Cancel culture and what brands should be doing - ClickZ (2022)

30-second summary:

  • Social media platforms allow anyone to publicly call out people and brands when they did or said something offensive or abusive
  • Cancel culture is public outrage targeting an individual celebrity or a brand for their public statements or actions
  • How do you keep your brand safe from being canceled in 2022 and beyond?
  • If you were affected by cancel culture, how do you control the damage and recover your brand image? Let’s find out!

In 2021, major celebrities and brands like J.K Rowling, Ellen DeGeneres, Netflix, L’Oréal, and McAfee faced the wrath of netizens due to their actions, either intentional or unintentional – this was cancel culture in full throttle. People want to hold brands and celebrities accountable (at least for most of it) and marketers need to acknowledge that it is here to stay.

According to PEW research, 58 percent of U.S. adults say in general, calling out others on social media is more likely to hold people accountable. While there are various shades to cancel culture, I dive into understanding the crux of this phenomenon and what brands need to do to safeguard their reputation and identity online.

Source: PEW Research Center

Understanding the controversial cancel culture

Cancel culture is the contemporary movement of expressing public disapproval of someone’s public statement or action.

When canceling refers to a brand, people are basically encouraging the public to stop buying from them. Canceling means boycotting a brand.

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Obviously, social media provides a perfect platform for the cancel culture, giving anyone a voice and the means to unite people around one common outrage.

On one hand, it raises a lot of legal questions. Public shaming goes back to the concept of public square trials when an individual could have been punished without their guilt being proved.

On the other hand, cancel culture is considered to be an important tool in achieving social justice.

Cancel culture and what brands should be doing - ClickZ (3)

How to keep your brand safe?

1. Develop thorough communication policies

Anyone who can publicly speak or publish content on your behalf should follow strict rules as to what they can or cannot say, which topics to avoid, who to alert of public feedback, etc.

This document is referred to as a communication policy.

It is helpful if the company’s executives are following that document as well because in many cases CEOs cause all the trouble.

For example, American University has a very detailed marketing and communication policy listing all kinds of rules their employees need to follow when sending email newsletters, posting on social media channels, and using third-party content, like pictures and videos.

Here are their communication guidelines for posting on social media – this will give you a sample of what your brand’s communication policy can look like.

  • Think twice before posting: Privacy does not exist in the world of social media. Consider what could happen if a post becomes widely known and how it may reflect on both the poster and the University… If you are unsure about posting something or responding to a comment, ask your supervisor for input.
  • Strive for accuracy: Get the facts straight before posting them on social media.
  • Be respectful: Understand that content contributed to a social media site could encourage comments or discussion of opposing ideas.
  • On personal sites: Identify your views as your own.
  • Photography and comments: Do not post any comment or picture involving an AU employee, volunteer or student without their express consent.

A communication policy is not something you can build in a day. It should tackle different scenarios, provide policies for different channels and explain clear steps on:

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Set up your policy as an internal and searchable knowledge base to be able to expand it as you discover new and new situations and processes.

2. Avoid controversy (if you can)

As a founder and member of society, you may be tempted to use your public image and following to support what you feel is right and fair.

It may come at a high cost, so think twice before you do so.

Your public words may end up working against your brand and cause a crisis your team may be unprepared to handle.

When in doubt, keep silent.

Yet, it is getting increasingly harder to remain neutral

In today’s polarized world customers often demand their brands take one side and publicly define their stance. We’ve seen this happen in front of our eyes when Coca-Cola and McDonald’s were both forced to leave the Russian market after what seemed like a silent hesitation.

In many cases, silence is not an option. These days, remaining neutral means being complicit, and not many brands can afford that.

When confronted with the need to react to a political climate, consider taking an action over releasing a statement. A report claims that customers tend to be more forgiving to brands that took action instead of trying to please their audience with empty talk.

In other words, instead of condemning any side, start a fundraiser or donate money to the cause you’re supporting. At this point, whatever you say may backfire on you but at least action will be respected.

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3. Admit and own up to your mistakes

While cancel culture may seem really scary, we see lots of examples of brands recovering from any crisis by simply apologizing.

If your company is facing public outrage

Arrange a meeting with your employees and discuss whether you may have been mischarged in your previous statement and what is the best way to address the accusations.

If you don’t feel you did anything wrong, your PR, communications, and legal teams may have a different opinion, so listen to them.

If your case seems bad enough and the accusations are mounting rapidly, consider hiring a crisis manager. In some cases, you need an outside perspective.

