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 Have you heard of “woke washing”? It means prying on customers’ social awareness. Or have you ever been offended by a certain slogan or advertising? I haven’t, but every time when I see those skinny models wearing squeezing tights, I can feel the pressure. When I was in high school, body-shaming ads was firstly criticized, and the notion of embracing different shapes of your body was raised by brands. Following that, the need of equality and diversity has been realized and reflected in many ads.

How 'woke' should my marketing team be?

As today’s digital marketing largely base on social media, brands are facing different social changes every day. Most of them are increasingly engaging with the realm of politics. Recently, Kanye West’s antisemitism remarks ended his relationship with Adidas and Balenciaga, deleting his name on Forbes Billionaires List. In 2019, Lacoste announced it would swap its classic crocodile logo for 10 limited-edition polo shirts and use a different endangered species instead; it was soon criticized online of offending the notion of protecting animals. 

You don’t have to think if Adidas, Balenciaga, and Lacoste are responsible for changing the industry, or the world. But can advertising have an ethical aspect? How ‘woke’ should your marketing team be on social justice?

Here are some takeaways for your marketing team.

  1. Be real

Marketers in your team are often frontline workers. Their execution has a direct impact on a brand’s image. Hence, your marketing team should be aware of what your brands stand for and what community that your company serve. Don’t pretend to be someone else for short-term benefits, because your customers are sensitive to any changes of your service. Once your customers feel being cheated or offended, they no longer hold the trust in your brand. Your sincerity and honesty matter a lot in your communication with customers.

  1. Live in the moment

When your team finish the marketing campaign, do you feel like you are missing some parts? Or is there anything you’ve missed out? If your company find the issue that has not weighed in on before, take a step back and think about it. For every day is a different day, your company should have inclusive marketing and communication all the time. Your team should keep changing and learning all year round.

  1. Get ready for critics

There is no perfect marketing campaign at all, and you can’t always satisfy every customer. Therefore, communicators should be ready for any potential crisis, or a backlash. A brand can never make progress when it only listens to the praise. If you receive a critic, take it and think about it. As long as you keep real and honest, a group of loyal customers (or your target customers) will keep follow you and stakeholders will praise and support your brand uniqueness. Thus, get ready for crisis, and keep realizing your goals. It will be worth it to take the pain in this process.

  1. Mind your words

Since he talks much errs much, don’t talk too much in your conversations. Instead, finding your tone and proper vocabulary can make your communication more professional. When you talk, using common and down-to-earth vocabulary helps avoid misinterpretations. Because your customers are people, they may have a different understanding of your word, even though you don’t really mean it sometimes. Therefore, when you choose your words, make sure you take consideration of 2 basic aspects listed below.


Diversity means the mix of people in a community. It includes many identities, and is related to human features such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, education, language, physical appearance, socioeconomic status, etc. Good examples like Stuart Weitzman’s campaign “An Injection of Fresh Personality”, has concerned celebrity effect and diversity. It shows that every individual is different, and every people wants to be concerned and welcomed. Your team should avoid using too controversial or sensitive vocabulary when describing products or customers.


Equity means fair access to each opportunity and service. It has been discussed for a long time and the definition of legal human rights is changing according to different situations. From resource allocation to the manner of speaking, treating people differently or implementing different policies will make you look partial. To be equitable, your team should take some considerations like balancing the words towards different customer groups, unifying the pricing.

In conclusion, wisely using woke marketing and communications will help you build positive brand culture, and your marketing team should be agile for changes and your customers’ sentiments. However, we can’t always make every customer satisfied, so it’s also worthwhile to take the pain of being criticized. As long as your team knows exactly what your brand is, keeps it clear and unique, and you will find your position in the market.

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