by Marguerite Coetzee. Welcome to the Anthropocene — the human epoch. We are in an era of human-influenced disruption. Some argue (and have argued for some time now) that nature, the environment, and the earth’s processes are being impacted, shaped, altered and even destroyed by the human population.

Deep connection

Nomadic or hunter-gatherer communities the world over are known to have a deep connection with their environment. There is an overarching idea that nature reflects social tension, conflict and issue. Drought, fire, disease — all may be attributed to social ills playing out in nature. If a natural disaster occurs, the community turns their attention inwardly and reflects on what needs to be resolved, socially.

In stark contrast, urban societies (increasing in size owing to globalisation, urbanisation, and migration) have widened the gap between humanity and nature. People in these urban settings are more individualistic and development-driven (in terms of their own understanding of what progress, success or happiness looks like) than ever before.

Brands and businesses are responding to the Anthropocene in several ways, and two dominant responses are: business as usual —denying, dismissing or downplaying ideas of human impact on the environment — or considerate consumption — conscious efforts to make a bigger impact through reducing negative influence on the environment and encouraging consumers to do the same.

Marketer on Mars

We’ve seen people like Elon Musk lead the next space age by exploding the boundaries of what we thought possible. We’ve seen brands put the responsibility and hope of a better tomorrow into the hands of their consumers — to consume carefully, contribute considerably, and create compassionately.

Closer to home, we have Afro’s Chicken Shop on a journey to remove single-use plastic from its stores. This is driven by the idea that “we love this land and we want future generations to also be able to enjoy it as much as we do but we know that it starts with us”.

What’s next

Seeing the destruction, manipulation, and exploitation of the environment (natural resources, in particular) has raised questions around the sustainability or destruction of life on Earth. Oscar Wilde famously said that progress is the realisation of utopias — as it is a place that humanity constantly strives to find, and it’s this hope that keeps them going towards something better.

Brands have the opportunity and ability to expand consumers’ horizons and future possibilities, to fuel and fulfil their hopes for a better world.

Recommended reading


Marguerite de VilliersMarguerite Coetzee is an anthropologist at strategic marketing consultancy, Kantar Consulting. FastForward, the latest series in her regular column on MarkLives, takes an intellectual, scientific and artistic approach to the future – particularly the future of Africa.

— One subscription form, three newsletters: sign up now for the MarkLives newsletter, including Ramify headlines; The Interlocker, our new monthly comms-focused mailer; and Brands & Branding, launching soon!

Online CPD Courses Psychology Online CPD Courses Marketing analytics software Marketing analytics software for small business Business management software Business accounting software Gearbox repair company Makeup artist