We all know from history that the best of skills become obsolete at one time or another. Here’s a quick list of skillsets (and their replacements) that these people probably thought would go on forever—and the reason why they’re gone today:
Tailor/Seamstress—Mail order, cheap clothes, casual wear, fat people
Telegraph/Telephone Operator—automated switch boards
Travel agents—Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline, Hotels.com, Travelocity, etc.
Things that have come and gone in a matter of decades—and what’s replaced them:
Video Rentals (Blockbuster)– Netflix, Roku
Photographic processor (1 Hour Photo)—digital cameras
Record store (Tower Records)—Spotify, Rhapsody, iTunes
Web designer—Squarespace, Wix, Weebly,
Jobs in decline—and what will replace them:
Postal Workers – email, text messaging, Snap Chat,
Taxi Drivers – Uber, Lyft
Tax Accountants – Quicken, Turbo Tax
Voice over artists – Text-to-speech technologies
Bank tellers – ATMs, Smartphones, Online banks (Ally)
Pharmacists – Amazon, online pharmacies
Office Clerks – Microsoft Office
Disc Jockey—Spotify, Pandora
Translators—real time translator technologies
Probably on the way out—and the reason why:
Package Delivery – Amazon Drones
Bus Drivers – Google driverless technology
Schools & Teachers—Udemy, Khan Academy, etc.
Supermarket Cashier—self checkout
Same skillset, different technology:
Resume writer – LinkedIn guru
Direct response copywriter—internet
Retail printers (i.e. Alpha Graphics)—Vista Print
Schools & Teachers—Udemy, Khan Academy, etc.*
*I came up with this list entirely from my head. I cannot imagine the list that I could come up with if I did any kind of research. It’s scary.
And the sad part is that it will keep happening. Technology will wipe out most of the jobs we have today. I began my career as web designer and had a pretty good business. But now everyone can create a great website on their own using Squarespace, Wix, Web.com and so on. And those websites function and look much better than anything I could offer to my clients—even at double the price.
The business of designing Websites began in the mid-nineties, and now—for individual web designers—it’s almost extinct. The pressures put on a web designer as a career are also mobile phones, Facebook and LinkedIn. At one time everyone felt like they needed a website to market themselves—and for a long time that was the only thing on the web that was a marketing vehicle for small and big businesses alike.
Today, a small business could have a minimal website (or none at all) and focus all of their marketing efforts on social media, PPC ads and one page sales page (or website), LinkedIn, affiliate marketing etc. Big businesses of course have their own in-house staff to maintain their websites. Let’s be honest, there isn’t a lot of designing going at ibm.com or BOFA.
This is why I sought to find a skill that wasn’t technology based. And skillset is copywriting—more specifically, direct response copywriting. This is the kind of copywriting that actually makes sales.
How new technology can scare the bejesus out of us.
There is a video on YouTube that could be seen as the cutest video or the most frightening depending on your perspective. The video is for Kiva Robot which is a robot that works in a warehouse fulfillment center much like one for Amazon.
What’s cute about the video is watching hundreds of little robots moving boxes and carts as if they had their own brains. What’s scary about it is in the whole 100,000 sq. ft. (my guess) facility there are hundreds of these robots and only one visible human worker.
This is the future.
And here’s a quote from a YouTube commenter on that video:
“Every time I see technology in action, it’s inspiring and horrifying at the same time.”
What’s the one job that’s unlikely to be eliminated by technology?
As long as there is competition and we don’t live in a socialist society, there will always be a need for a marketer to outwit his or her competitor.
As of this writing, Amazon is developing the cashier-free grocery store, so the train of job elimination just keeps on rolling.
But at the end of the day, all these businesses need to compete, and that’s where savvy marketers come in. The savvy marketers who know the lessons of the past will succeed, and those marketers who fail to learn those mistakes and triumphs will struggle and maybe even fail.
Let’s take a look at a few industries that have really been rocked by automation.
