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Don't jump on the woke marketing bandwagon
17 Feb 2023
by Freya Morris

To be ‘woke’ is to be aware of social and political issues, such as discrimination, stereotypes and other prejudice. 

However, when it is applied to marketing it can take on a whole new meaning as it is used to describe techniques used by businesses to show their support for social or political matters.

Using woke marketing can easily make your business, and it can just as easily break it - which is why it’s important to ensure everything you say online and in print aligns with your business’ values, cultures and your internal communications.

Where can I see woke marketing?

There are examples of it everywhere - from #LikeAGirl by Always, to Heineken's slightly controversial ‘The Night is Young’ advert.

Unfortunately, there are also examples of unsuccessful attempts to demonstrate ‘wokeness’, including the Pepsi ad accused of trivialising the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality, resulting in negative publicity for both the brand, and the ad’s featuring star Kendall Jenner.

As the line between a successful and unsuccessful woke marketing campaign is so fine, it’s important to sit down and think about what movement you’re publicly supporting, and what connotations it will attach to your brand before acting. After all, you don’t want to be too complacent about your decisions, as once it’s out there, it’s out for good.

The call from consumers

Many businesses are opting to use woke marketing instead of product-based marketing to promote their business as a result of consumer demand. 

Nowadays, consumers are so much more conscious of which brands they’re choosing to support and whether those brands’ values are in line with their own.

For example, in recent years consumers have not only called for businesses to work in an environmentally friendly way, they have also put pressure on businesses to take advantage of their platforms - whether that be in the local community or online - to raise awareness of these issues. Granted, there is typically more pressure on larger businesses like Nike, Sainsbury’s or John Lewis.

Look internally before going public

Before you do anything that will be in the public eye, it’s important to ask yourself whether the movement, awareness day, or social matter you plan on publicly supporting is also reflected in your business.

  • Do your staff feel comfortable expressing their true selves in the workplace? 
  • Does your team experience equal treatment, regardless of race, gender, or age?
  • Is it possible there are acts of discrimination, such as homophobia, in your business?
  • Will you be supporting an awareness day internally, as well as on the outside?
  • Do your business’ values and internal attitudes towards socio-politic topics reflect what you’re putting in your marketing material? For example, do you do anything to celebrate or mark religious holidays like Diwali, or do you just share a post on Facebook?

If your answers to any of these questions leave you feeling a bit uneasy, stop right where you are and work on making sure what you’re saying is reflected in your actions.

There’s nothing worse than a business supporting an awareness day on its social media and showing no evidence of supporting it any other day of the year. 

Modern day consumers aren’t easily tricked when it comes to this kind of thing - they’ve already experienced a multitude of businesses using false advertising and greenwashing tactics.

What should you do?

If this blog has left you thinking you could do with improving your internal comms, culture, and values, don’t worry! We work with a lot of businesses who are not in positions to market certain awareness events because they don’t promote the topic internally. 

As long as you have intentions there to do your bit to make the world a better place, you’re already going in the right direction. 

We know how tough it can be to improve your company’s internal communications to convey these messages, which is why we help clients do this through internal newsletters and intranet updates. We also offer training for businesses so they can do it themselves and can pick up some top tips on the way!

If you’re interested in finding out more about how we do this, pop us an email on info@jandpr.com - we’d love to help you.