17 Brands That Have Gone Woke and Are Suffering Because of It

“Woke” is closely aligned with “cancel culture,” diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and environmental, social, and governance (ESG). Engaging with ‘woke’ culture can be a double-edged sword for brands, potentially offering a competitive edge while risking backlash. These 19 brands went “woke” or tried to, and paid the price for it.

Pepsi’s Misstep with Kendall Jenner Ad

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The soft drink company faced backlash after its 2017 ad featuring Kendall Jenner was accused of trivializing social justice movements. The ad, which showed Jenner offering a Pepsi to a police officer during a protest, was criticized for being tone-deaf and exploiting serious issues for commercial gain.

Gillette’s Toxic Masculinity Campaign

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“The Best Men Can Be” campaign, which addressed toxic masculinity, received mixed reactions. While some praised the brand for taking a stand, others accused it of alienating its core customer base and promoting an anti-male message, leading to calls for boycotts. 

Brewdog’s Pink IPA

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A play on their Punk IPA, Brewdog’s Pink IPA, intended as a satirical take on gender pay inequality, was criticized for perpetuating the stereotypes it aimed to mock. The campaign was seen as a failed attempt at woke marketing, with many consumers finding it insensitive rather than empowering. 

Nike and Colin Kaepernick

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Colin Kaepernick, who protested racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem, became the face of Nike for a polarizing campaign. While it bolstered Nike’s reputation among some consumers, it also sparked boycotts and a temporary dip in stock prices due to its divisive nature.

H&M’s Feminist Campaign vs. Labor Practices

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The clothing retailer’s feminist advertising clashed with reports of its exploitative labor practices, particularly in Bangladesh. The brand faced boycott threats and accusations of hypocrisy, highlighting the risks of promoting social causes without ensuring business practices align with those values.

Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign Controversies

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While initially groundbreaking, Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign faced criticism over the years for various missteps, including its Real Beauty Bottles ad in 2017. The brand planned to make bottles of its body wash in shapes representing female body types, though they didn’t go into production when consumers said it made them feel body shamed more than empowered, according to the Washington Post.

Starbucks’ Race Together Initiative

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The “Race Together” initiative encouraged Starbucks’ baristas to discuss race with customers, which was met with skepticism and ridicule. Critics argued that the campaign oversimplified complex issues and placed an undue burden on employees, leading to a swift end to the initiative.

Audi’s Gender Pay Equality Super Bowl Ad

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The German automaker Audi’s Super Bowl ad promoting gender pay equality received backlash for the company’s own gender representation issues, particularly on its executive team. The brand’s lack of internal parity overshadowed the ad’s message, demonstrating the pitfalls of performative activism.

Bud Light’s Transgender Influencer Campaign

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The use of a transgender influencer in Bud Light’s marketing led to a conservative outcry and boycotts. The brand’s attempt to be inclusive resulted in a backlash from certain groups, although it remained a top-selling beer in the U.S. “In Bud Light’s case, it was unseated from its position as the best-selling beer in the US, with sales in the month leading up to 3 June down by nearly 25%,” according to the BBC.

Target’s Pride Collection Backlash

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LGBTQ+-themed Pride collection drew harassment from conservative groups, leading the retailer to remove displays from prominent areas. The move resulted in criticism from both the queer community and conservative shoppers, impacting sales and profits.

Wickes’ Trans-Inclusive Stance

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The brand’s support for gender diversity led to a temporary drop in share prices. Wickes faced criticism for its trans-inclusive stance during the Brighton Pride parade, illustrating the financial risks of taking a stand on social issues.

Unilever’s Progressive Causes

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The owner of Ben & Jerry’s is known for embracing progressive causes. However, its association with controversial social issues, such as an anti-police ice cream flavor, has made it a target for conservative boycotts, potentially impacting shopper decisions, says the NY Post.

e.l.f. Cosmetics’ Social Activism

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While the brand aims to resonate with a progressive audience, it risks alienating those who disagree with its stances. e.l.f. Cosmetics has taken stands on social and political issues, which has led to it being labeled as “woke” by some consumers. 

Mars’ Inclusive M&M’s Campaign

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The beloved candy company faced conservative backlash after introducing more inclusive M&M’s characters. The brand’s attempt to modernize its image and promote diversity was met with resistance from some consumers, who called for boycotts.

Pernod Ricard’s Social Stances

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Known for brands like Jameson whiskey, Pernod Ricard has taken public stances on social issues, aligning with progressive values. This positioning has made it a target for boycotts by consumers who view its activism as excessive.

Campbell’s Support for Social Causes

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More than just soup, Campbell’s has been involved in supporting various social causes, which has led to it being perceived as a “woke” brand. The company’s activism efforts have sometimes resulted in backlash from consumers who prefer brands to stay out of politics.

Mattel’s Inclusive Toy Lines

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The introduction of inclusive toy lines, such as gender-neutral dolls, reflects a diverse society. While these efforts aim to promote acceptance, they have also sparked controversy and boycotts from consumers who disagree with the brand’s progressive approach.

Read More: 17 Things Society Can No Longer Do Because Gen Z Said So

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Gen Z, our digital-native, trendsetting generation, is making waves in the cultural sea, steering the ship of societal norms in fresh and unexpected directions. As they charter new territories, there are certain practices they’d rather we say goodbye to. Curious? Let’s take a look at 17 things the rest of us can no longer do because Gen Z said so.

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18 Common Traits Found in Adults Who Had Unhappy Childhoods

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Being a parent is a hard job, so even those who are truly trying their best will often miss the mark on creating the best environment for their children. Unfortunately, this means that many of us grow up with far-from-perfect childhoods that affect us into adulthood. Here are 18 common traits found in adults who had unhappy childhoods.

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18 Things Old People Just Can’t Get On Board with Today

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Over the past few decades, society has evolved, and with it, so have a few things that older generations find it uncomfortable to get the hang of. While younger generations are easily able to adapt to these changes, some of which are drastic, others may be struggling slightly. Here are 18 things the elderly may have difficulty learning.

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19 Big Mistakes People Make After Losing a Spouse

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Losing a spouse is one of life’s most tragic experiences, and when we’re overwhelmed by grief, we might make some decisions that we’ll later regret. Here are 19 mistakes people make after losing their spouse.

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20 Time-Honored Practices Our Grandparents Followed That We Should Bring Back

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Our grandparents had a far simpler life. There was no such thing as social media. Instead, there was more walking and meals were always fresh and homemade. With so many things keeping us busy nowadays, sometimes life would seem much easier if we lived the way our grandparents did.

20 Time-Honored Practices Our Grandparents Followed That We Should Bring Back