media update’s Nicole van Wyk attended the launch of Boo-Yah! and Joe Public’s #WokeFit event on Thursday, 2 May. The event aimed to unpack ‘woke’ issues and why brands should be endorsing this school of thought when approaching marketing strategies.

1. “Bring the right people into the room”

Make sure that you are giving relevant people the opportunity to weigh in on marketing moves. If you are appealing to a woke audience, you need to delve into social issues and be prepared to take on social responsibility.

Give the right people the platform to speak on issues directly affecting them and their lived experiences. If your target market is young black women, you need to bring young black women into the room to have discussions about what they would want the brand to represent.

Remember that being woke means recognising, acknowledging and then acting on injustices. For example, if your target market is a minority group, it is important to create and maintain an inclusive space for said group.

Access is an incredibly powerful tool and, as a brand, you need to be aware of your role as gatekeepers to marketing and portrayal of underrepresented individuals or groups.
If your target market is young black women, you need to bring young black women into the room.

Don’t assume that you are doing away with injustice by hiring someone who appears to be clued up on the issues you are addressing. As a woke brand, every marketing decision should be influenced by social consciousness. Know why it is necessary to give someone a seat at the marketing table.

2. “Be able to co-create”

Collaborative work is important at every stage of woke brand marketing. Aside from being inclusive by bringing the right people into room, you need to be willing to co-create.

Listening is not enough. You need to grapple with the issues being raised and find solutions that your marketing team can incorporate into your strategy. If you stop at the first step, you will be missing the crux of it all.

You cannot bring the right people into the room, open the floor for discussion and then choose to dismiss important factors because it does not align with your brand. “Stay woke or get left behind,” says Masemola.

Taking concepts and ideas and altering them to suit the needs of your brand is not co-creation. Brands and brand ambassadors need to find common ground. Ask yourself how this project can take flight by incorporating the core values of your brand as well as holding onto the sentiment your co-creators have brought to the table.
Stay woke or get left behind.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t pretend to be progressive. Rather, be willing to learn through trial and error.

3. “Brands need to recognise their position and use it responsibly”

As a brand, you need to use your position and means to address social injustice and society. Recognising the levels of privilege at play is an important factor for any brand to consider. This will help you to make an informed and responsible decision when you decide on a brand ambassador.  
Being woke is acknowledging the internal bias, and staying woke is the action.
Remember, your brand is constantly given the opportunity to reinvent its image by employing different marketing strategies. Being a woke brand “means empathising with the plight of others,” adds Masemola. Understanding where issues stem from and facilitating conversations that will alter the narrative and bring about change is one of the ultimate goals a woke brand can hope to achieve.

A woke brand is one that is not afraid to use its voice to advocate for social justice. For this reason, vulnerability is a vital part of the marketing process. The point is to keep on trying until you find your fit in the woke society. Your consumers will appreciate the fact that you are admitting to missing the mark but that you are willing to try again and do things differently the next time around. Remember that brands don’t get it right every single time.    

4. “Brands need to genuinely stand for something”

Pretending to be a woke brand will only result in a lack of trust between a brand and its consumers. Take a stance and take it early on. Be sure of what you stand for as a brand. Don’t figure out as you go along.

It’s all well and good playing in the woke field, but not knowing your position is the equivalent of running onto the pitch and running around aimlessly. A woke brand is one that markets with conviction. You need to arrive prepared and be ready to take a few hard knocks because there may be people who disagree with the stance you have taken.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. It is “not enough to just use buzzwords,” says Masemola. Do your research and gain an in-depth understanding of what your marketing strategy is trying to convey about your brand. Don’t throw jargon around and hope that it will appeal to your target market.  

Credibility is important in any business, and if you genuinely stand for something, it will only serve you well because you have served your consumers well. Listen and participate in ground level issues. As Masemola puts it: “Say something and then do something”.     

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A woke brand advocates for social issues. Make sure you monitor your online reputation by having a look at our Participating in online activism: Four ways to protect your brand image guide.