21 Brands That Faded Out After Going  “Woke”

Source: Shutterstock

Embracing “wokeness” won’t exactly lead to financial ruin for all companies, but it could lead to significant backlash. Likewise, brands that have a tendency to cater social issues or those that make social statements can face boycotts. For some companies, taking a stand is important if it fits their brand, but when they stop reading the room, things get heated and unpleasant, at least for a while. 


CEO of MyPillow, Mike Lindell, was met with a huge setback after getting too involved with politics. The decision wasn’t merely a choice of right or left, but involved a series of promises to show the 2020 election winner was not President Biden.  

Source: eBay

The company suffered a serious loss of major advertising platforms and was dropped by many retailers. 

Pink Parcel

In 2018, period subscription service Pink Parcel launched an ad campaign with a transgender man. 

Source: pink-parcel

While the campaign was meant to break stigma, there is plenty of stigma swirling around for female-born women when they are on their periods, many felt the company should be focused on that before tackling any other issues. 

Pepsi And Kendall Jenner

A 2017 short film quickly fizzled after Pepsi was accused of exploiting a deep seeded racial divide and attempting to solve it with a young Jenner offering a can of beverage to the police officer. 

Source: Unsplash/Ja San Miguel

The ensuing backlash underscored the significance of marketers needing to seek out outside perspectives, especially if they want to be involved with social justice. which is not something a typical Pepsi consumer truly expects from the company.  

Victoria’s Secret’s 

Ten years ago, the lingerie brand debuted a campaign for a new bra line with the tagline “ The Perfect Body.” 

Source: Shutterstock

It featured Victoria’s Secret angels, the issue was these images were extremely edited, and there wasn’t any variation in body shapes- tall and skinny. The company later apologized for its unhealthy and harmful message. 

Bud Light 

In April, the beer that was once revered as the most popular beer in th eUnited States suffered one of its biggest failures with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Mulvaney had previously worked with other brands, but none experienced the backlash that Bud Light did. 

Source: Jeff Chiu

This was attributed to the fact that the beer company’s primary customer base is typically young men with low to moderate incomes, and they want their favorite beer to reflect their everyday life, well that was the general consensus from some marketing experts anyway. 

Victoria’s Secret’s Rebranding

In 2018, the lingerie giant took a surprising turn towards becoming a “woke” brand when they featured an ad that had a plu-sized transgender female in it. This came after then-chief marketing officer Ed Razek made controversial remarks to Vogue about trans and plus-size models. 

Source: Shutterstock

The company then rebranded towards a feminist view point, and it didn’t go over well because no one expected a company that shows off Fantasy Bra as a driving force of feminism. 

Equinox, SoulCycle

In late 2019, billionaire Stephen Ross, who is the investor behind SoulCycle and Equinox gym, faced serious criticism regarding a fundraiser for Donald Trump. SoulCycle defended itself by emphasizing that Ross is a passive investor and they did not endorse political fundraising. 

Source: Yue Wu

The biggest problem with this is that Equinox and SoulCycle were aligned with the LGBTQ community, so the backlash was coming either way. 

Starbucks’ “Race Together”

The company’s “Race Together” campaign was supposed to ignite a national discussion about race relations. Baristas were encouraged to write the slogan on customers’ cups, but all efforts fell flat. 

Source: Unsplash/S.Ratanak

For one, people wanted Starbucks to solve its diversity shortcomings while asserting these conversations with customers may be more than Starbucks can deal with. 


The decision to cast Scarlett Johansson as a Japanese character in Paramount’s “Ghost in the Shell” movie sparked accusations of “whitewashing,” boycotts,. and raised questions about Hollywood’s lack of diversity. 

Source: Unsplash/Hannah Wernecke

A year later, reports surfaced about the actress taking on the role of a transgender man, but she would later back out of the project because of the backlash. 

Snapchat’s “Slap Rihanna or Punch Chris Brown”

In 2018, the app posed the question to its users; to slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown?

