Next time you’re in the queue at Starbucks or Tesco, watch people.

If it doesn’t look like they’ll get served in the next few seconds, chances are they’ll start prodding at their phone. Which will be in their hand. Ready. There’s even a phrase “Blackberry jam” that has been coined to describe being stuck at tube station exits behind office workers slowing to a halt as they breathe in that fresh phone signal.

Increasingly, people don’t do downtime. And this includes me. I’m not proud to admit it, but I find myself digitally snacking in the those oh-so-boring seconds in-between lift floors. Or waiting for the train to pull to a stop. Or while your colleague grabs a drink before a meeting. A watched kettle might never boil, but it’s definitely enough time to read the BBC headlines. I wager that checking facebook has replaced reading a tabloid as the nation’s favourite on the loo pastime (or is that a boy thing?)

I don’t say this is a good thing. It might even be a dreadful malaise, but it’s definitely real. And it’s getting worse/faster. Multi-tasking on iPhone 4.0 means – God forbid – that no longer do we need to stand by idly whilst the Spotify app hogs the foreground. Nope – we can start a track playing and check Twitter. Why has no-one updated anything in the last five minutes?

So what does this mean for marketers?

  1. Recognise that mobile is not just a different screen size, but a different occasion, involving different mind states and needs.
  2. Think little and often. It could be titbits of information, mini games or a decent facebook page but brands would do well to provide snacks
  3. Speed up. Marketing has always been about getting messages across efficiently, but boy, that really matters now. Halve your copy, and double its punch.
  4. Social again comes to the fore. Opening up safari, then going to Google, typing a search and clicking on results is slowwwww. Just gimme the link or a Like button to press already
  5. Or provide alternatives. The world isn’t on its way to hell in a handcart. Downtime is good, and brands that help people to switch off will be more important than ever

Please note. This piece also appeared as a guest post on the Reform Digital blog