4. Invest in a sub-brand

For years we’ve been giving the same advice over and over again: Don’t create multiple brands. Focus on one.

Well, the recent years of an immediate cancellation threat over a possible clumsy public reaction have clearly demonstrated one thing: Your (personal) brand may be ruined within a day.

Of course, most brand names may be restored with enough reputation management efforts but it can take months for the public to forgive mistakes and become loyal again.

In this climate, having another brand name to lean on in case of a possible reputation crisis seems like a good idea.

A new brand name can save a business

To name a few, we’ve seen Rowling take on another pen name to continue writing, and McAfee changing its name to Intel Security to distance the company from its founder. There are numerous other case studies proving one definitive point: You may have invested your life into building a strong brand but it remains vulnerable, especially now that your brand’s cancellation may go viral.

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Even if you are a small business or an independent entrepreneur, consider setting up an anonymous digital entity earlier to start building up your organic visibility. If anything happens to your main brand, you will have a backup to switch your focus on.

Worst-case scenario, your sub-brand will be never used but you will be able to use the site rankings to drive additional sales and leads.

5. Prioritize data privacy and security as a must-have

Privacy and security remain the biggest threat to any brand’s welfare. Even giants like Google Plus were forced to shut down after their data leak became public.

Cyberattacks may cause your customers to lose money and identity, which is very hard to overcome. It is especially dangerous in B2B marketing because it often involves working with a lot of sensitive data.

Create a healthy culture of security within your business for all your employees to be aware of data security protocols and protect customers’ private data.

  • Ensure a culture of transparency to keep your employees informed on the latest risks and growing security threats as well as to list steps on what to do after a data breach.
  • Make sure your customers are aware of your efforts to keep their data safe and your business compliant with privacy regulations.

Conclusion

We live in interesting times when everyone has a voice and we are still learning how to live in a world where any argument can go public and become viral. It is both scary and exciting to navigate these unknown waters but the good old “hope for the best, get ready for the worst” is almost always a good strategy. Good luck!

Ann Smarty is the Founder of Viral Content Bee, Brand and Community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She can be found on Twitter@seosmarty.

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More about:

  • brand guidelines
  • brand reputation
  • Brand safety
  • brand safety tips
  • cancel culture
  • communication policy
  • data privacy
  • digital marketing
  • influencer commentary
  • Online reputation management
  • Social Media

FAQs

What is cancel culture in marketing? ›

Cancel culture is public outrage targeting an individual celebrity or a brand for their public statements or actions. How do you keep your brand safe from being canceled in 2022 and beyond?

What is the main idea of cancel culture? ›

Cancel culture or call-out culture is a phrase contemporary to the late 2010s and early 2020s used to refer to a form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those subject to this ostracism are said to have been "cancelled".

What is cancel culture in your own words? ›

: the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling (see cancel entry 1 sense 1e) as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure For those of you who aren't aware, cancel culture refers to the mass withdrawal of support from public figures or celebrities who have done things that aren't socially ...

Why do people boycott brands? ›

According to a study by Edelman, 64% of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue. Only a few years ago, the term boycott was viewed as something confined to the radical fringes of society.

Who has been successfully Cancelled? ›

Here are some of the most shocking and outrageous celebrity cancellations of 2021.
  • Chris Noth. Former Sex in the City star Chris Noth was accused of sexual assault by three woman. ...
  • Chrissy Teigen. ...
  • Shia LaBeouf. ...
  • Armie Hammer. ...
  • Marilyn Manson. ...
  • Aaron Rodgers. ...
  • 5 times Donald Trump leapt to Ivanka's defence.
  • Matt Damon.
Dec 24, 2021

How does cancel culture affect mental health? ›

For many teens, cancellation is the worst punishment imaginable, because rejection by their peer group is their biggest fear. That's why there's a link between cancel culture and mental health: Being canceled can lead to teen anxiety, depression, trauma, and suicidal thoughts and behavior.

What does Cancelled mean on TikTok? ›

To assist in the "moving on" process, you might need to throw away your ex's favorite sweatshirt, delete all of their photos — and maybe even partake in the "Canceled" TikTok trend, which essentially entails sending your ex a diss track.

What is being Cancelled mean? ›

2019. To cancel someone (usually a celebrity or other well-known figure) means to stop giving support to that person. The act of canceling could entail boycotting an actor's movies or no longer reading or promoting a writer's works.