Source: Unsplash/Alexander Shatov

This ended up being a serious problem since the former couple had spent time in court after accusations of Brown being involved with domestic violence with Rhianna in 2009. 


On the 72nd anniversary of Japan’s attack on the Pearl Harbor base, the canned pasta maker SpaghettiOs posted a tweet that featured its mascot holding an american flag,asking people to remember #PearlHarbor with them. 

Source: Amazon

The company later apologized, but many of their customers were confused about its suggestive post. 

Gillette And MeToo

Gillette earned its name by promoting masculinity, however in 2019,an ad made attempted to echo the ideals of the #MeToo movement. 

Source: gastronom

The issue with this, according to social media, was that the ad made it seem as though all men do its fight, BBQ, and harass women.

Nike And Dylan Mulvaney

Nike has a long standing history with success from controversial ads, but when the company made the decision to partner with trans influencers to promote Nike bras and leggings, it did not end well. May questioned why the company didn’t feature a biological. 

Source: Unsplash/wu yi

Swimmer Sharron Davies and tennis legend Martina Navratilova asked the same question. Still, the backlash was not as harsh as Bud Light’s. 

Honey Birdette 

For its 2023 campaign, Australian lingerie company Honey Birdette decided to use a non-binary burlesque performer and model Jake Dupree. 

Source: Shutterstock

The company stayed its course despite experiencing significant backlash. The campaign’s objective was to push culture forward, but despite the support for the LGBTQ community, Honey Birdette’s primary customers are women.


The main factor to advertising is honesty, so when McDonald’s made their M into a W for women in support of women for International Women’s Day 2018, people questioned how this was meant to help women. 

Source: Unsplash/Boshoku

Many people asked the company to make improvements to the conditions of female employees, instead of using a day to flip one letter. 

The North Face 

The playful advertisement created by The North Face featuring a drag queen Pattie Gonia for a Summer of Pride campaign didn’t generate much support, in fact it was quite the opposite. 

Source: Unsplash/Matthew Cabret

Although the ad escaped the mainstream views, it would generate criticism from Marjorie Taylor Greene who went to X to voice her opinion about the company, she also told followers not to support brands that exploit children.


In 2013, Hyundai’s introduction to a new hydrogen-powered ix35, with 100% water emissions, caused an uproar from the public when an ad that showed a man trying to take his own life was released. 

Source: Unsplash/The Punisher

The man failed, and no one cared for Hyundai’s green initiative because the ad was a complete failure for obvious reasons. 


The Adidas Pride collection for 2023 had opponents arguing the “woke” brand was trying to erase women. 

Source: Unsplash/Camilla Carvalho

South African designer Rich Mnisi, who is known for his queer aesthetic, partnered up with Adidas for this ad, the controversy arose from a specific image of a male-presenting model advertising female clothing. Many wondered why not just call it unisex instead of going the Bud Light route.

Jack Daniels’s Had A “Woke” Moment 

Jack Daniels encountered calls for boycotts over its 2021 ad that featured a drag queen from Ru Paul’s Drag Race. 

Source: Unsplash/Almos Bechtold

The most significant backlash came from a “superfan,” Pauly Michaelis, who filmed himself chucking Jack Daniel’s merchandise and setting whiskey on fire while yelling over the company going woke.


Target’s 2023 Pride collection received a ton of backlash, in part because of false information. The store made claims that it was selling bathing suits for kids labeled “tuck-friendly.” 

Source: Unsplash/Shabaz Usmani

The truth is that they were being sold to adults only, despite this the company lost a whopping  $10 billion in 10 days!

DiGiorno’s And Domestic Violence

In 2014, Twitter, now X, became a platform for discussions about domestic abuse, where people shared stories under the #WhyIStayed hashtag. 

Source: OnTimeSupplies

DiGiorno’s tweet read, #WhyIStayed You had pizza. The company clearly didn’t understand the concept behind the trending hashtag, and made attempts to apologize. Despite this people were still really upset.

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Athena Hallet

Written by Athena Hallet

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