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The WOKE meme … what does it mean for Marketing?

Woke meme, woke clothing

Woke is a term that originated in the USA in the 1940s. It has since taken on new meanings and forms (including as a Woke meme) (1).

In the past couple of weeks, the head of a global accountancy firm lost his job over a casual comment in a Zoom staff conference (2). And the British Royal Family and Piers Morgan have also been hauled over the coals. Like it or not political correctness is with us. Yet the previous POTUS (3) remains unscathed for inciting a white supremacist mob. The difference being that Trump understood both the power and implications of his coded words.

The woke meme has also become a source of parody. Some also argue that that it is self-righteous (4), undermines historical truth, and free speech.

However, we in marketing recognise that political correctness is not so much a new or reinforced way of thinking for the few. It is a sign of the underlying shift in society; in how we all think and act. But old attitudes and values remain deep rooted and misunderstood, often on all sides.

In the very same week Google introduced a new ‘black-owned’ shopping tag and announced that searches for black-owned business had grown exponentially (5).

Marketing Inspiration

So the savvy marketer should tread warily and carefully to avoid such pitfalls and remain agile to spot and grasp powerful marketing opportunities.

He/she must also reflect the attitudes of the target groups and relate the message and product offering to them. Not only through digital communication, but through the product, service and whole brand experience. Brand communication should always empathise while product communication should spell-out the benefits to a specific customer group.


  1. Awareness of issues that concern social justice and racial justice. The term originated in the USA in the 1940s.
  2. KPMG’s Bill Michael resigns. The Guardian, February 2021
  3. The President of the United States
  4. Nick Cave writing in NME, 2019

Tim is a famous marketer of the 80's and 90's who ran one of the most successful independent UK marketing agencies. he went on to help establish a leading UK search agency and become a sought after interim Marketing Director and consultant. He is co-author of The Marketing Director's Handbook Volumes 1 and 2 with Guy Tomlinson.

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