Some of the world's biggest brands have caused waves with their recent 'woke' advertising campaigns, most notably Nike and Gillette. It's sparked criticism and plaudits alike as they use woke marketing to make a stand.
What is woke marketing?
In the main, woke marketing is all about tapping into the public's consciousness around social and ethical responsibilities. Petitions asking brands to review their packaging are de rigueur (rightly so) and knowing we are dealing with a clothing brand that treats its employees and suppliers fairly is becoming more and more important.
We've also seen the rise of social enterprise. The Dressing Room, a community theatre cafe in Manchester, was recently voted by readers of the Observer as Local Food Hero for its work with adults with learning disabilities. It teaches them how to cook and handle money while building their confidence. It's a staple haunt for the residents of Chorlton because the money is used to help people achieve rather than line pockets.
Then there are the vegan shoes made by TOMS, which donates shoes and now glasses to impoverished children. They show that you can do good and do well as a socially responsible brand.
Millennials are the business leaders to influence with woke marketing
Research by Neilsen shows that millennials are leading the way when it comes to purchasing from socially responsible, ethical and sustainable brands. Some 81% would spend more on a product if it fitted with their values.
If you're a business to business brand you'd be forgiven for thinking none of this matters to you. Why do woke marketing? But you'd be wrong.
If millennials are emotionally charged about their consumer products then you can be sure they will also be taking the responsibility to change the world around them at work too. As the leaders of the future, it's important to start considering how you not only sell to them but also employ them.
However, the lead that Nike and Gillette took on spending millions of dollars on forcing an issue may make you gulp at what's involved to tell people you are a brand that wants to change the world.
Building a woke campaign with little cash
But it doesn't need a huge above the line woke campaign to be successful.
Instead, clearly setting out your values on employment, diversity, supply chain and sustainability can make huge inroads to attract this market. Each time a client or prospect has an interaction with you, it should be clear in the way you behave or the things they read on your web site that do as you say.
This requires clarity and vision. It's demands a strategy that says we will be different and this is how, and possibly a strategy of how you will change to become that company if you aren't one 100% of the time now.
If budgets are tight then often the best way to deliver the message isn't through marketing but through your people, who can act as evangelists and influencers as they see first hand the difference they make, and PR.
Woke PR for B2B
Your PR programme probably focuses on 'selling' your core tech product or service. But there are plenty of opportunities to talk about how you run your business as well. From HR titles that are discussing neurodiversity in security recruitment, to supply chain magazines that explore sustainability, to finance publications that want to know why Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, was so right when she said 'being good is good for business.
PR programmes like this show that you are thinking about the issues that matter when people come to make buying decisions - you will fit in with their company policy, and ever-increasing personal values too.
The hardest part of this kind of PR strategy, especially if your business has been trading for a while, is being certain that you are practicing what you preach and you are absolutely sure there are no skeletons in the cupboard. There is no point spending money on this if your customers or employees see a different thing.
However, if you are sure you have a message and are ready to invest in PR now is the time to do it. You can steal a march ahead of competitors and win share of voice and market as a result. Now is the time to ride the wave of woke marketing and turn it to your advantage without spending huge sums.