What does Cancelled mean in slang? ›

When something is canceled, it is nulled, ended, voided. Done, over, no longer wanted, like a TV show or subscription. This sense of cancel is the basic idea behind the slang meaning of canceling a person. When a person is canceled, they are no longer supported publicly.

What does Cancelled Call mean? ›

For example, a “Cancelled Call” entry indicates that you were in the process of making a call and hung up before either the other person answered or the call went to voicemail.

What brands are being boycotted? ›

Top 10 boycotts
  • Amazon. 83% of readers are joining us in our boycott of Amazon. ...
  • Nestlé 28% of readers have joined the world's longest running boycott. ...
  • BDS. ...
  • China. ...
  • Tesco. ...
  • Palm oil. ...
  • Coca-Cola. ...
  • Plastics.
Jun 4, 2021

What are 3 reasons that consumers may choose to boycott a product? ›

As we discussed earlier in this section, there are generally three reasons a group might decide to hold a boycott: as an end to itself, to bring about specific changes, or to put a person or company out of business.

Should brands take a stance on political issues? ›

Taking a Political Stance Can Generate Loyalty & Trust

It is a known fact that people remain loyal to brands that they can relate to. It can be either an ad campaign that manages to tug the strings of the target audience's heart or the brand standing up for a political issue that is close to them.

Who has been falsely canceled? ›

21 Celebrities Who People Believe Were Unfairly Canceled
  • Shannen Doherty. United Archives / Frank Hempel / United Archives via Getty Images. ...
  • The Chicks. Brian Zak / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images. ...
  • Janet Jackson. ...
  • Rebecca Black. ...
  • Fiona Apple. ...
  • Hayden Christensen. ...
  • Bob Paris. ...
  • Tiger Woods.
Jun 14, 2021

Who was cancelled in 2022? ›

All 69 TV Shows Canceled In 2022 (So Far)
  • I Know What You Did Last Summer (Amazon) Premiered on: October 15, 2021. ...
  • The Lost Symbol (Peacock) Premiered on: September 16, 2021. ...
  • Gentefied (Netflix) ...
  • Cooking with Paris (Netflix) ...
  • Bull (CBS) ...
  • American Rust (Showtime) ...
  • Black Monday (Showtime) ...
  • Work in Progress (Showtime)
Jul 8, 2022

Is cancel culture healthy? ›

Cancel culture doesn't just affect the canceled and the cancelers. It can also wreak havoc on onlookers' mental health. After seeing so many people being canceled, some bystanders are plagued with fear. They become overwhelmed with anxiety that people will turn on them if they fully express themselves.

What is the psychology of cancel culture? ›

Cancel culture psychology gives people tacit permission to bypass empathy and forgiveness in favor of righteous anger. Theories around the psychology of individual and group identity formation also come into play in cancel culture.

How do you deal with canceling culture at work? ›

My best advice is to pause before acting and reflect on what you are about to do and the possible consequences of such actions. The reaction of an employer sets a tone about how a company will handle instances of the cancel culture at work. Employees can take it as a signal of the culture of the workplace.

What does SOS mean on TikTok? ›

"Save Our Souls" is the most common definition for SOS on Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. SOS. Definition: Save Our Souls.

What does cupcake TikTok mean? ›

The "I like you, have a cupcake" trend is audio-based, involving people miming the dialogue, "I like you, have a cupcake" listing things they like and one they dislike. Tiktokers have embraced the 'I Like You Have a Cupcake' trend. Source: TikTok.

What is the meaning of TikTok? ›

The app was launched in 2016 in China, where it's called Douyin. It went international in 2017 as TikTok; the name, apparently, is a play on tick-tock, onomatopoeia for clocks and a term for countdowns and minute-by-minute action.

What happens when someone is Cancelled? ›

Canceling, today, is used like an informal boycott, usually on social media, when someone or something in the public eye is offensive … or when we're just over them.

What can be Cancelled? ›

Things that can be canceled 1
  • vacation.
  • plans.
  • trip.
  • journey.
  • visit.
  • excursion.
  • meeting.
  • conference.

What is the difference between canceled and Cancelled? ›

While both canceled and cancelled are acceptable for the past tense of cancel, the version with one L is more common in American English, while the version with two L's is more common in British English.

What does the saying woke mean? ›

Woke (/ˈwoʊk/ WOHK) is an English adjective meaning "alert to racial prejudice and discrimination" that originated in African-American Vernacular English (AAVE).

