14 votes

Woke-washing: how brands are cashing in on the culture wars

3 comments

  1. Akir
    Link
    I'm glad to see this. The term is "Cause Marketing", and it's one of the most effective advertising techniques in the current era. One of the companies I work with is a sponsor of the Make a Wish...

    I'm glad to see this. The term is "Cause Marketing", and it's one of the most effective advertising techniques in the current era. One of the companies I work with is a sponsor of the Make a Wish Foundation for this reason, and they have done this for around a decade now.

    To be fair, I don't think this is a bad thing in and of itself. If you're going to buy something anyways, you might as well buy something from someone who is supporting your cause. It's not nearly as good as directly supporting it, but it's something. The only real problem are the companies who say they support a cause but don't do anything but lip service. Saying you support #MeToo doesn't really do anything, but funding support services for rape victims does. So if one is to support a business because they give to the cause, make sure they not only are giving capitol to relevant organizations, but make sure that it's a long-term relationship.

    10 votes
  2. s-sea
    Link
    Interesting piece, though what I've always found intriguing about companies "cashing in" on culture is that they've done the math and determined the relative cost (e.g. all the upset folks burning...

    Interesting piece, though what I've always found intriguing about companies "cashing in" on culture is that they've done the math and determined the relative cost (e.g. all the upset folks burning nike clothing after kaepernick) is outweighed by the gains.

    While they're unfortunately still oftentimes hypocritical, I think the companies aren't necessarily "mainstreaming" these ideas so much as they are being weather vanes for society. While companies can and have changed some social norms (e.g. cigarette companies), I think that lgbtq and similar issues are ones that don't have a direct profit attachment with "promoting" them, if that makes sense. So rather than companies paving the way, it's companies seeing the path being made and joining.

    4 votes
  3. Gaywallet
    Link
    While I think it's important to maintain a healthy skepticism about the reasons why a company chooses to engage in a particular activism (often times profit driven, as mentioned by the author), I...

    While I think it's important to maintain a healthy skepticism about the reasons why a company chooses to engage in a particular activism (often times profit driven, as mentioned by the author), I think it's important to consider what would happen in the absence of this "woke-washing".

    For example, the author points out the following:

    If I was going to be grouchy about M&S, I would suggest that if the retailer is going to use pro-LGBTQ sentiments for commercial purposes, it might donate more money than could be raised by a couple of private citizens doing a sponsored marathon. LGBTQ employees would probably benefit from being paid the real living wage and that it might consider selling the sandwiches in the stores it has proudly opened in gay-hating Saudi Arabia.

    While this is a valid concern, let's imagine for a second that this is purely a PR move. If this is a PR move, it's coming from a PR budget. This PR budget could go to literally anything else besides the LGBTQ community that they are choosing to donate some of the profits to.

    Our end result is either a company continuing to be capitalistic and not helping out its LGBTQ employees, or we have a company continuing to be capitalistic and not helping out its LGBTQ employess but ALSO donating a little bit of money to a LGBTQ focused organization.

    So yes, I would prefer to see Starbucks paying their taxes in order to help support the growth of the communities they operate in, but the reality is we have a government which lets them avoid said tax. They could choose to avoid said tax and only run PR which never gives back to the community, but they are choosing to run a kind of PR that does.

    We should incentivize these companies to run these kinds of ad campaigns, because some amount is better than no amount, but at the same time we should be cognizant of the fact that they are doing it in order to drive you to purchase from them. But that's the kind of choice we should always be making - choosing to shop at the most progressive place you can find. Unfortunately that might mean you have to choose the "least worst", but either way it's not stopping another company from stepping in and doing more and subsequently being rewarded by shoppers choosing a product from a company that cares more than the others about an issue important to them.

    4 votes