18 Brands That Lost Their Edge by Going Woke

Krystal Smith

The term “woke” has become a focal point in many political and cultural debates in recent years. While the term was once used to show an awareness of social justice, it’s now used as put down by conservative-leaning people who think the world has softened too much. We take 18 brands that have faced accusations of “going woke” and the controversies surrounding them:


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Nike faced backlash in 2018 when they released an ad campaign featuring NFL player Colin Kaepernick.  The San Francisco 49ers quarterback knelt during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, and his subsequent ad with Nike caused some to boycott the brand. Some consumers saw the endorsement of taking the knee in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM) as disrespecting the flag.


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A 2019 Gillette ad, “The Best Men Can Be,” challenged stereotypes of masculinity and sparked outrage from some viewers who felt it was an attack on men. The ad featured scenes of bullying, sexual harassment, and toxic masculinity and challenged traditional notions of what it means to be a man, hence the calls that the brand had turned “woke.” 


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Disney’s stance on LGBTQ+ issues has been controversial in recent years. After years of ignoring the community, the brand has introduced characters that viewers assume to be LBTQ+, such as Specter (Onward) and LeFou (live-action Beauty and the Beast). Some people have praised their inclusivity, while others have accused them of a politicized agenda and are against any LGBTQ+ content aimed at children.


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Some saw a 2020 social media post by Coca-Cola promoting racial unity as critical of white people and, therefore, woke.  The company clarified its message, but the incident highlighted how difficult it is to please all consumers when addressing social issues.

Ben & Jerry’s

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The ice cream company is well known for its social activism, but some critics find their messaging too political.  The brand decided to boycott settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories, which alienated some consumers.


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The outdoor clothing company Patagonia has long been critical of President Trump’s environmental policies. In 2017, Patagonia sued the Trump administration over its decision to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument. The company has a long history of activism, donating a significant portion of its profits to environmental causes, which critics of the brand say shows how woke it is.


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Right-wing groups have boycotted Starbucks for its support of gay marriage and its opposition to President Trump. In 2017, Starbucks announced that it would hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years, which was met with criticism from some conservatives.


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Netflix has consciously tried to feature more diverse characters and storylines in its shows and movies. This includes featuring more people of color, LGBTQ+ characters, and strong female leads. While applauded by many, some viewers see this as an unnecessary focus for Disney.

Levi Strauss 

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Levi Strauss has been boycotted by right-wing America for its support of gun control, going as far as to stop selling its jeans to retailers that also sell guns; the brand was also against President Trump and has consistently been met with criticism among some conservatives.


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Right-wing groups have boycotted Unilever for its stance on issues such as climate change and racial justice. In 2020, the consumer goods brand launched a campaign called “Clean Futures” that pledged to make its products more sustainable, which was criticized by some conservatives as being too political and virtue signaling


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Peloton’s early marketing heavily emphasized physique and weight loss. However, in recent years, they’ve shifted their focus towards inclusivity, body positivity, and mental well-being. This change has been met with mixed reactions, as some appreciate inclusivity, and others say they are pandering to wokeness.


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When the chocolate brand launched a limited-edition “Hers for She” bar for International Women’s Day, it drew attention from conservatives. The bars highlighted female empowerment and partnered with a female-led organization, but some consumers saw it as promoting a specific agenda.


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One key point of contention is Uber’s “Women Rider Preference” feature, which allows female drivers to choose female passengers at night for safety reasons. While intended as a safety measure, some critics see it as promoting identity politics over a practical solution. They argue that it excludes non-binary drivers or riders and might not guarantee safety.


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When coffee chain Costa installed a transgender mural, there were calls from the anti-woke advocates to boycott the store. According to some, the mobile van mural depicts a transgender person as “glorifying surgery” and “mutilation.” A similar reaction occurred when Costa introduced a rainbow cup for LGBTQ+ month. 


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Those on the Right have called for Target to be boycotted on several occasions, mostly due to their promotion of LGBTQ+ inclusivity. The calls escalated when Target announced a policy allowing transgender individuals to use restrooms that align with their gender identity.


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The 2023 Bud Light boycott stemmed from a sponsorship campaign with actress and TikTok personality Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender woman. Some individuals and groups considered Bud Light’s partnership with Mulvaney as promoting “woke ideology” and undermining traditional values. This sentiment fueled calls for a boycott among those holding strong anti-transgender views.


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Lyft has incorporated social justice messages into some marketing campaigns. This could involve partnering with LGBTQ+ rights organizations or promoting environmental initiatives. While some appreciate the firm’s stance, others might view it as virtue signaling or irrelevant to their core service.

The North Face

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In 2023, The North Face offered a discount on its outdoor apparel if customers completed an online course titled “Allyship in the Outdoors,” a digital course about racial inclusion. The course reportedly focused on the concept of “white privilege,” which some found offensive, and others thought the campaign was talking down to them.

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