A new trend is upon us my friends, and it’s called “The AWOKENING”. It’s the emergence of a new breed of influencers that are well… hella woke. They’re outspoken, diverse, driven, authentic and not afraid to speak their minds. These influencers aren’t just in it for the “likes” they’re on a quest to change the world.
Why is this trend emerging?
Between corrupt politicians, wars (and rumors of wars), natural disasters, terrorism, climate change, racism and all the other isms, it can feel like we’re moving backwards. Yet every day around the world, inspiring, passionate people are stepping up to the plate and fighting for the most defining social, political and environmental causes of our time.
Consumers first turned to influencers because they were more ‘real’ than traditional brand advocates. In fact, influencer marketing has grown by 198% in the past year.* But unfortunately most of these influencers that have emerged since are shallow, self-obsessed and out of touch. (yeah, I said it 🤷🏾♀️) It’s getting so bad one hotel in Dublin has banned influencers all together.
Now is the time for influencers with vision, depth and purpose. We’ve seen activists such as DeRay Mckesson (US), Boniface Mwangi (Kenya) and Gurmehar Kaur (India) tackling major issues and amassing major followings. This shift isn’t just represented by a few famous people like Malalla Yousafzai, it’s powered by the behavior and determination of millions in the online community, even those with only a few followers to their name.
Trend in Action:
Example #1: Yara Shahidi
Yara Shahidi, an 18 year old actress and activist was named one of Forbes 30 under 30. She first fell on the scene at just nine years old, the breakout star of Eddie Murphy’s “Imagine That”. At 14 she took the role of “Zoey Johnson” on ABC’s hit sitcom Blackish. Now, she is paving her own way with her spinoff show, “Grownish”. (I’m explaining this for those of you who may have been hiding underneath a rock the last few years, this girl is everything. 💁🏾..)
An outspoken advocate for diversity in Hollywood and the importance of education for girls, Shahidi has used her voice for good. She formed Yara’s Club, a partnership with The Young Women’s Leadership School that brings high school students together to discuss social issues and how to take action and has worked on Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn education initiative (the former first lady wrote her a college letter of recommendation).
That letter of recommendation paid off: Shahidi, is recently committed to a spot at Harvard University, where she plans to double major in sociology and African-American studies alongside Malia Obama (!!!) Oprah has recently said to Yara, “your future is so bright it burns my eyes!”
Yara is an ambassador for a number of brands including body positive brand Aerie, Google Pixel, Brooks Brothers and Fossil Watches just to name a few.. She’s authentic, outspoken, talented, kind and smart – making her the perfect, “Wokefluencer”. (p.s. don’t judge me.. the term was coined by trendwatching.com)
Example #2: Barbie’s Real Role Models
Mattel surveyed 8,000 mothers around the world and found 86% are worried about the role models their daughters are exposed to. In time for International Women’s Day, the brand announced a range of dolls celebrating iconic contemporary and historic women. Amongst the Role Models are athletes, artists, pioneers and innovators.
Artist, activist, and feminist icon, Frida Kahlo continues to be a symbol of strength, originality, and unwavering passion. Overcoming a number of obstacles to follow her dream of becoming a fine artist, Frida persevered and gained recognition for her unique style and perspective. With her vibrant palette and mix of realism and fantasy, she addressed important topics like identity, class, and race, making her voice-and the voices of girls and women alike-heard. Her extraordinary life and art continue to influence and inspire others to follow their dreams and paint their own realities.
Misty Copeland is an acclaimed American ballet dancer and the first African-American to be appointed to principal dancer. She was considered a prodigy who rose to stardom despite not starting ballet until the age of 13. She was dancing en pointe three months after taking her first dance class and performing professionally in just over a year, a feat unheard of for any classical dancer.
Eighteen-year-old Bindi Irwin is an international award-winning wildlife conservationist and celebrity who inherited her father’s passion for wildlife and wild places. Born to Wildlife Warriors Steve and Terri Irwin, Bindi was literally born on television. By the age of nine, Bindi had appeared on numerous American talk shows, including The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Oprah, and Larry King Live.
Ava Duvernay is an American film director, writer, and producer. Ava became the first African-American female director to receive a Golden Globe nomination and have a film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.
Example #3: Transgender Model + Activist Monroe Bergdorf Promotes Beauty Brand
After being fired for L’Oreal for calling out white privilege in a facebook post, transgender model and activist, Monroe Bergdorf was recruited by competitor Illamasqua. According to L’Oreal, the model’s views were ‘at odds’ with their values.
She explains that, the morning after the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where an anti-racist protester was killed by a white supremacist, she wrote a Facebook post in response to that event. “It was an epic three-parter about how racism is a social structure and how, if this is the case, what can you do to combat racism?” She says the post was deleted by Facebook for breaching its terms on hate speech; the racist, transphobic comments made about Bergdorf, however, were left up. Click here to get the tea from The Guardian.
As TrendWatching explains, Brands are rushing to work with influencers, only to find that working with real people – gasp! – comes with its risks. If you position yourself as inclusive (as L’Oreal has) it’s essential to be inclusive. By teaming with Bergdorf, Illamasqua walks L’Oreal’s talk.
The “Awokening” is a shift in status that sees people rejecting indulgent #SoBlessed lifestyles and seeking out influencers that are committed to driving meaningful change. In 2018, smart brands will switch up their influencer strategy and offer support to this new breed of woke influencers.