Woke Washing

Posted by Flux on 

23 August 2019

Today our trend snack will look at how companies are attempting to exploit the zeitgeist by woke washing their campaigns to meet the high ethical standards of their consumers. Companies have realised that many consumers (predominantly Gen Zs and Millennials) do not want products only to work well or to be environmentally friendly. They want to support companies that apply their ethical stance to every area of their business. Below are a few businesses that are embracing this new wave of change and in a few cases suffering at the hands of their woke consumers.

Burger King

Burger King launched its “Real Meal” #feelyourway campaign , aiming to take a dig at McDonald’s “Happy Meal”. It was also a celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month in partnership with Mental Health American. The thinking behind this initiative was that consumers don’t need to be happy to eat their burgers. They could be experiencing any emotion from a wide range while enjoying their meal. So the team launched its Real Meal to appeal to different emotional states, such as the “Blue Meal” or the “Pissed Meal”. What Burger King did not expect was the backlash from consumers who felt that the campaign was not properly considered and trivialised mental health issues. This highlights how brands need to be careful when taking a stance on any specific matter, in this case a fair representation of mental and emotional wellbeing.

Above: Have a look at the #feelyourway campaign


The National Football League in the US has embarked on its own woke washing mission by signing a deal with Roc Nation, rapper Jay Z’s entertainment company. The deal will give Jay Z’s company rights to produce the Super Bowl halftime show. The news of this deal had a mixed reception from fans and industry peers. Colin Kaepernick and those supporting the “taking the knee” movement aren’t impressed as they believe that this deal goes against all the efforts that Kaepernick, supporters, colleagues and organisations have made to ensure that police brutality gets thoroughly addressed. This illustrates how a quest to stand for something can have an adverse impact when a company makes a choice seemingly to get fans to invest in it, without seeing the bigger picture.


In a bid to join the wave created by the #blacklivesmatter movement and the NFL “taking the knee” movement , started by Colin Kaepernick, Nike created a campaign spearheaded by Kaeprnick, under the hashtag “just do it”. This campaign not only spoke to the zeitgeist, but also highlighted the sports company’s support for customers and athletes of colour. The campaign got rave reviews and saw Nike’s digital sales revenue increase by 36% in the fourth quarter of 2018 and their overall online sales increase by 31%. However Nike was then shamed by Alysia Montaño, a former Nike-sponsored athlete, who exposed the company for putting her contract on hold during her pregnancy. Nike responded with an amendment to its sponsorship policy, seemingly after realising that the way companies treat their employees can have a negative impact on consumers’ perceptions of their brand.

Above: Alysia Montaño’s story.

By Tumelo Mojapelo

About Tumelo

As Head of Content and Foresight Facilitator, Tumelo Mojapelo oversees and directs the research undertaken and content generated by the Flux Trends team.

With a wealth of knowledge and experience in the trends analysis space, her mission is to empower entrepreneurs and business people to make better decisions through an understanding of trends – how seemingly unrelated factors and events have the potential to disrupt current business models and society.

Flux Trends’ experts are available for comment and interviews. For all media enquiries please contact Faeeza Khan on .

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Image credit: Jerónimo Bernot AND Creative Mornings AND Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation  AND Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Video credit: Burger King AND The New York Times

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