After the Bud Light brand of Anheuser Busch received a litany of blow back from conservatives online for their partnership with trans activist, Dylan Mulvaney, the phrase “go woke go broke” has been a bit of a chorus on the right. But is it true?
After the recent Bud Light controversy, the company released a statement which distanced the company from Mulvaney while playing both sides and claimed it was not a representation of a broader brand realignment. However, a video was uncovered revealing their Vice President of Marketing specifically outlining plans to go woke for Bud Light and revamp the Bud Light image as “youthful” which the executive in the video interpreted to mean “progressive.” The video reignited conservative ire.
The Bud Light situation is not an isolated incident by any stretch of the definition. Recently the privately held Mars corporation came under fire for their all women M&M bag and the acknowledgement that some of their M&Ms are inexplicably in gay relationships with each other. Additionally Disney has been dodging political missile after political missile because of their woke agenda and scandal which also included an unearthed video from executives proving a broader corporate scheme.
Liberal stronghold companies like Starbucks are facing the music for their long held liberal ideologies now proven as hypocrisies. Their once allies in Congress are now calling them into hearings for union busting. Apparently, black lives only matter on a poster not so much when it comes to their right to fair wages and work conditions (under the progressive definition of “fair”).
But scandal and blow back isn’t exactly dollars and cents. What’s the financial ramifications of these choices? Do you “go broke” if you “go woke?”
The short answer is: Yes.
The long answer is: It’s complicated.
When companies who have traditionally positioned themselves toward core middle American two income household family consumers, “going woke” definitely comes with a financial penalty.
Looking at the most recent Bud Light incident as a case study, the Anheuser-Busch stock price was at a year-to-date high as of March 31, 2023. The Mulvaney campaign launched April 4 and began a decline and took a big hit over Easter weekend as the story gained traction.
However, the company is overall still up year-to-date and the overall financial response to the scandal is not likely to be known until Q2 sales figures are released this summer.
Looking at Disney who has had a longer political roller coaster and even ousted a CEO in the midst of their “wokening” the case for “go broke” becomes even more clear.
Since Disney’s climactic fight with Florida families seeking to be included in their child’s discussions on sexuality and gender at school, the company has seen nothing but unstable and ultimately downward trends. The open letter opposing and willfully mischaracterizing the Florida legislation to protect children and families came out March 8, 2023 resulting in major stock dips.
But that isn’t all. The company also lost money on woke projects. In December of 2022, Disney lost $147 million on a film called Strange World which allegedly shoe horns gay characters into the story along with a bunch of tropey ‘gen z’ political bs that kids simply do not need or get and that make for a boring story. Even liberal critics hated it. Just prior to this flop, in March of 2022, Disney lost $167 million on Turning Red which is a feature length film that is a totally unveiled metaphor for periods. Disney has not produced an animated box office hit (that wasn’t a sequel) since Moana in 2016. If you count sequels, it was Frozen II in 2019 which suffered critically also due to wokeness.
The financial ramifications of these major studio losses and lack of trust with core customer base has for the first time in common memory ushered in discussions of a Disney acquisition (by Apple).
But it’s not as simple as “go woke go broke” for all brands. For example, Nike, who literally invented Black Lives Matter and sponsored Colin Kaepernick to kneel for the anthem, is doing very well with their new Mulvaney partnership. Since their progressive activism began in 2016, their trends have been mostly upward. Nike, unlike Bud Light and unlike Disney, was never in a market position which served consumers with traditional values. They’ve always been urban focused toward younger singles and athletes. So when they “go woke” they do fine or even do very well. For now.
The problem with “going woke” even for corporations who are positioned appropriately in the marketplace is that it’s a lie. The morality of the religion known as “progressive” has very strict rules which are constantly moving and are unyielding to reason. So when corporations prey on that morality thinking they can make a buck off the back of emotional actors, they’re right but it comes with a price. Starbucks has long been led by uber liberal executives who have capitalized on every progressive movement they possibly could from “fair trade” coffee (sure) to rainbow colored merchandise during Pride Month. But now that their Baristas want to form a union, a move which would almost certainly uphold Starbucks’s current business model, their executives aren’t so keen on the progressive way of life. This hypocrisy (or really, reveal of the big corporate woke lie) has significantly damaged the brand with liberals and they don’t have a big conservative back up to support them (Dunkin stole them years ago). The Congressional hearings and labor inquiries into the company caused major stock dips which are on a rebound but to be seen what will happen at the end of the day.
Where companies tend to “go broke” isn’t so much that they get canceled for being woke, it’s where there are better alternatives in their same market position. Conservatives looking to become more ideological capitalists should seek to spend money where there are superior alternatives to products and services they feel have let them down. Illumination studios is a growing counter to Disney. Dunkin Donuts has always been the working man’s coffee versus Starbucks elitism. It doesn’t always have to be a “canceled” situation. It can be about putting pressure on companies to compete with their rivals without totally walking away from them if you still enjoy the product.