Cancel Culture: brands today have either been hit head on with it or at the very least narrowly missed a collision with it. One way or another brands today are aware of this public shaming social media trend where people crowd source together in “calling out” offenders spanning from individuals to large corporations for behavior that is perceived to be wrong or problematic. Wrong could mean a lot of things – illegal activities (think Harvy Weinstein) all the way to cultural differences (think red cup Starbucks). Cancel culture is a boycott that is heard most loudly via Social Media but can be seen in person as well. It seems like every day on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram we’re hearing about a new person/brand that has been labeled. This movement stems from a mismatch between the thing the brand said or did and the ethical expectations of their audience.
One of the most recent that comes to mind is Chick-fil-A. Just a few days ago the company announced that they would be ending donations to religious, anti-LGBTQ organizations. Without getting into specifics the company cited that they will now focus their contributions towards organizations with focuses on education, homelessness and hunger. People on various sides of the topic had issue. Those in the Christian community who once believed this company stood ground with their aligned values felt betrayed. Those in the LGTBQ felt like the company was not clear enough in their change in policy, meaning they did not disassociate themselves enough from the religious groups that stand against gay marriage. Essentially this move didn’t make any consumer group happy. Almost immediately the online community was taking off.
Chick-fi-A is not the first and it won’t be the last to experience the impacts of cancel culture. There are a few things brands can do if they finds themselves in this situation:
- Confirm they’re actually in crisis before acting. It’s nearly impossible for people or brands to act, talk or even breathe without offending someone. Every brand should have a plan if a character catastrophe is in motion but they should first have monitoring in place to ensure a situation isn’t just a one off with a small impact rather than a full blown crisis that spans a breadth of their target audience. If it is indeed a situation worth acting on, brands should react quickly and as authentic as possible.
- Road to recovery. If the response was due to an error on the company’s part they need to be transparent about the next steps so it doesn’t find itself in the situation again, list and respond to customer concerns with sincerity.
- Mitigate chances of round 2. Brands should invest in social media management software, smaller business can leverage tools such as Hootsuite, so they can monitor and react quickly to their community. Again brands should have a worst-case scenario plan that details their go-to actions should they find themselves in a similar situation. This includes having detailed escalation workflows in place that detail which stakeholders need to be alerted when specific issues arise.
While cancel culture feels like a hot new trend parallels can be found dating back as old as time. Watch this funny video below!