We ask the question - is social activism by brands virtue-signaling or tone-deaf marketing? Listen now!

Main Takeaways:

  • Woke-washing has become more and more prevalent in today's economy, where social awareness is a major selling point.
  • Are there ways to be socially conscious without completely being dedicated to a cause or movement?
  • Woke gatekeepers are the first to point out how brands are deviating from their message, even if those brands are putting in the extra work to remain socially conscious.
  • Is it possible for a discount store to also be ethically sourced?

The Woke Debaucle: Setting the Record Straight:

  • To set the record straight, Phillip and Brian clarify that they indeed know what "woke" means (do they though?) despite coming off as a Baby Boomer and Gen Xer, respectively.
  • Just a short while after the episode on woke commerce dropped, there was an article posted on woke-washing.
  • Phillip thinks that there is something about this particular time of year that leads to brands using patriotism and socially conscious messaging as part of their marketing.
  • There was another article recently that said that woke-washing is beginning to infect the advertising industry due to brands running purpose-driven campaigns, but failing to take real action.

Real-World Examples: How Do You Do "Woke" Right?

  • "If you are highlighting something that you do to your customers for a specific cause or issue and highlight that yourself as part of your marketing, that is not very woke."
  • Brian and Phillip refer back to Patagonia, whose customers and typical customer persona does not always match up to Patagonia's political views.
  • Patagonia is an excellent example of a company that would rather lose some business in pursuing something right and just as opposed to just focusing on financial gain.
  • Phillip bets that there are very few businesses that can claim that they genuinely favor social or environmental benefits as opposed to money.

Levels of Wokeness: Is It All or Nothing?:

  • Brian questions if a brand needs to be dedicated entirely to a social cause to be authentic.
  • Phillip refers to the opening line of the woke-washing article that brings up "razor company talking about #MeToo and a burger chain tackling depression".
  • Do you think Burger King was commenting on mental health with their Real Meal Campaign and did this make them woke?
  • Brian proposes changing the terminology to "social awareness commerce." (And there were cringes to be had by all from this statement.)
  • Phillip brings up Emily Singer's newsletter called Chips + Dips that talks about really cool things in the direct-to-consumer world, but more specifically DIP:011 that talks about Everlane being a great example of a socially conscious brand.
  • Brian brings up Krochet Kids as an example of a great, ethically sourced brand.

Combatting the Critiques: How To Deal With Woke Gatekeepers:

  • It needs to be clear that you care about the communities that you are involved in.
  • Phillip asks the listeners: "If you set out to be socially conscious as a strategy, is that inherently undoing the good you are trying to accomplish?" (That's a great question.)
  • Phillip brings up a recent article in the New York Times by Allbirds that is content that is truly about birds in partnership with the National Audobon Society.
  • Brian uncomfortably combines Gary Vaynerchuk and woke in the same sentence and cements his place as a Gen Xer (which wasn't a secret).

The Halo Effect: Discount Stores in a Strong Economy:

  • Brian questions what a "woke dollar store" would look like. (Oh boy. There will be a link included at the end so you can send in your hate mail.)
  • Is there a way for a discount store that sources its goods from areas of the world that have unfair labor practices to also be sustainable created and produced?
  • While they may not sell fresh fruit at dollar stores, the next best thing would probably be Aldi.
  • Phillip brings up Dress Barn as an example of a discount store that is struggling in an economy in which people can afford better goods.
  • Brian mentions Brandless as a brand that fulfills both the discount requirements as well as being ethically sourced.
  • Phillip also finds and briefly goes over the Dollar Tree Sustainability Report.

Brands Mentioned in this Episode:

As always: We want to hear what our listeners think! Can a brand make small contributions to social change, or do they have to be fully invested in a cause to be authentic?

Let us know in the content section on Futurecommerce.fm, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Linkedin.

Have any questions or comments about the show? You can reach out to us at info@futurecommerce.fm or any of our social channels; we love hearing from our listeners!

Have hatemail after all that "woke" discussion? Send it to Brian@futurecommerce.fm or Phillip@futurecommerce.fm.

Retail Tech is moving fast, but Future Commerce is moving faster.

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