What is woke washing?

CRS Trends  »  Sustainable reputation   »   What is woke washing?

Our generation expects brands to publicly stand for social and environmental change. As a consequence, many companies have decided to include their positioning in various social issues. However, lately a negative trend is beginning to take shape, whose name is not so well known to the public: woke-washing.


Woke washing as a consequence

The term “woke” means: being aware of social problems and social stereotypes and injustices.

This term, applied to advertising and marketing content, describes the strategies used by brands to bring to light certain social or political issues, such as discrimination or injustice.

Currently, consumers seek to connect with the brand identity of a company and also be able to identify with it. As a consequence, many companies have decided to include their positioning on various social issues such as: gender inequality, diversity and inclusion of people with disabilities, among others.

But, can we talk today about companies having a social conscience? Are they authentically working only for social justice and well-being?


Defining woke-washing

The woke washing concept is defined as the appropriation of ethical and progressive values ​​as a form of advertising to improve the reputation of the company without demonstrating a real commitment to the values ​​that are communicated.

Historically, it might resemble the 1980s concept of “greenwashing” or a form of corporate social responsibility. It is not a business self-regulation policy, but a trend.

Fabricating a woke identity without sufficient information can alter and disenchant social consciousness.


A real commitment

Values-based marketing is an important consideration. The challenge is to do it in a way that does not become part of the wave of woke-washing. First, aligning with customer values ​​as a core strategy can be an essential marketing idea.

For a marketing strategy based on values, Mark Schaefer has examined in his book “Marketing Rebellion” success stories and failures where he exposes common themes that can help avoid “woke-washing” and achieve success.

Some of the highlights of the book are:

1.Have clear values.

Does your marketing posture really reflect the DNA of your company?


2.Create a strong lineup.

Today marketing is not only about the “why” of your company, but also the “why” of your client.

3.Be coherent.

A values-based marketing strategy will only work if the values ​​are aligned not only with consumers but also with the actions of the company itself.

4.Have a crisis plan.

In a world as changing and complex as the one we live in, it is important to be prepared for any eventuality.


Look for groups in your community that share your values ​​and need your help. Sponsor their events, donate your services, and better yet, introduce yourself.

Businesses should actively support the cause rather than just raise awareness.


What impactful change can companies make?

The pretense of social commitment is a total failure. However, how can brands eliminate the perception of inauthenticity while actually supporting vulnerable communities?

Instead of just advertising, the first thing companies should do is address problems from within. A company should not preach equality while allowing a sexist, racist, homophobic, or other workplace.

In DoGood we are committed to improving the world through small actions in an innovative, measurable and fun way.

In addition, we help you activate the SDGs, improve your ESG metrics and improve the Non-Financial Information Statements through your teams.

If you want to know more about how we work to create a positive social and environmental impact, click here.