American writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) once said, “The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.” At the time I have no doubt he was right, but if only he could have experienced the world now!

chart that’s been doing the rounds on Twitter illustrates just how fast our world is moving, comparing the time to reach 50 million users between different types of mediums. In a nutshell:

  • 38 years for radio
  • 13 years for television
  • 4 years for internet
  • 3.5 years for Facebook
  • 9 months for Twitter
  •  6 months for Instagram
  • 35 days for Angry Birds

‘Things’ are reaching people faster than they ever have. The mobile phone is largely responsible, given that many people and their mobile phones tend to be joined at the hip. The world is literally an arms-length away.

According to the Pew Research Center, 90% of American adults own a cell phone, and 64% own a smartphone. Being connected through these handy little devices is somewhat of an understatement: 67% of cellphone owners check their phone for messages and other notifications even when they haven’t noticed it ringing or vibrating, and 44% of cellphone owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they’re afraid to miss something during the night.

That something might be the newest thing they just have to get their hands on, or a piece of breaking news. It means that for new things, people snap them up faster than they ever have. Like Adele’s new album, which broke records when it was released on 20 November, selling 2.433 million copies in the first four days. Or the Kylie Jenner lip kit, which sold out in under a minute.

People expect speed, too, and will respond to it. Order a car on Uber and the app will tell you how far away your driver is, providing reassurance that you won’t have to wait too long. And then you have shoppers preparing for the frenzy that is Black Friday and now, Cyber Monday, snapping up bargains from retailers pre-Christmas and setting internet retail records. These one-day-only sales tap into our desire for speed.

Get it before it’s gone. Or to echo Hubbard’s point, before someone else does.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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