As companies across the country demonstrate their wokeness, leaders should on occasion stop to assess the business risk from these efforts. Alienation of their brand with existing and potential customers, let alone their employees, should be properly weighed with the advantages being promoted by marketers, social justice warriors and advertising agencies. In an increasing divided country this risk is real and growing.
Let’s looks at some recent examples of wokeness efforts:
Amazon supplies computers to poor black children. Amazon is running a multimillion-dollar campaign promoting their efforts to provide computers to black children given so many are without them during this time of in-home schooling. A noble endeavor indeed, but of course we know that disadvantage children of all races need computers so why single out only some for your marketing?
Citibank is actively promoting racial equity access to capital. It seems lack of capital is a race issue now. In reality, small business owners and individuals of all races, women and men lack capital resources. The absence of business planning, financial education, connections and mentorship are more significant drivers to lack of capital. So why focus on race?
Bed Bath & Beyond drops My Pillow products due to the owner Mike Lindell’s political views and affiliations. If they were selling, why?
The answer to these questions is that they believe it will enhance or at least protect their brand. The target for these efforts seems to be the educated (some say indoctrinated) younger generation consumers who see these efforts, and hundreds more like them, and nod their heads and get a “feel good” message with the brand. At the same time these companies are making a classic marketing mistake of marketing to themselves.
If the ever-increasing number of corporate woke efforts shows anything, it shows that it must be working. At least for now. But what if the woke consumers of these efforts actually wake up? What if they realize that these are really polished marketing and brand building exercises? No one likes being played a fool and they may just vote with their pocketbooks.
When combined with the barrage of diversity and inclusion activity thrust upon their employees, woke corporations are also trying to protect themselves form a small but loud group of social justice warriors and the cancel culture mob. But at what cost long term?
The risk reward calculation for corporate wokeness only works as long as a significant number or existing and potential customers stay with you. But what if they leave out of disgust or realize that other options exist that better align with their need for unity and real inclusion?
Companies will argue that this is a win-win for them and society. But is it? Inserting race and politics into all things not only drives division, but potentially alienates consumers and employees. Does Bed Bath & Beyond, struggling to remain relevant, think that they will attract enough new woke shoppers to make up for those in their demographic sweet spot that are disgusted?
The country is divided and woke companies are adding to this division. Short term thinking, marketing to themselves and losing sight of their customers will invite competition, hurt their brand and lead to a more divided country. Weighing your “woke” risk should be an ongoing effort and finding ways of bringing customers and employees together a more worthy endeavor.
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