12 Brands That Paid a High Price For Going “Woke”

Over the years, many companies across the world have embraced social causes. Whether general public awareness or advertising campaigns, brands have taken a stance on sensitive topics.

From racism to homophobia to body positivity, they have tackled issues that have made people term them as ‘woke. However, it has not always gone down well among their customers. As a result, they have been riddled with controversies.

We have researched various online discussion forums and created a list of brands that lost popularity after going woke.


Image Credit: Adobe Stock

In April 2017, Pepsi released an advertising commercial featuring supermodel Kendall Jenner. The ad followed Jenner as she left a modeling shoot to join a protest between the police and common people. She resolved the protest by offering a Pepsi can to the police officers.

Pepsi faced backlash as viewers thought the ad exploited the Black Lives Matter movement. They thought it was insensitive, which forced Pepsi to pull the ad down and offer an apology.

Victoria’s Secrets

Image Credit: Adobe Stock

The iconic women’s lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secrets faced uncertainty despite rebranding itself as an inclusive brand. In 2021, the fashion brand launched a rebranding initiative called ‘VS Collective,’ which included notable women from different walks of life. Victoria’s Secrets’ sales saw a massive dip despite this pivot to a more inclusive branding.

Their customers did not think of the pivot as authentic, and the company ended up with projected sales of $6.2 billion in 2021, compared to over $7 billion in sales in 2020.


Image Credit: Adobe Stock

Despite being a popular athletic sportswear brand, Nike faced tremendous controversy when they got transgender actor Dylan Mulvaney to endorse their sports bra. It created so much backlash that users on Tiktok launched a ‘burn the bra’ challenge as a sign of protest.

Critics believed Nike ignored its large base of the female audience by partnering up with a ‘biological male.’ Even Caitlyn Jenner spoke out against Nike for sidelining women.

Bud Light

Image Credit: Adobe Stock

Dylan Mulvaney was at the forefront of another controversy when beer brand Bud Light partnered with her. The collaboration was part of an endorsement deal, where Bud Light printed cans with her likeness on them. Customers were asked to participate in a challenge, which could see them win $15,000.

The collaboration received severe backlash as the conservative audience did not want a beer brand to associate with a transgender activist. Even musician Kid Rock shot down Bud Light cans with a rifle. Following the backlash, Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, reportedly lost $5 billion in market value.


Image Credit: Adobe Stock

Often synonymous with men’s personal care, Gillette launched an ad about toxic masculinity in response to the #metoo movement. The 2019 ad, titled “The Best Men Can Be,” urged men to be allies to women.

It faced huge criticism from men for making seemingly political statements through that campaign. The aftermath of the backlash saw Gillette’s parent company, P&G, face a staggering $8 billion loss in sales.

Honey Birdette

Image Credit: Adobe Stock

The Australian lingerie brand featured non-binary burlesque dancer Jack Dupree in its promotional photo. The brand posted the images on its Instagram page, where Dupree was seen wearing the $460 ‘Ruby Red’ three-piece. Despite the inclusive and empowering move, the internet was flooded with criticism. Some people even said that the brand had moved away from its “for women, by women” vision.

In fact, the backlash was so severe among women that even American pornographic actress Brandi Love tweeted that she was never going to buy Honey Birdette again.

The North Face

Image Credit: Adobe Stock

Outdoor clothing and gear company, The North Face teamed up with drag performer Pattie Gonia during the Pride Month in 2023. Pattie Gonia’s message “come out… in nature” in the ad irked the conservative crowd, as they called for a boycott. Even though it resonated well with a part of the audience, the right wing politicians took offense to it. Republican congresswomen Marjorie Taylor-Green and Lauren Boebert tweeted in support of the boycott.


Image Credit: Adobe Stock

In 2018, McDonald’s showed solidarity on International Women’s Day through a promotional stunt. It flipped its “M” logo to turn it into a “W” for women. However, the stunt garnered backlash as people saw it as a mere publicity stunt. They asked the brand to do more for their female employees instead.


Image Credit: Adobe Stock

The 2023 Pride Month campaign by Adidas was a collaboration between the sportswear brand and South African designer Rich Mnisi. However, controversy ensued when the advertisement featured a male-presenting model wearing Adidas’ “Pride Swimsuit.” People accused Adidas of erasing women. Professional swimmer Riley Gaines criticized the brand for its apparent support of transgender women instead of biological women.

Jack Daniels

Image Credit: Deposit Photos

Acclaimed whiskey brand Jack Daniels was also embroiled in controversy over ‘woke’ claims. In June 2021, Jack Daniels teamed up with drag queens from Ru Paul’s Drag Race for a campaign titled “Small Town, Big Pride”. However, the campaign faced backlash two years later, in 2023. Several people called for a boycott, and political columnist Benny Johnson accused the brand of going woke.

The Walt Disney Company

Image Credit: Adobe Stock

Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, limited the discussions public schools can have about gender identity and sexual orientation. The Walt Disney Company protested that, following complaints from employees. As a result, Disney faced tremendous backlash for taking a stance on the controversial law. The media and entertainment giant faced a political battle against DeSantis. In a swift arrangement, he revoked a tax status that allowed Disney to act as the de facto authority on its parks.


Image Credit: Adobe Stock

The internationally famous children’s toy set LEGO went gender neutral over a few years. Their release of Lego Dreamzzz toys in Australia consisted of a Pegasus horse, a blue and pink bunny, and a nightmare shark ship. They faced criticism from prominent conservative personalities like Dr Kevin Donnelly. He accused LEGO of imposing their ideologies on children who have no concept of LGBTIQ+.

Scroll to Top