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The era of "woke" branding

by Marisa Sanchez-Dunning

Stay woke. Many things have brought me here today to write this article. Well for one, I was literally still awake at 3am, Childish Gambino’s song, Redbone, is one of my favourite of all time and the actual ‘Stay Woke’ movement is compelling, something that I feel everyone in my network should know about. Firstly, if you have not heard Childish Gambino’s, Redbone, here is a link. Get on it.

The ‘Stay Woke’ movement began back in 2008 with the queen herself, Erykah Badu. Although some can argue it started in 2014 with the upsetting amount of police violence incidents occurring in the United States. Stay woke is a slang term, and like most slang terms, the meaning of ‘woke’ changes dependent on who is saying it and to whom they are saying it to. Amongst certain demographics, it means, ‘stay conscious, aware, and educated about the white privilege and supremacy and don’t automatically accept the official explanations for police violence.’ Stay woke. In others, it simply means ‘stay aware.’

  • Although how does this sense of being ‘woke’ translate to brands and how they implement it in their marketing strategies? Below is one example of the best and worst execution of conscious branding that launched in 2017.

    Check out Airbnb’s ‘We Accept’ campaign. With the political and social climate recently upon us, Airbnb was inspired to take action early February of 2017. They believe in the simple idea that, everyone everywhere should be accepted for whoever they love, whoever they worship and whoever they choose to be. Along with these ideals and campaign, they have gone a bit further and have decided to take some real action. They have a set a goal for themselves over the next five years to provide housing for 100,000 people in need. I don’t know about you, but Airbnb is definitely a brand that is effectively using the term, ‘stay woke’ throughout their marketing and implementing it in their company values.

  • One of the most controversial ads of this year, was Pepsi’s advert, Jump In starring Kendall Jenner. Pepsi introduced themselves as a solution to the racial discrimination and lack of acceptance within society and not as an ally.

    Pepsi and Kendall Jenner received massive backlash to the ad. If you haven’t seen it, check it out . From the beginning of the ad it is hard to understand what is going on and why, but the one thing that is consistent throughout the ad, is the Pepsi can. Front and centre. Giving the idea and feeling that a can of Pepsi is the answer to all oppression within every community. One can imagine the uproar that was inspired by this, infuriating a lot of people within communities around the world. This is clearly an example of a brand that tried but failed in the attempt to seem “woke”.

  • The term has driven certain businesses to use it as a marketing scheme in an attempt to attract the attention of liberal millennials for profit, exploiting not only the origin but also the term in its entirety. Though, I do think it is important to ‘stay woke’ but do you think there is a line that is in danger of being crossed? Let’s see if the era of “woke” branding will continue through 2018. Regardless, #staywoke people.

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