on paper and not on PDF. The digital revolution, like previous ones, has basically compressed space and, consequently, it has accelerated time. There is room for knowledge, of course, but not time, so it can be stored anywhere but in our heads. Send it to the cloud, the fog or limbo. There we may accommodate all that non-instant knowledge from the list of the English monarchs or the periodic table to the street map of Calcutta. We will not memorise it and forget it immediately after as we have been doing since the first Roman schools, not anymore. We will just think about it at that specific point of time and not a second before that.

We all understand that it is a relief not to have to store that type of information (so useless, right?) in mind, but new uses also generate new brain mechanisms. Therefore, we are progressively transferring this way of consuming info to more personal aspects of our lives. No one is struggling anymore to remember a phone number, nor the parking lot where we have left the car, nor the recipe of a meal, nor the birthday of friends, even the closest. We do not have time for that. We will look for it when we need it or, at best, there will be an application that will send us a notification at the right time.


So when a company or a professional asks me to help them define their communication strategy, I think that to tell what they do is no longer as important as to tell when they do; that is, at what point in the life of people (users, consumers, public ...) are they going to be useful or relevant. It is no longer significant that you say that you make food to go, do coaching, food QA, exhibitions, designing, movie scripts, detox motivation or whatever you may think that you, your company and another hundred million people do in this globalised world (ie, compressed and accelerated). Just tell me that you'll be there, at the moment I need it and maybe this way I'll include you on my “just-in-case” toolbox.


Never before has the sense of timing been more urgent. Unless what you know to do is absolutely unique, if you are not able to find the ideal time in the life of your users / consumers to appear, you are doomed to oblivion. And I am talking both about physical time and emotional time. The first is easy to understand and practise, even in minor aspects of our lives, such as choosing the best weekday to publish on Facebook, for example, but it is something that robots will decide for us very soon (if not already). The emotional moment is a much more interesting and fruitful territory. It’s the everlasting promise of lovers. And friends, of course: I’ll be there for you.

As with people, there is a divide between native digital messages and the migrated ones. The latter still talk more about what than when: What am I? What do I do? What do I do better than others? In this world where competition has multiplied exponentially, where personal and company brands meet on the same battleground, the what, what, what, is increasingly useless and irrelevant. On the other side of the spectrum, messages that are digital from the very conception of the product will appeal us like a Cheshire cat, only when it counts.

After the digital revolution we open small windows of opportunity for anyone who knows how to sneak through them. Knowing what you do does not matter if the window is closed. It is an opportunity to think in a way not only different but more generous; to think about the vital moment of others rather than what one’s own wishes. Somehow, everything that was successful in the past had that sense of rhythm, tempo, timing. Today, everything has accelerated so much that we have to work a little harder to synchronise with the world around us.

Meanwhile, we are experiencing the usual confusion of a period of transition between two paradigms. Give immediacy to a society still formed under the need for accumulation of goods and you will be facing a new era similar to chimpanzees discovering fire. The first impulse is to burn everything around you, and there you have forests burnt and the invention of smoked ham. Those are the ups and downs of the times of change. We all are clients of the new market of impatience. The same technology that prevents us from making mistakes when looking for an unknown destination is the one we’d like to apply even to search for the love of our lives.

Deep inside us we are made of time, and that is our great paradox, that the ephemeral becomes our essence. Well, now the time has come for Instabrands.

Alain Uceda

Communication Strategist and Presentation Specialist

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