How To Spot When A Brand Is Lying To You

Learn to avoid companies that use gross marketing tactics like greenwashing

As we become more conscious of the things we buy (and the effect they have on other people and the planet), brands are now trying to play on our good intentions to get us to part with our hard-earned cash. Insincere companies will often pretend to care about important issues just to boost their own profits. So how do you work out when a brand is really trying to make a change? And can you spot the ones that are just exploiting your good will?


Two plastic cups


There are three main types of tactics being used at the moment to specifically target customers who care. They are:

1 - Greenwashing

Greenwashing is when a brand looks like it is doing more to protect the environment than it actually is. The phrase was coined in the USA after environmentalist Jay Westervelt stayed in a hotel where he was asked to reuse his towel to ‘save the environment’. Sounds legit, right? But not when he saw the waste throughout the hotel (e.g. food waste, electricity and water wastage etc). Asking guests to reuse their towels was simply a way for the hotel to save money by not washing towels as much.

Other greenwashing examples include using phrases like ‘green’ and ‘all natural’ but providing no claims to back up these statements.  


2 - Pinkwashing

Pinkwashing is very similar to green washing. And no, it’s not when you accidently place a red sock in with your whites! This is when brands appear to support LGBTQ+ causes, usually around Pride month and often in the form of a rainbow logo. Brands will try to pretend they are pro queer communites, but often fail to show support where it matters aka hiring LGTQA+ employees, brand ambassadors or board members and speaking up on matters that effect the trans community. 


3 - Wokewashing

Wokewashing is when a brand uses the language of social justice activism to sell products. ‘Woke’ is a black activist watch word that was co-opted, and likely unheard of before 2014. After the brutal police killing of Michael Brown in Missouri in 2014, ‘Stay Woke’ became a common phrase amongst Black Lives Matter activists, but the phrase had already been a part of black communities for years. Brands using this as a slogan don’t understand its meaning or history, and are essentially trying to co-opt a social movement for their own benefit.

Less New = Less CO2


Think a brand is using dodgy marketing tactics? Don’t let them pull the wool (or polyester) over your eyes! Here are the warning signs to look out for.

  • Anything that sounds too good to be true. Chances are it probably is
  • Vague fad words - brands should be providing specifics about what they do
  • Phrases like ‘organic’ or ‘natural’, these can mean lots of different things
  • Any big fancy marketing campaign that seems very reactive to a situation rather than offering ongoing support
  • Seemingly nice gestures that seem off-brand. They usually mean something more sinister is going on behind the scenes

We believe that actions speak louder than words. So if a brand wants to make a positive change to people and the planet, they need to back that up with some form of action. It’s the reason we donate 10% of our profits to a different inclusive sports charity each month, it’s the motivation behind our Ran By Nature community podcast and it’s why we always make our ethically clothes in the UK from eco-friendly fabrics. 

Have you spotted a brand or business using greenwashing, pinkwashing or wokewashing? How did it make you feel? Share your thoughts with our community at @ranbynature or send an email to