The need for someone to look up a flight and book it has all been eliminated. But what about the part in getting you excited about going to Tahiti? That’s where marketing and advertising comes in. Without marketing and advertising, you wouldn’t know where to vacation—except for a few friends who came back with a nice tan.
Where marketing plays a huge role:
Let’s use the music industry as prime example. Before the internet, you needed one record store every five miles in nearly every town. Now with the internet and downloadable music, technically you only need one store. That one store could, with enough bandwidth, service the whole country or even the planet. That’s the power of this technology.
For years it seemed Apple had a monopoly on legal downloadable music. But through clever marketing we now have Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody and Napster—all delivering the same product electronically without the need for hundreds of stores in every city and town.
Why do we really need more than one music service to deliver Beethoven, Pearl Jam and Beyoncé. We’re all getting the same album. So, what’s going on here?
As long as someone can exploit our personal preferences, a business will enter into the market even though there isn’t really a logical need. When more businesses enter the market, there is more competition. With more competition, there is a need for more marketing and advertising messages. And this is where you come in.
But your skills as a marketing professional will not be through hammering away on Twitter or Facebook. It will be learning the soft skills and human psychology strategies that were developed so long ago in the advertising world of newspapers and print.
You can see how many companies and brands exploit these personal preferences. For instance, how many flavored drinks do we really need?
Let’s look at one category of drinks and see how many competitors there are:
Kombucha is a fermented drink that’s sold in specialty stores. Here are a few of the brands I found in Whole Foods and online:
Kevita Masterbrew Kombucha
Live Kombucha Soda
High Country Kombucha
Beyond Brewing Company
Kombucha Wonder Drink
Lion Heart Kombucha
Brew Dr. Kombucha
All these private labels have one thing in common. A strong need for marketing. These are all the same drink. We’ve seen an explosion in drinks and snacks. These will all be fueled by market factors.
As you can see in a small niche there is a lot of competition. I never heard of Kombucha until I actually saw all these drinks in Whole Foods. These are just ten of all the Kombucha brands. And Kombucha is a very small niche compared to the likes of soda, iced tea and energy drinks.
And then there is a plethora of other vitality drinks. Most of these brands won’t last. And the reason is that they will try to advertise and market themselves like the big brands.
Learning how to Tweet or post on Facebook will also go out of fashion at some time. Emails and Google ads are just one stop on the marketing train. The important thing to understand is the soft skills.
Writing and coming up with the next best idea will unlikely be outsourced because so much is based on understanding the people around you and the amount of research that’s involved.
Why marketing won’t be outsourced
My father worked in the international marketing department at Campbell’s soup in Camden, New Jersey. He told me a story of when they were marketing cream of mushroom soup in South America it was inadvertently labeled at as foot fungus soup due to the misunderstanding of language and culture. I’m not sure how true that story is, but we still see this faux pas all the time in marketing and advertising in foreign lands. Below is a list of overseas marketing and advertising done by non-natives
HSBC campaign: “Assume Nothing” was translated to “Do Nothing”
KFC in China: “Finger-lickin’ good” translated to “Eat your fingers off.”
Coors in Spain: “Turn It Loose” translated to “Suffer from diarrhea.”
Swedish vacuum maker Electrolux advertised in the U.S. with “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”
Ford cars in Belgium: “Every car has a high-quality body” translated to “Every car has a high-quality corpse.”
Braniff Airlines in Mexico: “Fly in Leather” translated to “Fly naked.”
Ford Pinto: In Portuguese this car’s name means “tiny male genitals.”
Mercedes-Benz in China: Their car “Bensi” translated to “rush to die.”
Pepsi in China: “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life” was translated to “Pepsi Brings You Back from the Grave.”
I remember when I had my web design business. I would outsource many projects to India. It was near disaster. And every website was covered in orange—which is not a popular color in the United States like it is in India.
Tim Ferris, publishing phenomenon, once said in a YouTube interview:
“The technology I think can be very confusing to people…the toolkit may have changed slightly but the principles are the principles…” 
Ash Waechter is a direct response copywriter who helps small businesses sell more products and services online. He also writes SEO copy for attracting readers from around the web.