Consumers Largely Support 'Woke' Brands, Research Shows

Consumers Largely Support 'Woke' Brands, Research Show

A common taunt from fringe boycotts of brands for their equity and inclusion efforts is “Go woke, go broke.” But a growing body of evidence demonstrates that the majority of consumers approve of brands embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion practices.

The Cultural Inclusion Accelerator for ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) recently published a study finding that most consumers support brands’ advertising with multicultural and diverse narratives, influencers, and on-screen representation.

“Consumers overwhelmingly stand for equality, expecting that brands guarantee equality internally for employees and externally for consumers,” AIMM Co-Founder Carlos Santiago told Marketing Daily, explaining that the study was in part a response to brand apprehensions around inclusion efforts stemming from much-publicized far-right boycotts against “woke” companies.

Only 11%-13% of respondents in the study said they were against brands’ inclusion efforts, while around a quarter (25%-26%) were indifferent on the issue. This support was consistent across different aspects of identity, with consumers reporting they were “motivated” or “strongly motivated” to support brands that treat employees equally, regardless of gender (71%), race/ethnicity (72%), abilities (72%), age (68%), and sexual orientation (66%).

Consumer responses also suggested that brands that capitulated to bigoted opposition to social causes supporting equality and backtracked on their DEIB measures faced a liability in customers withdrawing their support. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they would either “immediately stop purchasing/using” such a brand or continue doing so while seeking out an alternative from a brand more supportive of social causes they care about

“Consumers stand for equality and inclusivity, and it drives brand growth. That more than offsets the risk from the fringe opponents. That loud fringe is really fringe,” Santiago explained, adding that when looking at respondents to the survey who are both against internal inclusivity and multicultural inclusive efforts in ads or products, only 2% of consumers fit into such a group.

In part, the study, and other recent evaluations on consumer perceptions around such issues, seek to correct misperceptions that could lead brands to assume supporting “woke” causes is a larger threat to brand perception than not doing so.

That doesn’t mean that brands or consumers strongly identify with the word "woke." Consumers largely view it as “politicized,” with 63% of respondents -– and 81% of boomers -– in the study identifying it such, compared to 34% who viewed the term as important in advocating for social justice issues.

“The majority of those who understand the term view it as not useful,” Santiago said. “I don't know a single marketer that uses the word ‘woke,’” Santiago said.

The report builds off a previous study from AIMM focused on LGBTQ+ inclusivity in advertising, which found that 77% of consumers were comfortable with such representation. A recent GLADD Spirit Day Index survey conducted by Ipsos also supported those findings, with the study finding that American consumers are “nearly twice as likely” to agree (62%) that “it’s important for LGBTQ youth to feel seen and supported” as they are to disagree (33%) with the statement, and 70% of respondents aspiring to better allies to the LGBTQ+ community.

Still, brands could be better at incorporating such representation. In a recent report from consumer research group Collage Group, 55% of LGBTQ+ consumers said they felt brands' efforts to appeal to LGBTQ+ people came across as insincere -- a proportion that rose to 65% among Gen Z LGBTQ+ respondents.

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