Modern Applications of the Five Minute University

Jon Last reflects on the paradox of how our insatiable cultural appetite for constant and instant information conflicts with perceived time deprivation. He offers thoughts on how the sports and leisure industries must factor this into their internal and external communications.

At the risk of showing my age, I frequently channel my inner Father Guido Sarducci when making presentations or summarizing our research findings. For those too young to remember comedian Don Novello’s iconic character on “Saturday Night Live,” Sarducci did a wonderful bit where he pontificated about his desire to open up a “Five-Minute University.”

There, the faculty would only teach those things that you remember five years after you get out of college. For his economics class, Sarducci limited the curriculum to three words, “supply and demand,” concluding that five years after graduation, those would be the only things that you’d remember from college economics classes!

Sarducci’s rant, all those years ago, was aimed more at poking fun at our inability to remember things. But his premise has greater relevance today, as consumer sentiment continues to show a society that feels more time-deprived than any that preceded it, and a new generation of business decision makers emerges from a culture where long-form journalism has been replaced by 160-character texts.

We’ve seen a rampant diffusion of digital technology and “just in time” information flow that has fed a thirst for us to be constantly updated, while simultaneously depriving us of the very thing that these solutions were intended to provide — more time. Countless surveys (by our firm and others) corroborate this paradox — we covet real time, insider access and instant information, yet we also yearn for escape and simplification.

So, how does this manifest itself into the sports marketing landscape? I’d maintain that the desire to simplify has become prevalent not just in consumer purchasing experiences, but within the business culture, as well. It’s perhaps a sad truth, but dissertations have been left for scholarly journals and academic introspection.

This is particularly true in sports marketing, as the battlefield for the attention of potential sponsors and fans has expanded to make the pursuit of time for thoughtful deliberation an often elusive aspiration. But the fact that we suffer cultural attention deficit disorder doesn’t mean that we’ve regressed to the point that we can no longer resonate with the audiences that we are trying to influence.

First, from the B2B, perspective, the Sarducci model informs the way in which my company presents anything from capabilities to the most intricate research findings. We update the old “K.I.S.S.” mnemonic (keep it simple, stupid) into what we call “Two Minute Take-Aways,” a series of carefully crafted, succinct bullet points, aimed at a time-starved “C-level” audience.

We assume that you trust our intelligence. Here’s what you need to know. Here’s why it’s important. And here’s what you should do about it. There’s, of course, much more detail and substantiation to follow. We trust that someone in your organization is going to want to take the time to benefit from that nuance and added insight. But if you buy into two-minute take-aways, you will understand what’s most salient.

Interestingly, it strikes me that a similar approach is also required when communicating and differentiating your product or property to the fan or customer. Here, simplicity needs to meet a theme that I elaborated on, a few posts back, in that customers are not us.

They very well may not have the time or desire to appreciate the finer workings and innovation behind what’s new and great. But they will value understanding what’s in it for them. Something simpler, that addresses consumer backlash that continues to reinvigorate nostalgia, is often a good answer. I’ll plan to focus more on that, in next month’s post … when I have more time … and another opportunity to discuss it!