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Why the gig economy matters to brands

Jan 16, 2018
Why the gig economy matters to brands

The gig economy is affecting a diverse range of industries and is changing the way organisations have sought talent and built teams for decades. Marketing is no exception, and so knowing what the gig economy means for brands and their marketing teams is a pre-requisite to success in 2018. 

What is the gig economy? 

The term ‘gig economy’ has entered common parlance in recent years, but many do not give due course to analysing its many definitions.  

According to Investopedia, ‘in a gig economy, temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace and companies tend toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees.’ The BBC agrees with this definition, highlighting the fact that ‘opposing partisan viewpoints’ exist, which see the gig economy either as ‘a working environment that offers flexibility with regard to employment hours, or [...] a form of exploitation with very little workplace protection.’

This difference in outlooks is central to the many debates that have been taking place around the gig economy is recent months. In December The Guardian reported that more than a million gig economy workers are at risk of losing thousands of pounds in pensions by being wrongly labelled as self-employed. The European Court of Justice recently ruled that Uber should be classified as a transport company as opposed to simply an ‘information society service,’ as it has previously claimed, which will likely lead to a re-evaluation of other gig economy services is the coming year. 

What does this mean for brands and marketing? 

With so much press centred around the challenges of the gig economy and some of the negative consequences that these present, you could be forgiven for wondering what all of this means for brands and their marketing. And yet, in an industry so often made up of freelancers, outsourced agencies and an intern culture, brands cannot turn a blind eye to the potential repercussions, but also opportunities, that are inherent in the gig economy.

1. You could be looking in the wrong place for talent 

For Social Native, a platform which matches brands with relevant content creators, ‘the rise of freelancers has begun to irreversibly transform nearly every industry,’ with marketing no exception. In their whitepaper, released in collaboration with Digiday, Social Native believes the gig economy has given rise to a ‘creator class’, not to be confused with the ‘creative class.’ While the latter ‘pursues new, creative work in traditional settings full-time, the creator class is a subset of the Gig Economy that pursues content creation as much as a pursuit of self-fulfilment as for economic gain.’

This creator class is making waves across industries, and is a potential that must be harnessed for brands to reap the rewards of the gig economy. Social Native suggests that many brands may need to reorient how they approach talent acquisition and build their teams, arguing that while the creative class is often inseparable from upper economic classes, the creator class is as racially and economically diverse as the brand’s customers.’

2. Gig workers could boost your capacity to compete

One of the major benefits cited in discussions of the gig economy is the flexibility that it affords, whether from the perspective of the freelancer or the organisation employing them.

Yet according to Microsoft, marketing is one of the industries that could be better tapping in to the potential that this flexibility can bring to the table. Microsoft suggests that ‘nowhere is [the quest for productivity] more critical than in marketing,’ and as such ‘being able to stay engaged with your customers amidst constantly changing platforms and increasing expectations requires a special kind of organisational flexibility.’

One solution is to embrace the gig economy, with Microsoft arguing that marketers ‘should have the resources [they] need to leverage the gig economy while staying on top of customer engagement.’ This can in turn lead to a competitive edge over those brands that remain resistant to the changes wrought by the gig economy, as their strategies become stagnant and inflexible.

3. Marketing teams must work hard to build relationships

So often in marketing we discuss the relationship between brands and consumers or audiences, but can sometimes take for granted the internal team relationships that we build by working within close quarters and in collaboration on projects.

The defining feature of the gig economy, that team members can work from anywhere and projects can be repeatedly outsourced, undermines this cohesion. According to London-based brand experience agency Rufus Leonard, organisations must work harder than ever to build a relationship between themselves and their creatives and must ‘develop a relationship with a creative who’ll invest the time in getting to know what the brand stands for and what they need.’

Whatever the specificities of your organisation, if you are involved in marketing or creative industries in any way then the gig economy will continue to impact the way you do business. Learning what the intricacies of these changes mean goes a long way to ensuring that you continue to build relationships with your creatives, hire the right talent for the job and remain competitive going forwards.


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