Emerging Trends in Marketing: The Widening Skill Gap

This is the second in a series of posts on long-term things that will impact your marketing environment, from automation to macroeconomic trends. Keep these trends in mind as you craft your marketing strategy!

One of the more interesting macroeconomic reports to read on a regular basis is the JOLTS report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. This report showcases new job openings, people who quit their jobs, and people who started new jobs. Take a look at this summary chart. What do you see?


When I look at this chart, I see a job opening rate that is quickly outpacing the rate of both people starting and leaving jobs. A quick look at how fast H1B visa quotas are filled each year tells another part of the story: America has lots of jobs. We just don’t have the skilled people to fill those jobs.

Here’s a third part of the story:


Those are SAT Mathematics scores by ethnicity since 1986 from the US Department of Education. The visible trend is that across almost every ethnicity except Asians, test scores have plateaued.

The final part of the story is from psychologist E. Paul Torrance, and the Torrance tests of creative thinking:


These scores measure the creative thinking abilities of US school students. There’s a fairly obvious trend here, too.

All of these data points highlight that the available pool of top talent is shrinking. We have fewer people who excel at mathematics, science, and left-brain disciplines. We have fewer people who excel at creativity and right-brain disciples (especially with the widespread elimination of liberal arts education in primary and secondary schooling). At the same time, we have greater needs than ever in marketing for people who understand analytics and Big Data. We have greater needs than ever for people who can think creatively. Our greatest needs are people who can do both, who can see context and big picture right-brain thinking, then deep dive into linear, logical, left-brain thinking.

Be prepared for smaller and smaller high quality labor choices for people who can hit the ground running in your marketing department. Be prepared to have to grow your own talent and then fight to retain it. These mega-trends are not going to be changing any time soon.

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Emerging Trends in Marketing: Structural Unemployment

This is the first in a series of posts on long-term things that will impact your marketing environment, from automation to macroeconomic trends. Keep these trends in mind as you craft your marketing strategy!

We’ve gotten rid of a fair few jobs over the centuries. You would be hard-pressed to find a telephone switchboard operator or at ice delivery professional these days. Horse and buggy drivers are hard to come by except as tourist attractions in cities. That said, for every job we’ve eliminated in modern times, we’ve created many more, but technological changes may profoundly impact the mathematics of that statement. Let’s look at five examples of what may be a mega-trend of structural unemployment.

Example 1: Via Reddit, an experimental kiosk in a fast food restaurant. Tired of cashiers who screw up your order or are surly? Problem solved!


Example 2: Momentum Machines is debuting a fully automated sandwich making machine. Want that burger your way? The robot can do everything and anything and get it consistently right, every single time:


Example 3: Remember that video of a delivery truck driver who just flings packages as abusively as possible at houses? Problem solved! At least, that’s what Amazon and a variety of other companies are working on.


Example 4: Did you notice that Google’s self-driving car first mastered highways before it mastered cities? There’s more than one reason for that. Certainly, highways are easier to process in terms of variables. You’re less likely to have to deal with bikers and children playing in the streets on an interstate road. But there’s another reason, too. The interstate trucking industry is big business, and can be profitable business. How much more profitable will it be without human drivers? Automated trucks could do the long hauls and then have humans do the final mile or so of driving.

Example 5: Controversial employment practices and labor sources for agriculture have multiple solutions on the horizon as robot dexterity gets better and better. This is a clamshell packer, which previously required unskilled labor to stuff lettuce into plastic boxes, already deployed at Earthbound Farm. No more workers contaminating the goods with unwashed hands.


All of these examples showcase how technological innovation is eliminating service jobs that are low-wage and low-skill but plentiful. This poses a significant problem for consumer-focused businesses: the millions of people who will inevitably be displaced will not be able to retrain quickly to higher-skilled jobs, nor will those jobs be as plentiful. You don’t need a thousand people to maintain a thousand robots – you need perhaps two dozen.

What does this have to do with your marketing? The answer is straightforward: if your business relies on the consumer, particularly the lower-income consumer, your revenue stream is in jeopardy. It’s in jeopardy because without employment, your customers will vanish.

As a marketer, you will need to get better at identifying and segmenting out customers who can afford your products and services, because there may be large portions of the population who simply cannot. If you’re not skilling up on micro segmentation and being able to work with social network APIs (that can identify things like work changes and/or job loss) to shut off marketing to people who aren’t qualified to buy, your marketing will deliver fewer results in the future.

As a marketer, prepare yourself for these changes. Anticipate them, plan around them, strategize in advance of them so that when the ground does shift underneath your feet, you are able to adapt while your competitors stumble and fall.

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Transforming weaknesses into strengths

Tired with coffee

I’m tired today. Normally, that’d be a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be. For every perceived weakness we have, there’s a way to manage it, mitigate it, or even possibly transmute it into a temporary strength. Being tired (occasionally, not as a chronic thing) can be a temporary positive, in that it can stimulate creativity and non-linear thinking as your brain operates differently than it does when you’re well-rested.

There are positives and negatives to every state we can be in as humans. When you’re angry, there’s an incredible cocktail of chemicals rushing around your bloodstream that are triggering various fight/flight responses. You could attempt to suppress that anger, but in doing so, your body chemically is attacking itself unless you dump that energy.

This is true of every “negative” state you can imagine. So, the logical question is – how do you take advantage of these states? If you’re tired, make it work for you. Do creative work, do brainstorming, do things that make use of the state you’re in. If you’re angry, make that work for you, too. Go to the gym. Go running. Bleed off that energy, that adrenaline, by making it useful and serving you, rather than hurting you.

The trick to making this all work is to be self-aware. If we don’t know what state we’re in, we then can’t make use of it. Be aware of what you are like in any given state and what that means, what you should do about it. Equally important, be aware what you cannot do in those states. If you know that you are tired, do not attempt a 10-hour driving trip. If you know that you are angry, do not attempt to be rational until you have bled off that energy.

How do you become more self-aware? Keep a journal of what your various states are, how you got to them, and the things that worked less or more well until you have a good sense of what to do in any given situation to maximize what you’ve got at hand, rather than try to force yourself to be or feel something you’re not. Life will be a more powerful experience, and you won’t frustrate yourself with attempted self-delusion!

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