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OPINION: Spend your coins wisely

It’s your responsibility whether you want to be a conscious consumer or fall victim to corporate cons

Corporations have long used their target audiences’ fears and dreams as part of advertising schemes, but customers have become more and more conscious to where they put their dollars and want to practice ethical consumerism. However, companies are taking advantage of this in the form of “woke” branding.

Woke branding is a company’s attempt to provide a vision of morality to satisfy consumers with their practices and social alignments in the hopes of expanding their customer base and increasing revenue.

Pepsi tried this public relations tactic and failed with its Kendall Jenner protest commercial, which aimed at gaining support from younger generations who are politically and socially active.

Dove tried it too by appealing to racial inclusivity with a body wash ad that featured a black, white and an Asian woman which suggestively depicted the black woman transforming into a white woman after cleaning herself with their body wash.

Most recently, Gillette attempted it by trying to tackle the troubling topic of toxic masculinity with its new slogan and ad campaign “The Best a Man Can Be.”

These companies and many others try to appeal to social issues to try to solidify their brands’ images as progressive, inclusive and considerate. Sometimes it’s easy to see through an advertising campaign’s obvious stretch to appeal to some societal concern or another, whether that’s racial justice, body positivity or gender equity.

This trend of advertising allows for a spotlight on movements and a space for inclusivity, but subsequently offers a veil for companies’ evil intentions to use people’s insecurities and worries to form a false connection just to push sales.

The question to be asked of any company that uses these tactics is if it’s a facade of good deeds to slip consumers their products, or are they truly supporters of these good deeds. Another qualifying aspect to consider when assessing a company’s authenticity is to see where these companies divert their funds.

Companies who are successful with their woke branding, yet have shady practices, include those like Chick-fil-A, Nike and Ben and Jerry’s, which were deemed exceptional by consumers in the 2019 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index. The money trails of these companies suggest they aren’t as innocent as they try to appear.

A crowd favorite fast food chain that’s admired for its chipper customer service, yet known for its dubious corporate dealings, still maintains steady customer loyalty. Chick-fil-A donates to groups known for anti-LGBTQ sentiment like the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Nike joined the Black Lives Matter movement with Colin Kaepernick as their talking head to push sales. That ad campaign may have sparked outrage for some but was successful in increasing the company’s value by $6 billion. The campaign almost makes you forget about Nike’s use of sweatshop-like conditions in their factories across Asia.

Ben and Jerry’s ice cream used the guise of greenwashing to push its image. Their packaging labels feature lush pastures with happy cartoon cows and once had claims “all natural” ingredients. In 2017, their dairy tested positive for the herbicide commonly known as Roundup.

It’s your responsibility whether you want to be a conscious consumer or fall victim to corporate cons.

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