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The Risk of Using Purpose Marketing for Your Brand Image

What “Woke-Washing” Might Actually Do to Your Brand Image

It seems that with every new political issue or controversial topic comes companies with marketing campaigns to reference them. It’s great that businesses are recognizing the importance of staying up to date with current events, but for the businesses themselves, this can quickly prove to do more harm than good. Let’s take a closer look.

Alright, so what is “woke-washing”?

In a nutshell, woke-washing describes the new trend of integrating current issues into a marketing campaign at a shallow level. It doesn’t take any form of deep intellect to know that businesses are profit driven. With this is a staple in their motivation, they’ll do almost anything that will guarantee an ROI. While incorporating social issues into their ads can boost social awareness and showcase the company’s values, it’s important that they can talk the talk as well.

The Good

Formerly taboo topics are getting the recognition they deserve on mass media- this is a good thing, right? As said by Unilever CEO Alan Jope at the 2019 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, “Purpose is one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve seen for this industry in my 35 years of marketing. Done properly, done responsibly, it will help us restore trust in our industry, unlock greater creativity in our work, and grow the brands we love.” And he’s absolutely right- businesses have come across an incredible opportunity to induce social change while building real relationships with their consumers. Purpose marketing done right can help your business establish its brand and set it on a trajectory for exponential growth. The problem is, many companies jump on this bandwagon for the wrong reasons.

The Bad

While we live in a society in which open discussion of hard-hitting topics is becoming increasingly commonplace, that same society is also quick to sniff out a rat and turn them on their heads. Take Burger King’s recent campaign, for example. Aligned with Mental Awareness month, Burger King launched its #FeelYourWay campaign which featured “Blue Meals” or “Pissed Meals” to say that you don’t always have to be happy to eat there (a subtle jab at the McDonald’s Happy Meal). On the surface this seems like a thoughtful, humorous effort to strike up conversation about mental health. However, our social media detectives quickly pointed out how, because of their low wages, Burger King employees probably couldn’t afford mental health care. And, as we all know, there’s a confirmed interrelation between financial insecurity and poor mental health. Companies that publicly support causes that they don’t incorporate throughout their internal workings end up damaging their brand reliability and trust. Without that reputation of accountability and trust, your business is doomed.

What your business can do

It really isn’t that hard to avoid this kind of conflict of interests- don’t say something you don’t mean. With access to a plethora of public information about a company, it’s very easy for consumers to see which brands mean what they say, and which ones are just in it for the money. As a business, your brand image is everything. A poor brand image for a company that’s actually great can be the difference between it getting the recognition it deserves or none at all.

Looking to explore your brand and properly establish it to increase user engagement and ROI? Here at Kraus Marketing, our team of experienced brand strategists are ready to ensure that your brand is clearly defined and is using the most effective marketing campaign to get you the attention you deserve. Contact us today!