The Urbanization Trend: Are You Ready?

From the desk of Carole Schmidt

My husband, the country boy, married a “city girl.” Four years ago we made a deliberate decision to move from the Chicago suburbs back into city life, this time in Portland, OR (a shout out to “Portlandia” if you don’t already know this amazing city!).  Though peculiar to some, I feel safer in dense housing, I love mass transit, the number and variety of events and activities suit my curiosities, I love the range of the humanity mix. Yes, I enjoy camping and hotels.

I never gave thought to being part of an exploding statistic. Then I noticed that three projects and three more proposals completed in the past 6 months were in direct response to global urbanization! Urbanization is the increasing number of people that migrate from rural to urban areas. What do these savvy marketers know that I don’t?

If you’re not an urban dweller today, you will likely become one–within 15 years. In 1800, only 2% of the world’s population was urban. In 2014, 180,000 people are added to the urban population each day! By 2030, 84% of the population in developed countries will be living in urban areas.

What does this mean for our lifestyles? For your business? If you’re not exploring how urban populations might help or hurt your brand or business, you should be. Examples of emergent creativity:


  • A boom in small businesses to support the needs of urban populations. High rise bodegas, pet care, mobile child care centers, shoes for the increase in pedestrians, geo-location smartphone advertising to replace physical billboards, storage solutions, etc. Pedestrian monitoring is already underway in NYC to track traffic patterns for transit, lighting, and business solutions. Potholes in Boston are reported automatically by the drivers of the cars that hit them through a smartphone app called Street Bump.


  • Packaging that reduces waste.  As cities grow, so does the trash. At least 28 countries currently have laws designed to encourage reduced packaging and greater recycling of packaging discards. Portland already has reduced trash pick-up to motivate conservation and city-wide composting!
  • Indoor/personal farming: Vertical gardens are growing to replace the loss or degradation of farmland due to development and pollution. Creative solutions to fresh water, urban irrigation, fresh produce, fresh air are needed.


  • Personal healthcare: Minute clinics in more locations, wearable technology for cheaper and more frequent medical monitoring, home lab processing, and webcam consultations are changing the face of healthcare.
  • Hedonistic pleasures and unique physical experiences are needed antidotes to the stress of dense environments. Have you taken aerobic drumming or spin yoga yet? Tower climbs instead of the gym? Singles enjoy a beer and childish hide-n-seek to work off stress while doing your laundry? Global travel is expected to increase fourfold in the next ten years to help urban dwellers recharge.


  • Proximity and ease of mass transport becomes ever more critical for the health of cities and people. Look for supplemental transit to buses and light rail – pedicabs, cycling commutes, Segway, and stronger home office worker networks creating more urban centers.

Don’t let doomsayers distract you from the opportunities before us. History has demonstrated that policies restricting urban migration are ineffective at stalling city growth, anyway. In truth, urbanization is more likely to produce economic, social, and environmental improvements. The “Urban Millennium” is upon us; are you ready?