Technophobic – No!

Unemploymentphobic - Yes!Technology and Jobs: A Catch 22?The following is an excerpt from Market Vision 2000, a national study examining what it takes to have a relationship with consumers in the '90s.We have all shared the sentiment, 'To err is human;...

Unemploymentphobic – Yes!

Technology and Jobs: A Catch 22?

The following is an excerpt from Market Vision 2000, a national study examining what it takes to have a relationship with consumers in the ’90s.

We have all shared the sentiment, ‘To err is human; to really screw up, you need a computer,’ somewhere along the technological learning curve.

Today’s consumer, while not technophobic, is worried society’s love affair with technology is costing jobs.

According to the Market Vision 2000 study, a recent poll of 1,000 Canadians, most of us believe technology increases competitiveness, improves customer service and makes jobs more enjoyable.

But, at the same time, most of those surveyed say technology leads to decreased job security.

In fact, more than one in five Canadians (21%) strongly believe technology threatens employment. And 62% of consumers agree.

Attitudes toward technology among the highly educated differ slightly from those of the average consumer.

University-educated consumers are less likely to agree that technology leads to higher employment.

Ironically, they are also far less likely to accept the notion that increased technology leads to improved customer service.

The renewed wave of ‘personal service’ messages in advertising for financial services, notably the Bank of Montreal’s recent campaign, gives evidence that automated teller convenience has not supplanted consumers’ desire for the human touch.

These findings have three implications for communications professionals.

First, while technological advancement may appear to be an ideal selling proposition, it might be wise to re-evaluate making it the focus of a company’s strategy.

Publicizing a firm’s recent investment in technology can send mixed signals.

Innovations, from factory robotics to new computers, can cause employee anxiety about job security and consumer frustration, as in the case of those who find themselves on the other end of a telephone line from yet another answering machine.

ibm direct, ibm’s recent direct marketing support for its personal computers, shows a sensitivity to the need for personal service, especially when dealing with a technologically advanced product.

Second, copywriters should be apprised of the consumer’s evolving technological mind-set.

Consumer attitudes toward technology are strongly colored by belief it can create unemployment.

In a period during which most Canadians list job creation as the top national priority, this objection to technology can become deeply rooted.

Having insight into this may provide the creative mind with crucial guidance when the time comes to put pen to paper.

Third, advertisers which represent high-tech industry may wish to do additional groundwork advertising, or increase public relations initiatives to ensure Canadians’ continued support.

Approaches that link technology with job creation may be most effective.

The recent publicity surrounding Honeywell’s planned education centre to be built in Waterloo, Ont. in the southwestern part of the province is a successful example of this strategy at work.

For now, while technology may be seen as Canada’s greatest lever into prosperity, it is also viewed as a contributor to greater unemployment.

The enlightened communicator must recognize that where technology is concerned the duality of the consumer mind-set is a challenge.

David Saffer is executive vice-president of Market Vision, a Toronto-based company specializing in communications, research and strategy. More information about the Market Vision 2000 study is available at (416) 364-4040.