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Marketing Win/Marketing Fail: Soap and ‘Woke-washing’

In this blog, we occasionally like to examine why two separate brands that take a similar approach to marketing have contrasting fortunes. This time, we will look at examples of how companies try to associate themselves with social issues. This can be a powerful tool, creating a relationship that goes beyond the simple consumer/product dynamic. When used correctly, it can result in people saying, “I choose this brand because it stands for the same things I stand for”. When not used correctly, it comes across as a cynical attempt to “cash in” on an important social problem – Kendall Jenner’s wretched Pepsi ad anyone?

It is no longer enough to just sell something. Brands also need to have values. It’s a fine line, however, between standing for something and alienating customers by making a confused political statement.

Marketing Win: Dove/Cartoon Network

Purveyor of soap, Dove, recently announced it would be partnering with the Cartoon Network show, Steven Universe for a campaign about body-positivity.

The initiative is part of Dove’s Self-Esteem Project, which is aimed at young girls, and will include six short films, a song and educational ebook.

Steven Universe was an astute choice for this campaign. The show, which has a strong cult-following on the internet and is popular among the same age group as Dove’s Self-Esteem Project, also became known for its positive messages about inclusivity.

Partnering with such a well-loved and respected show gives Dove not only credibility but enables it to reach a whole new audience of youngsters and their parents to spread their message and raise brand awareness.

Marketing Fail: Paddy Power and ‘Woke-washing’ brands

Pride celebrations took place at multiple locations around the world at the weekend. The annual event is something brands have gradually cottoned on to and plenty of them are now keen to associate themselves with it.

While it is a good thing that so many companies want to show solidarity with LGBT+ communities, brands also can be perceived as trying to capitalize on serious, ongoing struggles.

This attempt to side brands with persecuted groups has been labelled ‘woke-washing’. Companies have to be very careful how they approach marketing for Pride. If they suddenly change their logo to a rainbow flag, for example, some might take that as trying to jump on the social justice bandwagon.

A publicity stunt that proved to be controversial and problematic happened during Pride celebrations in Brighton in the United Kingdom. The betting company, Paddy Power drove a bus to the city with the words “Official Bus of Gay Professional Footballers” painted on the side. The bus was empty to highlight the lack of homosexual, professional soccer players in the public eye.

The joke was probably well-intentioned but it did not go down well with some people who saw it as an attempt to force people out of the closet.

This has to go down as a misguided attempt by Paddy Power to associate itself with a social issue. Critics were left wondering what exactly betting has to do with LGBT+ rights.

brands, lgbt+, marketing, marketing win/marketing fail