August 06, 2015 11:00 ET

The Rise of the App-Driven Labor Market

And What It Means for Marketers Looking to Connect With Millennials and Gen Z

BURLINGTON, VT--(Marketwired - Aug 6, 2015) -   One of the greatest cultural shifts within youth culture -- one that will influence young Millennials (19-25 year olds) and Gen Z (13-18 year olds) for decades -- is happening right now. It's the Uberization of the American workforce, hatched by Uber and its competitors Lyft and Sidecar. And this does not just mean ride-sharing, but rather the creation of an app-driven workforce that most brands are failing to recognize will change who their customers are and how they will need to reach them. Ad Age (May 2015) has described advertisers as, "...caught off guard at the pace at which technology advanced culture." Fuse's recent consumer insights work indicates that the speed and significance of change brought on by the app-driven labor market will overshadow anything marketers have seen previously.

What's an app-driven workforce? It's the use of mobile technology to assign a job to available freelance workers just as the talents of those freelancers are needed. Much like the commerce that young people have grown up with, the performance of the app-driven workforce is tracked and reviewed by customers. The cultural impact of the app-driven workforce will not be limited to ride-sharing, but rather it will impact other industries from the mundane (buying groceries and running errands) to the complex (seeking medical attention and legal advice.)

Why is Fuse so confident that a massive shift in the workforce is coming? "Our consumer insights studies suggest nearly 50% of young people are interested in joining the app-driven workforce," says Bill Carter, partner at Fuse. "And as we study exactly why there is such a high level of desire to participate in this kind of economy, we find connections between an app-driven workforce and the core values of young people around the world."

Fuse found that chief among these shared values are:

  • Freedom, independence - of the young people interested in taking part in an app-driven workforce, nearly 90% cite a greater flexibility to create their own work schedules as a key attraction
  • Income - because young people are disproportionally under/unemployed, nearly 80% cite a desire for additional income even if they have a full-time job
  • Because it's the future - about 25% of all young people (whether they want to jump into the app-driven workforce or not), see it as the future and don't want to be left behind

But not everyone -- or not everyone over the age of 50 -- agrees. Most notably, the highly respected former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich calls the app-drive workforce "...nonsense, utter nonsense." (New York Times, January 2015) Dr. Reich mentions unpredictability, low pay, and insecurity as reasons he's not a believer. All of which may be true -- in fact 20% of young people agree with him! But what we think Dr. Reich is failing to consider is that young people -- unlike older workers he may have interviewed on the topic -- don't necessarily want, "...regular jobs" as defined by the 9-5, five day a week model. In fact, the app-driven workforce represents a new and improved kind of "regular job" to young consumers -- complete with income, satisfaction, and freedoms.

The cultural change to come is not merely a trend (i.e. like a new social platform), a marketing tactic to consider (i.e. using YouTube stars), or a characteristic of this cohort (i.e. thrifty, practical.) The shift to an app-driven workforce is an important evolution in the way young people participate in the economy -- something they will do eight plus hours per day. And that's why it's so critical that brands consider how they will communicate to this new profile of consumers: young men and women with not one job, but a portfolio of work, not working in a traditional office, but by way of mobile technologies. 

About Fuse
Fuse is a marketing agency founded in 1995 that connects brands with teens and young adults through sports, music, fashion, video gaming and other relevant cultural interests. Fuse's services include consumer insights, brand strategy, public relations, experiential marketing, creative services, and social media. The Fuse staff, led by Partners Bill Carter, Issa Sawabini and Brett Smith, is comprised of marketing professionals and cultural experts who have worked for some of the most prominent brands and agencies in the country. For more about Fuse, check out our website or find us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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