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  • Writer's pictureprachi mevada

Brands in Anthropocene

Updated: Sep 5, 2022

The obliviousness of Utopian Vision

Brands in the Anthropocene have acted as significant "Imagined Orders" in unifying and dividing the masses. In their manifestation as anthropomorphic projections, brands have exerted an outsized sphere of influence on popular culture and human behaviour in positive and negative ways. As is the case with any imagined order, brands have ushered

consumers into subconsciously staking ownership and claiming a personal sense of

responsibility for the brand's more extensive actions.

In a contemporary sense, modern-day brands have metamorphosed from

straightforward product offerings to ecosystems that thrive by integrating themselves

into every facet of consumers' lives. Brands are positioning themselves for economic

success by portraying and selling a utopian vision by building ecosystems, immersing

consumers in their product offerings and satisfying their appetite for consumption.

Brands have also capitalized on this portrayal by retaining customers through

incentivizing ecosystem membership and acquiring new customers by proclaiming

exclusivity of access.

An adverse outcome of this unrelenting resolve for the attainment of utopia is that

important social issues are being used as marketing devices for momentary

exploitation. Due to their penchant to be in "trending" conversations, brands are hopping from one social issue to another without actually investing the time or resources needed to solve the issues in question. This ultimately results in an inconsequential campaign that fails to solve problems, fails to register any tangible impact, and leaves both brand and consumer in a state of oblivion. A recent example of this practice is how brands manoeuvred their way in and out of social responsibility during crises such as the pandemic (social distancing), BLM & post-pandemic (vaccination) challenges that occurred in rapid succession.

A fast-evolving tactic of modern warfare - economic sanctions - has forced brands to

take a position on humanitarian issues either due to self-imposed government

restrictions or foreign-imposed economic sanctions. In today's landscape, individual

brand utopias are interconnected as one consolidated network and hold symbiotic

relationships with each other. When these brands are compelled to pick sides and pull

their products or services from certain locations, this action serves as a rude awakening

that takes the blinders off of consumers and exposes them to the crisis at hand. A highly

relevant example of this phenomenon is the ongoing humanitarian crisis resulting from

Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The decision of financial services companies like Visa &

Mastercard to suspend operations in Russia paralyzed consumer spending, which had

far-reaching consequences on other sectors such as E-commerce (Amazon), web

streaming (Netflix) and retail investing (Robinhood, Coinbase etc.), to name a few.

Thus, the creation of a false utopian idea ironically goes against the very mission

statement of brands, i.e. globalization, and results in a world with ever-increasing

boundaries where consumers have an inherently inward focus on their own needs and

their actions are limited to empty promises and hollow claims rather than much-needed

action. For example, modern-day crises have started a trend where brands push

relevant marketing and consumers add profile picture filters to "stand with" and show their stance and support on these issues. However, there seems to be a significant lapse in accountability for whether any followthrough actions have been taken to help the issue

at hand.

In today's world, transparency is also a critically important responsibility that should be

unequivocally monitored and acted upon by brands. In a future where data is to be

regarded as the most valuable resource, brands' handling of this responsibility alone

decides whether their ecosystems turn out to be utopian or dystopian. To ensure that

the practices elaborated above are not overlooked, there is an urgent need for

consumers to be vigilant about how their data is being tracked, harvested and

boomeranged as a means of subtle coercion to keep them within the confines of the

brand's ecosystem. Brands should proactively embrace their responsibility to

communicate privacy and data tracking practices, not just as legal obligations but also

use explanatory reporting as a means to simplify and elucidate the extent of usage of

harvested data.

Though utopian visions and a race for market space propagate innovation & breed

healthy competition, they also inundate the market with a promise of better products

which ultimately leads to over-production, over-consumption and excessive waste, which

in turn contradicts the promise of sustainability and energy self-sufficiency. They also act

to restrict growth and adaptation, creating an almost unhealthy dependence of

consumers on brand and vice-versa and paralyzing one entity when the other fails to

meet the expectation of demand and supply. Brands should resist overexploitation of

"decoy effect" marketing practices to maximize revenues, as it directly translates to

needless over-consumption, wastage and ultimately a negative footprint on the planet.

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