20 Brands That Lost Their Edge by Going Woke


What does it mean to be “woke”? It’s a term that refers to being aware of and supporting social justice issues. Sounds good, right? Well, not everyone agrees. Some people think that brands that go “woke” are pandering, virtue-signaling, or alienating their customers. Let’s look at 15 examples of brands that went “woke” and faced backlash, boycotts, or losses.

Bud Light’s Pride Misstep


Bud Light’s attempt to celebrate Pride Month took a controversial turn when it featured the face of trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney on a beer can. This move sparked outrage from conservative groups, politicians, and even celebrities like Kid Rock. The fallout included a significant sales drop, enabling Coors Light to surpass its popularity.

Target’s LGBTQ+ Collection

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In 2023, retail giant Target was met with intense harassment from anti-LGBTQ+ groups after launching an LGBTQ+-themed collection. Concerned about employee safety, Target decided to remove or hide some items, but this move eroded customer trust, resulting in a substantial decline in patronage.

Disney’s Wokeness Dilemma

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Known for its commitment to diversity, Disney encountered objections for allegedly being politically correct, anti-American, or anti-family. SEC filings indicate potential risks to Disney’s profits due to widespread public disapproval of its political stances.

Nike’s Collaboration with a Trans Influencer


This brand’s alignment with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney in 2023 garnered praise and disapproval. While some lauded Nike’s support for social justice, others initiated a boycott, even resorting to burning or cutting their products in protest.

Gillette’s Backlash Over Toxic Masculinity Ad


Gillette’s 2023 ad campaign, “The Best Men Can Be,” challenged toxic masculinity and faced severe opposition. Men felt insulted and accused the brand of being anti-male, resulting in an $8 billion writedown and an admission from parent company Procter & Gamble that the ad was a mistake.

Starbucks’ Controversial Straw Decision

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Starbucks’ announcement to switch to paper or compostable straws faced mockery and criticism for their perceived flimsiness and negative environmental impact. The company was accused of being hypocritical and engaging in virtue signaling, which resulted in a significant decrease in sales and a damaged reputation for the coffee giant.

Coca-Cola’s Backfire in the Pursuit of Wokeness

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Despite Coca-Cola’s efforts to align with the “woke” market, accusations of racism, sexism, and cultural appropriation emerged. The revelation that in 2023, employees were asked to take an online course urging them to “be less white” led to a substantial drop in stock price and brand value.

Netflix’s Critique for Embracing Wokeness


While Netflix received praise for diverse content, it faced criticism for its perceived “woke” agenda, with the removal of popular shows like “The Office” and “Friends” and the addition of some LGBTQ+ and feminist content being seen by some viewers as pushing a leftist, progressive, and anti-family ideology.

Oreo’s Fallout from a Trans Tweet

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Oreo’s tweet, “Trans people exist,” along with a picture of a cookie with the transgender flag colors in 2023, triggered accusations of being political and agenda-driven. Some customers claimed Oreo was tarnishing childhood memories, leading to a decline in sales and social media engagement.

Unilever’s Colorism Controversy

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Long-running consumer goods company Unilever was criticized for selling Fair & Lovely, a skin-lightening cream, accused of promoting colorism and racism. Despite positioning itself as socially responsible, the company’s actions sparked controversy.

Controversy Surrounds e.l.f. Cosmetics’ Eco-Friendly Brushes

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This popular cosmetic brand’s decision to launch makeup brushes made from recycled plastic bottles faced accusations of being “woke” and “political,” with customers claiming the brushes were of low quality.

Mars’ Backlash Over Uncle Ben’s Rebranding

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A well-liked confectionery and pet care brand, Mars faced boycotts for rebranding Uncle Ben’s to Ben’s Original, attempting to remove racial stereotypes. The move was met with criticism for pandering and attempting to erase cultural identity.

Pernod Ricard’s Donation to Trevor Project

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Pernod Ricard’s $100,000 donation to the Trevor Project for LGBTQ+ youth support led to intense backlash. Some argued the company was prioritizing divisive causes over its products.

Campbell’s Support for Same-Sex Marriage


Campbell’s backing of same-sex marriage legalization in the US sparked calls for boycotts. The inclusion of a gay couple and their son in an ad further fueled controversy for the food company.

PepsiCo’s Kendall Jenner Ad Debacle


Public outrage and accusations of insensitivity led PepsiCo to apologize and withdraw an advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner, which was criticized for belittling the Black Lives Matter movement.

Levi Strauss & Co.’s Gun Control Jam

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Levi’s stance on gun control, advocating for stricter legislation, has been applauded by some consumers. However, this approach has also drawn criticism. Consumers with more conservative views felt alienated by Levi’s taking a side on these issues. Some argue that a clothing company shouldn’t wade into political debates and that it pushes them away from the brand.

The NFL’s Kneeling During Anthem


The National Football League, a cultural touchstone in the US, has had its share of controversy. For example, players like Colin Kaepernick started kneeling to turn heads to police brutality and racial injustice. Few fans and commentators saw this act as disrespecting the American flag and the military. There were calls for boycotts of the NFL, and its viewership ratings did decline around that time.

Keurig’s Ad Pull

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Keurig, a famous single-serve coffee machine maker, faced controversy after it pulled its advertising from Hannity’s show because the host critiqued the Black Lives Matter movement. This decision was met with backlash from some consumers, who saw it as an attack on conservative viewpoints and an attempt to silence dissenting voices.

Grubhub’s Anti-Trump Move

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When Grubhub’s CEO rejected Trump’s political style and asked staff who supported it to resign, he didn’t expect the backlash that followed. After severe backlash, including a call for his company’s boycott, he clarified that he wasn’t against anyone’s political beliefs but just couldn’t stand discrimination or hateful comments.

The North Face’s Pride Partnership

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Starting the Summer of Pride collection and partnering with drag queen Pattie Gonia may have been a good idea, but not all Americans loved it. There were calls to boycott The North Face, with some pointing to the inclusion of children’s wear as them “grooming our children.”


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