CMO, marketing, group of people


Marketing in a world of spontaneity

Several years ago, my wife and I took a road trip from our home outside Chicago to Bentonville, Arkansas. Contrary to what you may think when you hear the name, Bentonville, our destination was Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art—a world-class museum founded by Alice Walton that features a permanent collection spanning five centuries of American masterworks.1

Our preparations for the road trip were minimal. Equipped with GPS, smartphone, and Internet access, we had all that we needed to safely make our way to Bentonville and back and easily find places to eat, sleep, and recreate. Our road trip required far less planning than might have been required in the past and involved far more spontaneity.

What struck me was the profound contrast between what was and what is. As a consumer, the contrast excites me. As a marketer, it causes me to wonder if I’m ready to compete in a world in which spontaneity represents an increasingly common decision-making and consumption pattern.

Spontaneity-fueled decision-making and consumption surround us: Car services summoned through smartphones; Spare bedrooms transformed into lodgings for an evening; and pop-up stores that appear and disappear in a matter of days.

In a recent research paper titled "The future of mobility," my colleagues speculate about the possibility of consumers sharing autonomous or self-driving vehicles—“young adults, along with urbanites, are gravitating toward a model of personal mobility consumption based on pay-per-use rather than upfront purchase of a capital asset, which fundamentally challenges today’s consumption model centered on personal ownership of cars”. Cloud computing and software-as-a-service are other examples of this phenomenon we now take for granted.

We use the terms “sharing economy” or “collaborative consumption” to describe the economic arrangement whereby shared access to a product or service replaces individual ownership. Like my road trip, much of the sharing economy is enabled by a triad of technologies—smartphones, GPS, and ubiquitous Internet access—and supported by platforms that create visibility and access to otherwise distributed assets and capabilities.

In this world of spontaneity, brands become curators—the organizations that facilitate the spontaneity, not necessarily the individuals who ultimately deliver the service.

As a marketer, my challenges change in this new world of spontaneity. Barriers to trial and switching drop significantly, while the elimination of a protracted capital budgeting process streamlines decision-making. But, what helps me by making it easier for consumers to purchase what I have to sell, helps my competitors as well.

Jim Lecinski, a friend and Google executive, calls each of these interactions “The Zero Moment of Truth.”2 “Want-to-know moments. Want-to-go moments. Want-to-do moments. Want-to-buy moments. They’re all micro-moments, and they’re the new battleground for brands."

Understanding how to drive stickiness into each interaction in this world of spontaneity is the new marketing imperative and marketers need a new playbook.

This playbook will involve greater focus on:

  1. Robust occasion-based segmentation that links the consumer decision journey to different purchase and consumption occasions
  2. Greater incorporation of geographical intelligence into marketing activities
  3. Innovative use of mobile and other forms of ambient advertising
  4. Curation of moments, not just products and services

In the moment. The new mantra for marketers.


1 Crystal Bridges Museum of Modern Art, “Home,” accessed January 14, 2016,

2 Jim Lecinski, Winning the Zero Moment of Truth (California: Google Inc., 2011), accessed January 14, 2016,

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