Keeping It Real - 4 ways to avoid harming your brand

The term ‘woke-washing’ has been bandied about quite a bit in marketing circles recently. In a nutshell, ‘woke’ is urban slang, meaning social and environmental awareness, and ‘woke-washing’ describes the unfortunate phenomenon of brands not living up to their activism marketing PR in practice.

Consumers are savvy; they want to know where and how their beef was raised, whether their favourite snacks contain palm oil and that their shirt wasn’t made by children in a Bangladesh sweatshop.

Personally, I think this increased interest in the ethical side of consumption is long overdue and I welcome the extra pressure it puts on companies to do the right thing.

Decades of abuse of trust, such as dodgy advertising tactics by big tobacco and the murky wave of “green-washing” in the 90s, have left consumers sceptical, wary and mistrusting.

In this age of enlightened, engaged - and yes, ‘woke’ - consumers, it’s therefore essential for businesses to walk the talk so, if you do decide to engage in activism marketing, here are some things to bear in mind:

  1. Keep it real: Choose causes that fit well with your brand’s stated values, stick with them for the long term and back up your words with action.

  2. Don’t posture for popularity: your brand isn’t expected to attach itself to every hot topic hashtag of the moment if the issues have no genuine connection with your organisation or its objectives. Your customers are smart and will see straight through token efforts.

  3. Have a marketing strategy (so you’ll never need a marketing ploy): a ploy is a cynical attempt to outwit a consumer, whereas a strategy is a plan of action designed to promote and sell a product or service. I know which I’d choose.

  4. Be authentic and genuine: you’ve worked really hard to build your brand and people want to hear your story. Telling it with integrity will build trust and help foster genuine connection and commitment.

How does your brand appeal to its ‘woke’ customers..?