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The Changing Definition of Convenience

50 years ago — when breakfast cereal hit the shelves, it was a huge hit. No more cooking breakfast! You could pour it from a box, add milk, and voila! It was the ultimate in convenience.

Today, sales for cereal are declining at a steady 2%. As more people eat on the go, cereal is no longer convenient. Protein bars and other edibles on the go are the new definition of convenience. Have you seen a Starbucks drive-thru window in the mornings lately?

20 years ago, your idea of convenience was to have a TV in any room you chose.  Convenience was defined by having entertainment relayed directly into your home. Today, it is understood that the TV isn’t the only device which let’s you watch videos, and the actual time a show airs is irrelevant. In fact, when was the last time you heard someone say “I am watching a video on my television.” It would sound archaic. Today’s definition of entertainment convenience means any device, anywhere, with any type of content.

15 years ago, music was the domain of CDs. It was convenient to pop in a CD and listen to all the tracks without having to flip it like a tape. Today, it is inconvenient if we can’t instantly Shazam a song, and listen to it immediately on Spotify.

10 years ago, you had two choices when it came to books — hardback or paperback. It was convenient to get a paperback to read on airplanes, and you could stuff it into the side of your bag. Today, we have those options, but we also have a myriad of tablets, ebook readers, and interactive options: “Can I get that on my Kindle?”; “My kid loves when Dr. Seuss talks back to him on the Ipad.”

5 years ago, it was convenient if a company had a toll free number. “Oh, cool, I can call them for free!” Today, we expect customer service if we tweet a company or post on their Facebook page. If they don’t respond, we are shocked at the lack of inconvenience.

The definition of convenience has changed because we as a society keep raising the bar. As marketers, producers, and leaders, we have to rise to the same challenge that we — as a collective — have created. Bonus points if you help set the new bar for convenience.