Emerging Trends in Marketing: Structural Unemployment

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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.

Emerging Trends in Marketing: Structural Unemployment 1

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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