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“Get woke, go broke,” has become a rallying cry of the political right whenever they see a brand make the slightest effort to align itself with liberal or progressive values. It’s a meme that allows MAGA country to believe that there is ongoing, massive backlash to products that acknowledge and celebrate marginalized communities. But the supposed boycotts never seem to be reflected in the bottom line.
Besides, by the time we would expect to notice any effect, conservatives have already moved on to the next outrage. Kid Rock and Travis Tritt declared war this week against brewer Anheuser-Busch for a Bud Light partnership with trans actor Dylan Mulvaney, yet the focus has already shifted to the whiskey Jack Daniel’s because of its ad campaign featuring drag queens — which happens to be from 2021.
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WTF… Jack Daniels too? Do brands just not understand what their target audience is? pic.twitter.com/SqOHfvLY1Z
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) April 6, 2023
With all the companies these grievance peddlers are busy trying to destroy, it’s none too surprising that some have slipped through the cracks. Though the U.S. economy is facing headwinds and earnings may be down across the board for the first fiscal quarter of 2023, there’s ample evidence that major brands tend to easily weather anti-woke furor. Here’s an accounting of several that right-wingers vowed to ruin, and how they’re faring in the aftermath:
In many ways, the Keurig kerfuffle of 2017 was the blueprint for the “get woke, go broke” phenomenon. The slogan had yet to be coined, but the sentiment was certainly there.
If you’ll recall, a Republican candidate named Roy Moore was running to represent Alabama in the Senate when multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct. Fox News host Sean Hannity cast doubt on the allegations, warning viewers not to “rush to judgement” against Moore, which caused Keurig to pull ads for their coffee makers from his show — this was right as the #MeToo movement was taking off. In response, Hannity’s fans called for a boycott and started smashing their Keurigs for social media. (In a since-deleted tweet, Hannity shared one such video, commenting, “Love it.”)
Everyone #StandWithHannity #BreakYourKeurig this #SundayMorning and start your morning with some @blckriflecoffee Hey @Keurig you want to cave to Soros Funded Media Matters, we all got 2 words for you #BoycottKeurig @seanhannity we have your six!pic.twitter.com/ESoj8c8la1
— The General (@GenRickDeMarco) November 12, 2017
So, how is Keurig doing now? The parent company, Keurig Green Mountain, acquired Dr Pepper Snapple Group in a $18.7-billion deal in 2018, forming Keurig Dr Pepper Inc. — the third-largest beverage company in North America. This behemoth’s annual gross profits have swelled ever since, reaching $7.3 billion in 2022, a nearly 5 percent increase from the previous year. Turns out a handful of Hannity viewers throwing a tantrum didn’t make a dent.
Always hostile to corporate initiatives that have a whiff of affirmative action, conservatives were predictably incensed to learn in 2021 that United Airlines planned for half of its incoming pilot trainees to be women and/or people of color. Piers Morgan sneered that they’d try to recruit blind pilots next, “to tick another pathetic virtue-signaling box.” Tucker Carlson whined that United execs were “ideologues, suffering from an incurable brain disease called ‘wokeness,'” arguing that they no longer prioritized pilot ability or passenger safety.
United Airlines is DONE.
If you go woke, it’s time to go broke!
— Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte) April 7, 2021
Cut to the beginning of 2023, and United was reporting fourth-quarter 2022 profit of $843 million, beating Wall Street expectations. It also gave an optimistic forecast for the months ahead, seeing high demand for flights.
A 134-year-old workwear company headquartered in the American midwest is an odd target for right-wing resentment. Indeed, Carhartt’s heavy-duty apparel is practically synonymous with the manual labor that Republicans and Democrats alike tend to describe as the bedrock of national greatness. How could they possibly go “woke”? By maintaining a Covid-19 vaccination requirement for employees after the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s federal vaccine mandate for larger businesses at the beginning of 2022.
— Sebastian Gorka DrG (@SebGorka) January 19, 2022
Sure enough, #BoycottCarhartt started trending nationally, though the impact of suit-wearing Beltway characters like Sebastian Gorka swearing off the blue-collar clothes was never going to be significant. As it’s a private company, we can’t say what Carhartt’s 2022 profits were — but in December, it announced an investment of $4.65 million to expand its Dearborn, Michigan campus and plans to hire 125 more workers at an average wage of $43.22 per hour. Doesn’t exactly sound “broke,” does it. As for the “woke” part, they’ve only doubled down, hinting at possible “future projects that involve a women’s brand and diversity, equity, and inclusion program expansion.”
The entertainment giant has come under fire time and again for supposed wokeness. They’ve been canceled for redesigning the theme park ride Splash Mountain to make it less racist, adding LGBTQ characters to their family films, and casting a Black woman, Halle Bailey, as the lead in their live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. Perhaps the biggest blowup, however, came when Disney opposed Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year — leading reactionaries to baselessly accuse the company of “grooming” children. The indignation even led to anti-Disney rallies.
If you are defending pedophile priests and those who protect them, groomer teachers & Disney LGBTQ propaganda, Drag Queen story time, saying it’s not Satan convincing women to abort their unplanned child, and that children can be mutilated to change their gender, you’re wrong.
