COVID-19 and cultural consciousness

SARNGADHARAN NAMBIAR –

The nature of crises is that it reignites human thinking, and collectively humanity gets empowered to take another step, however small or big it may be, in evolution — of the conscious type. Thus emerges the brand new culturally conscious consumer.
The application of psychographic tools against the backdrop of COVID-19 may engender amazing revelations; but for now what is evident is the rise of ‘feel good’ consumerism pegged on cultural consciousness. What we see is the elevation of the consumer as an activist, kind of.
With the maddening pace of living gone, and having enough time to contemplate on life and values, certainly we tend to connect more with our cultural moorings. Times have changed radically, and having learnt the right lessons as we stare life in its face, we have matured enough to deal with the culturally unconscious consumers with a degree of refined condescension.
Yes, it’s not just the deliciousness or quality or even value for money the determinant anymore: the ethical and environmental philosophy behind those nicely packaged products lined up in the shopping shelves does matter a lot today.
But how many of us are aware of this power we as cultural conscious customers wield, and also to what extent each of our principle-driven buying decisions can positively influence strong corporations and popular brands to rethink their profit-only-business model?
The message is clear. Brands need to be active change agents; they need to position themselves as defenders of social and cultural values along with their intrinsic role to bring about disruption and ease of living.
Studies suggest that for a growing number of consumers the cultural relevance of a brand has a great say in whether they actually buy it.
In other words ethical spending is on the rise, globally. Be it used clothing, repeat fashion, sustainable food or locally sourced products, the buying has become conscious. And ethical shopping is premised on the fact that it is not just the product that is being sold, the involved production process too is bundled with the product.
As the present pandemic drives us to think and act realistically and with a touch of compassion and human concern, certainly our buying decisions can be well aligned with the UN’s 2030 sustainable goals, especially the one on Ensuring Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns.
Here we need to examine how the increasing popularity of online shopping can be used to push sustainable consumption. We need to be extra cautious that the amazing choices available and the ease of shopping that ecommerce selling platforms offer in no way make us blind to the ill-treatment of labourers who toil in inhuman conditions producing the so-called fast fashion and stylish gadgets that are sold to us at irresistible prices online. Installing browser plug-ins such as DoneGood could help, as they present us with matching brands and products that meet the ethical notions of the culturally conscious consumers.
Industry watchers have identified a new trend: that of customers embracing local shops and locally produced or sourced items. This is something any online shopping venture can’t afford to ignore.
While online buying accounts for a minuscule share of the total sales in the Sultanate, the pandemic is slowly changing people’s buying preferences in favour of ecommerce. This presents huge opportunities for the Sultanate’s local SMEs and cottage industries that can produce ethical and culturally valuable products and sell the same online.
Yes, the culturally conscious consumer is waiting!