From Black Lives Matter to the #MeToo movement, efforts to fight social injustice have significantly increased in recent years. In the corporate world, leaders are being called upon to ‘get woke’ by declaring their takes on socio-political matters. This edition of Muse explores how brands have leveraged ‘woke’ communications to strengthen their relationship with stakeholders.

The evolution of woke movements

Originally a bespoke movement that challenges the legacies of racism faced in the U.S. by Black citizens, ‘wokery’ has broadened its scope. The term ‘woke’ has become commonly associated with progressive thoughts and initiatives against social injustice; To be woke means to be alert to major issues such as LGBTQ+ activism, racial discrimination, and even climate change.

The rise of woke PR

More and more corporates can be seen taking stances on socio-political issues to maintain brand affinity through PR and marketing campaigns.

Nike has been one of the brands at the forefront of woke initiatives. Its “Dream Crazy” campaign, released on the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” slogan, featured a close-up of Colin Kaepernick, famous for his protests over police violence towards African Americans.

While the campaign was met with immediate backlash, Nike was reported to owe a 31% increase in sales and $6 billion brand value growth to this evocative campaign. Furthermore, the partnership with Kaepernick enhanced Nike’s credibility as a proactive advocate of social justice.

The omnipresence of DEI and ESG

As businesses in virtually every industry are pressed to get woke, abundant diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives emerge to disseminate “virtue signals” to maintain stakeholders’ support.

Up to 81% of companies have put ESG initiatives into effect, and three in every four SMEs have a formal ESG-related purpose statement. Many businesses have also reported having committed to promoting DEI in the workplace.

Although brands have benefited from their woke agenda, online discourse recently tells an opposite reality of these movements and the associated risks of getting woke. Continue reading our next blog to find out why!