Why I'm Here For The Era Of The 'Woke Brand'

It's completely legitimate for campaigning corporations to lecture you on social justice or the environment – if you don’t want a Greggs vegan sausage roll, then don’t buy one

I’m bored of Brexit. Really, really bored of Brexit.

I still care about it – of course. You can’t care about politics in the modern day and not have some strong opinions on which form you’d like our future relationship with the EU to take. But so bored, at least, that when another subject pops up in my daily reading, I grasp it with both hands.

My favourite trend at the moment is the dawn of the age of ‘the woke brand.’ To an extent, brand identity has always taken something of a political slant, but today, more than ever, the campaigning corporation is coming into its own. In many ways, with some companies wielding such major market power – consumers almost expect them to take political positions. Recently, Nike’s Stand For Something campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, Gillette’s stand against toxic masculinity, HSBC’s revolt against the Little England mentality – even the Greggs vegan sausage roll have received massive responses from the public.

Personally, I’m very much here for it.

Just today, I was reading Toby Young’s latest Spectator column – which decried the ‘woke corporation’ as “madness”. He railed against Accenture encouraging their employees to wear rainbow lanyards and get involved with ally schemes – completely ignoring the word ‘encouraged’ and mentally replacing it with ‘forced.’ It’s always a shame to see smart people like Toby, usually sensibly pro-market and pro-liberty, fuming about businesses exercising their right to act, within the law, however they’d like.

Let’s get one thing straight – it’s completely legitimate for your razor, your bank, or your running shoes to lecture you on social justice or environmentalism or how you can help end rape culture. The best part about supporting the right to corporate expression is that the rules are pretty much the same as individual expression. If you don’t like what somebody is saying – it’s your prerogative to shut them out of your life. If you don’t like what a corporation’s brand is representing – then don’t buy their product. Personally, I think to do either of these things on the basis of a political disagreement is a bit silly to say the least – but it’s your free choice in a free market.

The same premise applies to corporations taking steps – not only to tackle climate change by reducing plastic – but in making nannying steps as to what is good for the consumers health, and what they should be putting in their bodies. As opposed to the unpalatable Public Health England (and cronies) lobbying for meat taxes and calorie counters on menus of private restaurants, moves from companies like Philip Morris to provide healthier alternatives to smoking and revolutionise the industry aren’t patronising in the slightest. Want a cigarette? Buy a cigarette. Fancy a pasty? All yours. But corporate moves to rescue the planet or create healthier products for those trying to quit smoking – absolutely no reason to be cynical. If you don’t want a Greggs vegan sausage roll then don’t buy one, Piers Morgan.

Maybe my admiration for the ‘woke brand’ is misplaced, and I’m simply enjoying the reactions of social conservatives being told by their shaving foam that actually, climate change is very real and very scary – but it is noticeably ironic that it’s often so-called conservatives and ride-or-die ‘hate speech is free speech’ campaigners that froth at the mouth over corporate social responsibility. The backlash against a healthier lunch alternative or an anti-harassment advert was unbelievable – from supposedly pro-business individuals who would usually be the first to tell you that ‘actually, businesses can say what they want.’ Of course, in these cases – its political correctness gone mad. Obviously.

But business can say what it wants, within the law – and not only when it’s saying things that traditionalists like to hear. I, for one, welcome the age of the woke brand.