- Jodie Huang is the manager of consumer insights at Mindshare.
- In this opinion piece, he writes that poor people without access to technology are falling even further behind – and this group is often in the blind spot of companies and marketers focused on the next big thing.
- In an interesting reversal, affluent Americans are spending less time with media overall because they have more means to go out and experience real-world activities, while screens for the poor remain among their main sources of entertainment.
- Marketers must be aware of the impact their brand has on those on the margins of society, he concludes.
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Society has always been divided into haves and have-nots, but as technology becomes more important in our everyday lives, those without access to the latest are falling even further behind. Beyond the obvious difficulties of being poor, this group is often in the blind spot of companies and marketers focused on the next big thing.
Modern social mobility is predicated on access to the internet and as more of our work, school, personal relationships, and finances are being transacted online, the lack of high-speed internet sets rural and poor communities further behind their peers. Especially in large urban cities, the advantages of telecommuting passes over the poor, who tend to live further away from their workplace. Some see the automation of jobs as a futuristic dystopian nightmare, but it affects unskilled workers first, as their jobs tend to be more programmable.
The benefits of new tech like electric vehicles and cashless payments tend to bypass the underprivileged. Only those who can afford the upfront cost of switching to EVs and solar panels will reap the savings. While more retailers are adopting cashless options to speed things up, 63 million American households are underbanked, without access to the bank accounts needed to use that service. Subscription services like Amazon Prime offer a glut of benefits like fast and free shipping, but not everyone can afford it.
There are even biases in apps: Apple iOS apps tend to be released earlier than Android ones. High-quality journalism is often behind paywalls, often leaving those without money access only to more sensationalist articles that aren’t as rigorously fact-checked.
In an interesting reversal, we see affluent Americans spending less time with media overall – at an aggregate, spending four hours less per week with media across devices. This trend extends to kids from wealthier families who are also spending less time looking at screens. They have more means to go out and experience real-world activities, while screens for the poor serve many purposes from being babysitters to the main source of entertainment.
Some brands are trying hard to close this gap for consumers. Amazon has lower Prime memberships for those on food stamps, Lyft is expanding Relief Rides to veterans and lower income individuals, and Microsoft uses TV channels to provide Wi-Fi to rural areas.
Marketers must be aware of the impact their brand has on those on the margins of society. It might not be obvious at first glance, but today more than ever, it’s important to understand. And while it’s prudent to focus the most on content that’s relevant to your target audience, knowing that they have different media habits, there are also opportunities to help close the gap by offering additional benefits to lower-income groups.
Jodie Huang is the manager of consumer insights at Mindshare.
Note: This piece is a preview of Mindshare’s larger Culture Vulture Trends report, wherein the Insights team identifies the macro trends pervading U.S. culture and its impact on brands and marketers.