ThinkOTB Agency

Why the gig economy matters to brands

January 16, 2018

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 it 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 don’t understand 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. In December, The Guardian reported that more than a million gig economy workers are at risk of losing thousands of pounds. They lose out 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. Previously, the company stated they were ‘information society service’. This will likely lead to a re-evaluation of other gig economy services is the coming year. 

What does this mean for brands and marketing?

There is so much press centred around the challenges of the gig economy at the moment. Much surrounds 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, it presents.

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. It 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. They argue that creative class is often inseparable from upper economic classes. However, they assert that ‘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. It benefits both the freelancer and the organisation employing them.

Yet according to Microsoft, marketing is one of the industries that could be better tap into gig workers. It offers great potential and flexibility. 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, we can sometimes take for granted the internal team relationships that we build. We work within close quarters and in collaboration on projects and these relationships are important.

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. He states they 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.’

If you are involved in marketing or creative industries, then the gig economy will impact the way you do business. Learning what these changes mean goes a long way to continue building relationships with your creatives. It will ensure you hire the right talent for the job and remain competitive going forwards.


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