Go Woke Go Broke – The fall of the Woke Corporations
The Wake-Up Call: How Woke Culture Is Impacting Legacy Brands
In recent years, the landscape of American legacy brands has undergone a seismic shift. Long-standing icons like Bud Light, Ben and Jerry’s, and Target have experienced financial and reputational turbulence as they embraced what some might call the “woke” movement. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the meteoric falls of these brands and ask whether they can ever regain the trust of their loyal customer base.
The Rise of DEI and Corporate America
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have become major buzzwords in Corporate America. DEI management is currently the second-fastest-growing job category on LinkedIn, and major businesses are under pressure to enhance their reputation as desirable employers in an increasingly competitive marketplace. But do these companies genuinely care about their employees’ well-being, or is this just an expensive form of virtue signaling?
As some argue, it appears that these corporations may not truly prioritize cultural issues but are more interested in looking good on social media and maintaining a high ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) score. This perspective raises questions about whether they are genuinely committed to their customers or more focused on appeasing other businesses.
The Bud Light Debacle
One of the most high-profile casualties of the woke movement has been Bud Light. The iconic beer brand suffered a significant blow when transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney led a campaign that disrupted the market share of the beloved beer. Bud Light, once America’s favorite beer, lost its title after two decades, with Mexican lager Modelo Especial claiming the top spot. The backlash stemmed from a social media post by Dylan Mulvaney, suggesting that the company had alienated its core audience – the frat guys who traditionally drank Bud Light.
Bud Light’s troubles deepened as its parent company reportedly lost $27 billion in market value due to its attempts to promote transgender ideology. Even the ad agency responsible for the campaign faced an uncertain future.
The Target Backlash
Target, the department store giant, also faced financial and reputational consequences for its actions during Pride Month. The company’s decision to roll out a pride collection featuring LGBTQ-friendly clothing for children led to a boycott that resulted in a $9 billion loss in market value. The customer pushback against such a politically charged move was evident, showing that companies might need to reconsider their approach to activism.
Ben and Jerry’s Hypocrisy
Ben and Jerry’s, known for its progressive stance, faced backlash after demanding reparations through a 4th of July tweet. While they advocated returning land to indigenous people, it was revealed that they hadn’t done the same for the Native American nation that originally controlled the land where their headquarters is located.
Disney’s Woke Woes
Even entertainment behemoth Disney faced a subscriber exodus, losing 2.4 million subscribers after embracing woke content. Their push for inclusion, including featuring a non-binary character in a film, resulted in the lowest opening weekend revenue in the company’s history.
Starbucks, too, found itself in the crosshairs after dedicating an entire TV commercial to transgender issues. While they initially faced backlash for not allowing employees to decorate their workplaces for Pride Month, the company eventually found itself in a position where its politics and coffee mix didn’t bode well with consumers.
Consumer Power and Corporate Change
Despite the resistance from some CEOs and marketing departments, the consumer pushback against overtly woke agendas has started to show results. Disney’s Chief Diversity Officer resigned, and they had to tone down their agenda. Target stock plummeted, and Starbucks faced strikes over Pride merchandise removal.
In this era of increased corporate activism, it’s becoming clear that businesses that prioritize preaching over serving their customers are at risk of suffering severe consequences. The days when woke corporations were shielded by Wall Street may be numbered as even large asset managers like BlackRock begin to reassess their positions. The lesson for legacy brands is clear: striking a balance between corporate activism and serving the customer is essential to avoid a turbulent fall from grace.