We never have enough time. It’s flying, wasted, or spent. In marketing, we strive to be punctual for meetings and deadlines. So when do we have time to consider time? For culturally sensitive marketers, time is key. When we look to establish an emotional link with a Hispanic consumer, we must consider the elements of culture that control values, thoughts, and behaviors; and time is one of these “dimensions [that] provides the nesting place for archetypes to take root.”
Westerners tend to view time as linear. We see events in a straight line, with each successive action following another. Many other cultures see time not as monochronic, but polychronic, which is characterized by events occurring simultaneously. The famous anthropologist, Edward T. Hall, conducted extensive research of monochronic and polychronic cultures found that cultural miscommunication is often the result of not understanding the different structures of scheduling or managing time. Hall concludes that monochronic cultures (primarily North America and Northern Europe) “emphasize schedules, punctuality, and preciseness.” Monochronic cultures emphasize “doing” things, productivity, and getting things done “one time.” Time should be managed and planned and not wasted.
A polychronic view of time, according to Hall, is primarily in Latin American, African and Native American cultures. When considering other Hispanic archetypes, this is logical. Hispanic cultures “are more likely than Anglos to believe that nature and the supernatural control their lives.” Therefore, time is associated with natural rhythms, the earth, and seasons. It is not manipulated, but with a higher power, and therefore it can be spontaneous or sporadic. “There is more valued placed on “being” than on “doing”.”
Now of course this view is over-generalized and simplistic. Levels of assimilation, occupation, and general demographics may all effect the degree of truthfulness in this assumption.
La Agencia de Orci & Asociados launched a successful television campaign for Allstate Insurance Company. One television spot featured a father on the beach watching his children play, picturing their future profession. This idea of the future is deeply rooted in interpersonal relationships for Hispanics. Many television commercials in America incorporate being late or not having enough time, which equates to stress (and presumably the product that is being offered helps to relieve this stress by giving the consumer more time). It would be an over-generalization to think all Hispanics see time as fluctuating and polychronic, but is certainly a cultural dimension that should be explored during research.
Latin American literature also supports a polychronic view of time. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a master at manipulating time in Chronicle of a Death Foretold. But probably the best example is Pablo Neruda’s Pedro Paramo. Not only is time non-linear, but it is cyclical. There is no timeline; narration will jump from past to present to future, and events occur simultaneously.
Polychronism is clearly an important aspect of Hispanic culture, and therefore, marketing. Implications from this cultural dimension are subtle, interpretive, and vast. For example, when considering product usage or consumption, “polychronic consumers are more likely to use products with less attachment to schedules and timeframes.” Cultural time perception can also have implications for media habits. A polychronic view of time allows Hispanics to do many tasks simultaneously such as, read a magazine while listening to the radio. So a media buyer should consider “advantageously plac[ing] advertisements in both media at the same time to complement each other.” A Hispanics relationship to time is important to the marketer and can prove important to an effective advertising campaign. Researching this cultural dimension is always time well spent.