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Truly Woke Brands Were Always Awake: 5 Ways to Tell Authentic Corporate Responsibility When You See it

January 15, 2021

The goal of a business used to be simple— make money and make shareholders happy. However, the business world claims to have become less selfish with time. Basically, over the last few years, everyone realized that the only way to do well is to do ‘good.’ To paraphrase Topl CEO Kim Raath’s words from the season 2 finale of the Drive profit with Purpose podcast— customers choose socially responsible brands over others just like they chose color TV over black and white. A higher purpose turns a service into a premium service. That’s why companies don’t just sell products anymore; instead, they share Purpose and they stand for something more. Well, at least they say they do.

It is true that some brands do actually “make the world a better place,” but with all the noise, it can be difficult to tell true “woke” examples of corporate responsibility from contrived attempts at corporate profitability. Here are 5 key differences:

1. ‘Woke’ brands serve the greater good.

Companies show true corporate responsibility when they actually help others and not themselves. Sure, there’s no such thing as a fully selfless act, but some brands are more unquestionably more selfless than others. When a company claims to do good, but always puts profit first before whatever good they do, they’re not taking corporate responsibility seriously. The company does not have to be non-profit, but if they’re truly woke, they’ll put their moral purpose before their business.

2. True ‘woke’ starts from within.

When a company randomly decides to support a cause, unrelated to their values, it’s not genuine. It’s a marketing ploy. For a brand to truly stand for something, their values should first represent it. Their internal practices and policies should already reflect it. A meaningful advertisement doesn’t air until the company has been aligned around the message. Check a brand’s actions against its mission statement, vision statement, values and internal practices to reveal if their sense of responsibility is authentic.

3. The ‘woke’ walk the walk.

Brands that genuinely care, do more than talk the talk. They back claims with evidence in the form of actions. They don’t have to start a charity, but they have to practice what they preach in some respect. Whether that’s through donations, employee volunteer work, or any other means of action, woke brands go beyond raising awareness and actively support the causes they say they do. Don’t just look at what brands say, but what they do, when deciding who they are.

4. ‘Woke’ means consistent.

Truly woke brands didn’t just wake up or get woke overnight. Truly woke brands were always awake, and have a track record that shows it. Companies that take corporate responsibility seriously show it over and over in everything they say and do. They discuss and contribute to the same causes repeatedly, because they genuinely believe in them. Before you applaud a brand’s corporate responsibility, make sure their messaging has been consistent over time and stays that way.

5. A ‘woke’ message is a clear message.

If the company does not take a straightforward stance and clearly articulate what they believe, they’re not really saying anything at all. When a message is cluttered with product plugs and other incentives to purchase, it’s obviously contrived. Watch woke marketing for things that don’t belong, like Keilly Jenner and an overwhelming amount of Pepsi in an ad about police protest. When a brand waters down their statement, or focuses on the products and services more than what they claim to stand for, that’s a sign they’re not in it for the long haul.

There are a lot of brands out there looking to cash in on corporate responsibility and there are also a lot of brands out there that are actually giving back to the world. To know a truly woke brand when you see one, you have to understand the simple differences outlined here. Genuine corporate responsibility is shown through both words and actions, that are clear and consistent over time, inside and out. In other words, woke brands are awake on every level and they always have been.

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