Nowism – the consumer need for instant gratification and knowledge – a world trend

The lasting values of days past are indeed a thing of the past for many young consumers. “Instant gratification is the new religion” – announces one of the leading trendscouting websites, Trendwatching, and describes it as a new megatrend.

The shift in consumer desire to want more now has led us, over the years, to today’s scenario: body care and electronics being sold in vending machines, a craving to know more about where your friends are 24/7 through social media and those energy drinks to help you move faster to get everything, you know…now.

Key trends

  • Liquid modernity;
  • Compact travel;
  • Moveable businesses;
  • Cooking was yesterday – fast food is now;
  • Access 24/7: technology puts life in the fast lane.

Commercial Opportunities

  • Giving consumers what they want is not a new development – what is new is the required speed. Consumers live in a very fluid present, and that is where your brand needs to be, to adjust to consumer culture at the fastest possible speed. The result is a need for ever shorter product / service development cycles;
  • Ownership of certain products is often renounced in favour of leasing, renting and part-ownership. It is important to observe and respond to this trend and widen the range of suitable services.


One of the most often overheard conversation starters on a mobile phone is “where are you now?” This is how defines the allure of now: “In an age of abundance, with a reduced need for constant securing of the basics, and goods so plentiful that the status derived from them is sometimes close to nil, the only thing that remains is consumption of the thrill, the experience, and the new.

Especially for younger consumers, property, ‘fixed’ items, can signify boredom, hassle, maintenance, worry and threaten to take up too large a part of budgets and even lives.”

The ephemeral experience becomes desirable, and ‘forever’ is replaced by an obsession with the here and now, an ever-shortening satisfaction span, and the impulse to collect as many experiences as possible.

And haven’t we all known the passing envy of daring adventurers who renounce possessions and live for the moment? For people whose lives seem to be so modern and free of all the weighing-down paraphernalia of the settled lifestyle? For those who live for the moment?

Liquid modernity

Every social movement has its philosophy. Nowism is a result of the interplay between the solid and liquid aspects of modernisation. “Liquid Modernity” is a term created by Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman for the present condition of the world, in contrast to the “solid” modernity that preceded it.

This passage from “solid” to “liquid” modernity has created an unprecedented setting for individual life pursuits, and this confronts consumers with situations they have to respond to in ways they have not encountered before.

Both social institutions and product histories no longer have time to solidify in order to serve as a frame of reference for long-term life plans. This motivates consumers to organise their lives in different ways. A life in which concepts like “career” and “progress” have become fluid, the lifestyle required is flexible and adaptable.

Consumers have learnt to be constantly ready and willing to change tactics at short notice, to abandon commitments and loyalties without regret and to pursue opportunities according to their current availability.

Compact travel

The need for instant gratification has had a significant impact on the travel and tourism industry, for example by encouraging people to take shorter, more frequent holidays, and to travel by faster transport such as low-cost carriers (LCCs) and high speed trains.

The once-in-a-lifetime holiday to far-flung destinations has made way for impulse travel stimulated by the media, by tales from friends and seeing places praised in blogs. This trend has been encouraged by developments in online travel services, which make it easier for consumers to book trips on a whim, at short notice and at low prices.

You want to see Venice? Within minutes you can book a flight, read up on other consumers’ first hand experiences, find a hotel and be on your way hours later. And if you feel in need of beauty treatment while you are waiting in the airport – make use of one of the new breed of pop-in airport spas.

Moveable businesses

Eco-designers and boutiques are making good use of the levelling of playing fields offered by nowism. Magda Rod recently took her LA boutique Visionary on the road. “We are a society used to getting immediate gratification so why wouldn’t we want clothing as quickly as we can get a Big Mac?”

Talking about food: Taco vans have become ubiquitous in the USA, Mexico (the blogger swears the tacos from the van are the best), and a European version is now appearing all over Europe, run by clever entrepreneurs who bring the food to the people – avoiding the high commercial rents in the cities.

Hamburg based is just one example of this, bringing his own products in a cute Ape van to businesses without canteens. Even relaxation has to be instant: a German company, Ardas, brings yoga to the office to tone busy employees at companies such as personal care brand Beiersdorf, Frankfurt Airport or software corporation SAP.

Cooking is so yesterday – fast food is now

There is a conundrum in the growing popularity of TV cooking shows, the god-like stature of celebrity chefs and the tsunami of food-bloggers, when looking at the actual decrease in home cooking. What is growing in the real world is the consumption of fast food, which incidentally is to be interpreted as a sign of growing affluence in the BRIC countries.

In developing countries, the increased consumption of fast food from street vendors paves the way for encroaching global fast food chains.

To pick an example, Euromonitor International figures show that in India, sales of ready meals grew from 530 million rupees in 2004 to over 1,372 million rupees in 2009, with sales of fast food overall rising from Rs181 billion in 2003 to Rs486 billion in 2008.

It is as if life were becoming too short to cook for most people. In Japan, convenience store fast food enjoyed significant growth between 2001 and 2006, as city dwellers sought quick and affordable meal solutions. Bento (Japanese lunchboxes) are particularly popular because they are perceived as quick, healthy and convenient.

In South Korea, McDonald’s and SK Telecom Korea have partnered up to make fast food even faster: Place your order on your phone and a text message will be sent to you notifying when your order is ready.

Value of fast food market in India: 2003-2008
Rs million

Source: Euromonitor from trade sources/national statisticsNote: Market sizes based on foodservice value RSP.

Access 24/7: technology puts life in the fast lane

The internet is increasingly used as a channel for home shopping and financial services by busy parents, for teleworking by home workers, homework by children, or entertainment for the whole family.

It has also increased consumer influence and buying power, enabling companies to gain a better profile of their customers, as well as serving as a significant channel for advertising and communication. Home entertainment is a primary expression of technology-based convenience.

Many consumers, especially the young, are already time-shifting television through tools like on-line downloads, digital video recorders and video on demand. The ultimate instant gratification tool, the smartphone, is taking over the world, offering instant access to just about everywhere, supported by Twitter, the burgeoning form of communication that requires zero attention span.


Globalisation and an increasing demand on the workforce for more flexibility are certainly going to encourage nowism. There is a danger in this need for instant gratification; relationships with “no strings attached” can pose a risk to the institution of the family, and the search for thrills can pave the way for addiction.

While it seems to be becoming a thing of the past, happiness is also to be found in a slower, more deliberate lifestyle, a lifestyle that is sought by many older consumers. But tell that to those young rebels who only live for the moment!