Science for People, Planet and Profitability

The Great Lockdown due to COVID 19 has left us off with its signature, a reminder, that nature is stronger than the humans and; that we just need a few basics for survival and happiness, writes Dr Anju Dave Vaish

Illustration credits (Dr Anju Dave Vaish)
By Dr Anju Dave Vaish
Science has been making people’s lives better since ages. It has made humanity not just survive but thrive, as the most powerful species on the earth. But many of its disciplines have stayed confined only to the research and academic domain; such as environment and social issues. While material consumption saw multifold growth in last so many decades, our ecosystem was more or less ignored to get impacted adversely. The Great Lockdown due to COVID 19; – an unprecedented event has left us off with its signature. A reminder, that nature is stronger than the humans and; that we just need a few basics for survival and happiness. Stuff does not make us happier and we do not need to overconsume stuff, exhausting and polluting our resources. We do not need to push consumerism for profitability. There is a Science that works in tandem for people, planet and profitability!
According to Maslow, as our physiological, safety, relationship, and esteem needs are met; our need is to fulfil higher purpose of our being. Something we realized through The Great Lockdown, as we observed each other happily engaged into exploring our creative potential. We were learning something new, cultivating hobbies, spending time into diet and fitness, sharing moments with each other. Most of us probably came quite close to the top of the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy i.e. Self-Actualization. Psychologist Martin Seligman states that humans are happy when there is pleasure, relationship, flow, accomplishment and meaning.
Happiness is biological. There are hormones -serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine and endorphin responsible for our happiness. Marketers figured out these triggers that make us happy and pulled us in external rewards or sources of happiness. We have all seen how brands have been overselling dreams and happiness through catchy advertisements. Be it consumer goods, luxury, healthcare supplements; we got trapped in the circle of earning more to buy more. The Western world has seen heavy consumerism, capitalism and materialism which have taken developing countries also into its grip. It is proven that materialistic wealth does not bring lasting happiness. It erodes with our hedonic adaptation for it.
On Sustainable Brands (USA) forum I had shared my plight- Aping West, East may go South! With the lack of ecological resources and dense population East can’t afford to follow the same trends of consumerism. Besides, what happens in East or West does not stay there. The atmosphere and the ocean currents do not have any borders. Pollution in one corner impacts the other corner too. The devoid and deficits in one region stresses other regions as well. COVID 19 has anyways proven that the impact of human actions anywhere on earth will impact the entire world!
Well, many brands started tapping on the green sentiment already. UN sustainable development goals, push from local governments, and the rising awareness in the consumers made these shift.  Following was what can be called as greenrush or peoplerush- brands overcrowding for ‘purpose’- to present their image as a hero doing good for the people and planet. A good movement, but with a question in the offing- is it all true? Thomas Kolster, a global marketing activist popularly known as Mr. Goodvertising brings attention of brands to this realization in his book – The Hero Trap. People now get more credibility and fulfillment when they get control, when they realize their own potential, and their goals; even if they are for the society and the environment. They seek active participation or tangible impact. The brands need not fall in their own trap being the sole or the bigger hero doing well, especially for ocean deep challenges such as cleaning plastic from it. They can all be individualistic or collective motivational goals too.
With people sharing stories on social media, it takes no time that we see a real hero emerging from the masses. They are out there doing something solid, bringing a real change- for the community or the planet. Their following would be organic, with no advertising budget. Their influence would be on millions. Greta Thunberg on climate change and action is one such example. And there are tons in any region, country or around the globe. In his book Thomas Kolster discusses the influence and power of these common people who could actualize their potential and brands can help them ‘become!’ Brands can facilitate people to achieve their goals- which could be learning, fitness, well-being, problem-solving, or even participating for society and environment.  He also highlights that as technology and biology morph, our mind and bodies are no longer a limitation to self- actualization.
There have been many customer engaging events happening around plantation drives, marathons, painting and crafts and there is lot of rise in the DIY segment too. But now there are many start-ups evolving around the concept of self-improvement. Pinkathon by Milind Soman is motivating women participation in fitness in India, while Oatly in Denmark drives people towards a healthy plant based diet. According to Goldstein, Self- Actualization requires a process of development. Even though Maslow’s pyramid is widely acknowledged, Goldstein theory has proved right in many cases where people even from poor socio-economic backgrounds first actualized their potential through their inner drive and rest followed. Scott Kaufman (psychologist) also relates the theory with 21st century and presents that Maslow never drew a pyramid per se. Therefore, the brands need not wait for the people to climb up the mountain.
Now with the big and thick data analytics we can dig deeper into people choices and behavior and help them actualize their potential. Virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence are all enabling human potential to the next levels. Also, with the concept of uniqueness, as each individual is unique. There are many wearable devices powered with AI personal coach that help us with diet, exercise while monitor our heartbeat and blood pressure. There is lot of technological advancement happening in the direction of assistive technologies to help people with disabilities. Applications and devices for the people with sight, speech or mobility impairments is one area that needs revolution to the next level. Brands have a huge opportunity to connect with their customers individually, emotionally creating new neural pathways achieving holistic goodness- individualistic, societal and planetary.

About Author: Dr Anju Dave Vaish, Founder, Creative Director, CoffeebeanMedia | TRY for GOOD. Dr Anju is a Branding and Sustainability professional with a special focus in BioScience and Technology sector. An invited speaker in Sustainable Brands (USA) and other global forums for marketing and purpose she is acknowledged for her incisive content.