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) April 30, 2022
However much Disney lost in sales as a result, it was less than a drop in the bucket. Their gross profit for 2022 was $28.321 billion, a 27 percent increase from 2021, and they generally outpaced media competitors. While fourth-quarter earnings fell somewhat short of estimates, analysts chalked this up to streaming costs associated with Disney+ (which, by the way, now has more subscribers than Netflix). Meanwhile, revenue from the theme parks, the easiest part of the business to boycott, “surged.” What tumult there has been at Disney in the past few months — management shakeups that resulted in the return of CEO Bob Iger, canceled Star Wars movies and ongoing layoffs — are more about strategic vision than any strain from the “groomer” attacks.
Much like Disney, Nike has courted the ire of Red America in various ways. Conservatives never bring up the allegation that the largest athletic apparel and footwear brand in the world has relied on forced labor in its supply chain (Nike last year reaffirmed a commitment to “a fundamental respect for human rights,” noting that they “focus on working with long-term, strategic suppliers that demonstrate a commitment to engaging their workers, providing safe working conditions and advancing environmental responsibility.”) However, anti-woke activists do take grave issue with some of Nike’s spokespeople. A few years ago, it was Colin Kaepernick, who protested racial injustice by kneeling for the National Anthem at NFL games, but this week they were horrified to learn that Dylan Mulvaney — after tarnishing Bud Light — is now promoting Nike sports bras and leggings on Instagram.
Dylan Mulvaney is the new face of Nike women’s sports bras & leggings pic.twitter.com/SCoFxzavla
— End Wokeness (@EndWokeness) April 5, 2023
If the haters want to take Nike down for seeking the endorsement of a trans woman, they’ll have to try harder than they did in 2018, when the Kaepernick collaboration had them burning shoes and ruining socks by cutting the “swoosh” logo off them. The campaign was a smash hit, delivering a spike in sales, and Nike has continued to top expectations for revenue growth, with 2022 fourth-quarter net income reaching $1.44 billion.
Even before the online retailer and streamer took heat for a diverse cast in its epic fantasy series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, some had decided that Jeff Bezos’ trillion-dollar juggernaut had an unacceptable political bias. In 2021, Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group, launched an anti-Amazon campaign, “Stop Amazon Hate,” alleging that the company censors right-wing and Christian views, removing or suppressing certain books. Amazon Web Services had also just suspended the pro-Trump social network Parler in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, leading its CEO to call for a boycott.
the CEO of Parler is currently asking all his users to boycott Amazon, Apple and Google, and harass their customer service reps. this will get them back in good standing in no time pic.twitter.com/XmXsiM88af
— Rob DenBleyker (@RobDenBleyker) January 10, 2021
Like others in the tech sector, Amazon has recently laid off thousands of workers — the industry-wide trend may be the result of increased automation, a slowing global economy and corporate overexpansion in the past couple of years. Even so, Amazon is still beating Wall Street income forecasts ($149.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022) and breaking records on ad revenue. It remains the fifth-largest company in the world by market capitalization. Safe to say it’s not going bankrupt anytime soon.
In 2021, multinational food manufacturer Kellogg Co. sparked fury by releasing a limited-edition “Together With Pride” cereal in partnership with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), which would receive $3 per box sold. The box contained rainbow berry hearts coated in edible glitter and bore affirming messages about preferred pronouns. The Christian fundamentalist and anti-LGBTQ American Family Association accused Kellogg’s of an “effort to push homosexuality to children,” demanded a boycott.
Over 16,000 have signed the petition to Kellogg's.
Supporting the homosexual agenda versus remaining neutral in the cultural war is just bad business.
Sign the petition to Kellogg’s here: https://t.co/D195pKIiww
— American Family Assc (@AmericanFamAssc) June 30, 2021
Amusingly, the AFA’s worthless petition came five years after another attempt to bring Kellogg’s to heel. In 2016, the brand pulled their ads from the far-right news site Breitbart, noting that the media network was not aligned with their values. Breitbart published a screed in response, saying this marked “an escalation in the war by leftist companies […] against conservative customers” and telling readers to #DumpKellogs. Anyone who has been to a grocery store lately will know that both of these mobilizations failed: Kellogg Co. is still outperforming market predictions — even with inflation raising prices. Net sales climbed 12 percent to $3.83 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Indisputably the Final Boss among unkillable corporate titans, the National Football League has endured no end of tantrums from viewers who believe it has scorned American traditions. During the 2017 season, some on the left considering a break from football until the league rectified its treatment of Colin Kaepernick — but far more noise came from the right after Donald Trump condemned the organization for not cracking down on players who kneeled during the National Anthem. He suggested fans leave stadiums if they saw this at a game, or boycott the sport entirely — and a year later, claimed that viewership was plummeting.
Wow, NFL first game ratings are way down over an already really bad last year comparison. Viewership declined 13%, the lowest in over a decade. If the players stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem, and it is all shown on broadcast, maybe ratings could come back? Otherwise worse!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 9, 2018
Since then, the NFL has only grown more accepting of such peaceful protest and made “social justice” one of its charitable causes, drawing continued complaints and warnings about driving fans away. There was another round of griping this February, when, for the first time, the Super Bowl’s pre-game ceremonies included an on-field performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” commonly referred to as the Black National Anthem.
Yet the league is unbelievably prosperous these days, with locked-in media deals worth tens of billions, individual teams increasing in value, record viewership across broadcast and streaming, and soaring in-person attendance. The threats from conservatives have had no measurable effect whatsoever. It’s almost like being “woke” — to the degree that the right can even define such a quality — won’t sink your business. But hey, I’m no accountant.
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