Hop on any social media platform these days and the hashtag #Cancel____ (fill in the blank with a brand, a celeb, or a movement) is sure to be trending about someone or something. In today’s modern culture, canceling is the new boycotting, only it’s a lot more vicious and toxic.
What is a Boycott?
When you boycott a business, you’re basically using your wallet to hold them accountable to a legitimate standard, whether it’s a standard related to their products, their services, or their messaging. If the boycott is effective, brands feel the impacts of that boycott financially, and ideally, they then make moves to address the discontent.
Responsible brands will re-evaluate themselves and what they are doing that’s turning customers away and if it makes sense and doesn’t compromise their own values and integrity, they will adjust and/or publicly announce steps they are taking to resolve the issues customers are complaining about. Customers, for their part, are generally satisfied when amends are made, because the brand has been held accountable.
Boycotting is definitely not a bad thing, it’s a form of protest that’s been around for ages. Why has it survived so long? Because it works. It’s not even new, really. Using social rejection as a form of control in society has been around since tribal times and boycotting just became the natural evolution of that in the world of business. However, what boycotting is not, is malicious. And that’s where all similarities to cancel culture end.
What is Cancel Culture?
It’s basically the social media equivalent of mob rule. What starts out as perhaps altruistic and a genuine effort to seek justice over a perceived wrong, can quickly devolve into digital bullying that can even lead to real-life bullying.
Twitter is notorious for driving the canceled narrative about brands, people, and other controversial topics. Unfortunately, Instagram is also fast following suit. Irate consumers hop on social media and start tossing out harsh, quick judgments.
The goal of canceling a brand is not just holding a business accountable. In many cases, it is also to drive them out of business entirely.
What to Do If You’re a Target of Cancel Culture
The truth is, if you’re in business, you may at some point be a target. The trick is to be prepared for that, and have a strategy in place to combat it. Don’t just shrug it off, because consumers may have a legitimate complaint that you should take under consideration.
Know Who You Are and What You Stand For
Integrity is everything in business. Know who you are and what you stand for because if you don’t, you’ll cave to pressure from any direction. Carefully craft your messaging and communications to reflect those core values and don’t waver from them.
Customers Deserve to Be Heard
With all the noise, listening to your customers can be difficult, but tackling that challenge is what sets you apart from brands that simply don’t care about their customers. It’s up to you as a responsible brand to listen to them, hear what they are saying, and offer solutions where necessary.
Excellent customer service is a dying art, but you can revive it with your company and make waves in the social media realms by being responsive, accessible, and helpful when someone reaches out with a concern.
Again, sometimes customers will have very valid reasons for voicing their discontent. You will know immediately if they do because what they are saying will resonate and prick something in your conscience. When you know their complaints are valid, you should immediately take steps to resolve the problem, whatever that looks like.
Maybe it’s a public apology and a change in the way you do business. Maybe it’s a change in your products or services. Maybe it’s a change in your messaging or who you do business with yourself. You have to decide how much weight the complaints hold and how to best address them.
We should be able to hold space for other people's differences and respect those differences, without attacking each other for them or trying to ‘cancel’ someone because of them. We should be able to hold conversations about those differences and dialogue about them without fear of mob reprisal.
If you find your brand wanting to rebrand or tackling a difficult situation like cancel culture, give us a ring.