The rise of AI, Universal Basic Income and the potential shift in consumer behavior

We know an important part of branding is focusing on your target audience, without a clear understanding of the target audience, we cannot successfully drive value for them. With the rise of AI and the potential for more jobs being automated, the notion of Universal Basic Income (UBI) is becoming a potential reality. In fact, some 2020 US presidential candidates are running on UBI. UBI is money paid for being a citizen, coming from tax increases on some population segment (e.g. top 1%, companies). Some UBI proposals are as high as $1,000 a month for every citizen. Additionally data on people not continuing to work or spending money on libations and temptations has been debunked by MIT studies. It is also hypothesized that wages wouldn’t fall, rather increase, particularly for undesirable work. So, what could this mean? It is widely believed that UBI will boost the economy (maybe permanently) and increase consumer spending. With increased consumer income, how will consumer behavior change and what should brands consider?

Judging by the research from MIT, I hypothesize that UBI will have major effect on companies that differentiate on price. Retailers like Walmart may need to start driving more value into what it means to shop there, especially around their generic brand, Equate. Generics could be the hardest hit because while other brands promise the “product + a value”, generics typically only provide the product. As target audiences have more discretionary income, they may opt to purchase products that have additional value or promise. If that is the case, generic/commodity brands will need to decide how to address that gap and stay relevant to their target audiences.

Another sector that could be disrupted with UBI is ironically a sector driving AI: the shared economy. According to a PwC survey on the value proposition of the shared economy, 86% and 83% of consumers “respectfully agreed that the sharing companies make life more affordable and more convenient and efficient.” If cost becomes less of a factor for consumers, will the other portions of the shared-economy value proposition keep companies relevant or will ownership have a resurgence? As legislation over UBI becomes more of a reality, companies will have to figure out how to stay relevant to their target audiences.

Is this farfetched? Maybe. But, the State of Hawaii passed a bill to start the conversation on UBI. With service, hospitality, and transportation being huge portions of the Hawaiian economy, the islands can be particularly hurt by AI and automation. It will be interesting to see if human contact will be of value to future consumers. Similar to the natural/organic movement that many brands thrive on today, will audiences care or crave that human connection when it is gone or will they prefer the efficiencies of automation? To that answer, I can only speculate. Maybe the philanthropic sector will burst with UBI. I do know that with changing consumer behavior and expectations, brands need to consider how to stay relevant to their target audiences.

Do you have opinions or thoughts on UBI and AI? I would love to hear from you. Email me at

Learn from us

Sign up to receive monthly insights right to your inbox
Get on this list

Explore more resources

We solve business challenges with brand.