What is cancel Urban? ›

Urban Dictionary defines canceling as "to dismiss something or somebody" and "to reject an individual or idea." And when people use the term unironically, it reveals a big problem with our culture. It's good to call people out, particularly celebrities and those in power, and hold them accountable for their actions.

What does user busy mean? ›

Whenever you make a call and see “User Busy” on the screen during the call, it means that the person you are trying to talk with is currently engaged in another conversation on his phone. Because of the way phones work, getting multiple people on a call is only possible if someone calls you.

How do you know if someone has blocked your number? ›

If you call a specific number and it immediately goes to voicemail, or you get a strange message such as 'temporarily out of service' or 'the person is not taking calls,' this may mean your number has been blocked,” Lavelle says.

What does it mean when you call someone and it goes straight to voicemail without ringing? ›

If you only hear one ring before the voicemail picks up, there are three possible reasons: their phone is off, they've set their phone to auto-divert to voicemail (i.e., they've enabled Do Not Disturb mode), or you've been blocked.

What does being Cancelled mean? ›

2019. To cancel someone (usually a celebrity or other well-known figure) means to stop giving support to that person. The act of canceling could entail boycotting an actor's movies or no longer reading or promoting a writer's works.

What does Cancelled mean in slang? ›

When something is canceled, it is nulled, ended, voided. Done, over, no longer wanted, like a TV show or subscription. This sense of cancel is the basic idea behind the slang meaning of canceling a person. When a person is canceled, they are no longer supported publicly.

Does Cancelling have 2 l's? ›

One L or two? While both canceled and cancelled are acceptable for the past tense of cancel, the version with one L is more common in American English, while the version with two L's is more common in British English.

Which is correct Cancelling or canceling? ›

Canceling and Cancelling are both correct. Canceling is American English and Cancelling is British English. There are many spelling differences between North American English and British English. American English does not use the double L.

How do you deal with canceling culture at work? ›

My best advice is to pause before acting and reflect on what you are about to do and the possible consequences of such actions. The reaction of an employer sets a tone about how a company will handle instances of the cancel culture at work. Employees can take it as a signal of the culture of the workplace.

Why does Target keep Cancelling my Order 2021? ›

Once we start processing it, items may be canceled for reasons such as: An item becomes unavailable. The payment method can't be processed. The shipping address can't be verified.

What is SKL mean? ›

SKL
AcronymDefinition
SKLShare Ko Lang (Filipino: I'm Just Sharing)
SKLSimple Key Loader
SKLState Key Laboratory
SKLConservative Peasants Party (Poland)
7 more rows

What is the meaning of SML? ›

SML is an online and texting acronym that means various things. It can mean screw my life, so much love, or sometimes so much laughter. Related words: SOML. LOL.

What does the saying woke mean? ›

Woke (/ˈwoʊk/ WOHK) is an English adjective meaning "alert to racial prejudice and discrimination" that originated in African-American Vernacular English (AAVE).

Is it GREY or gray? ›

Gray and grey are both common spellings of the color between black and white. Gray is more frequent in American English, whereas grey is more common in British English.

Why do Americans spell canceled with 1l? ›

Webster decided to chop the past tense of “cancel” down to one L. This variation first showed up in the Webster's 1898 Dictionary, though it didn't fully beat out the double-L spelling until about the 1980s. It's not a hard-and-fast rule, but it's the accepted form in American English to this day.

What shows are being Cancelled in 2021? ›

Canceled TV Shows 2021: Which of Your Favorite Series Are Coming to an End?
  • ABC. Rebel, 1 season. ...
  • Amazon. Bosch, 7 seasons. ...
  • AMC. The Walking Dead, 11 seasons. ...
  • BBC America. Killing Eve, 4 seasons.
  • CBS. NCIS: New Orleans, 7 seasons. ...
  • The CW. Black Lighting, 4 seasons. ...
  • Disney+ The Right Stuff, 1 season. ...
  • E!
Dec 18, 2021

Is Cancelling a right word? ›

In American English, the preferred style is typically not to double the final L—except in some instances where the final syllable of a word is stressed. So, cancel generally becomes canceled, canceling, and canceler. However, cancellation is more frequent in American English than cancelation.

How do you say an event is Cancelled? ›

We made this difficult decision to ___________ (postpone or cancel) because of _________________ (reason for cancellation or postponement). We understand that this change may cause great inconvenience for you and are sincerely sorry. [You may add on something about “circumstances beyond our control” if that applies.]

How do you spell tomorrow in text? ›

There are two common ways to abbreviate tomorrow. They are, tmw. tmrw.

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