We’re calling out cancel culture. Cancel culture is the buzz phrase of 2020 in terms of social media activism. But how effective is it, really?
Let’s start by refreshing your definition of cancel culture. Cancelling is condemning a brand or public figure that you do not agree with. You hit them the hardest by publicly denouncing them while pledging to drive away any profit they receive through products or services.
As a result of our demand for change, many have confused the line between calling out brands and cancelling them entirely. Let’s examine this form of social protest called cancel culture.
Defining Cancel Culture
Cancel culture may be the defining social media buzz phrase in 2020, but it’s not new by any means. What is new is that social platforms have amplified the voices that are boycotting brands and public figures.
Cancel culture is the direct result of the public holding them accountable and bringing them to the forefront of public conversation. What follows next is financial support being taken away and pressure for other potential consumers to take their dollars elsewhere.
But it doesn’t end there. It becomes socially and politically motivated too. If the masses are demanding a brand be cancelled, then anyone who supports that brand enters the fray as well.
Yes, calling for a brand to be cancelled is a powerful and effective way to get their attention. Especially in a time of social unrest, any chance your voice can be heard is a good thing. However, there’s been confusion over calling out brands and cancelling them.
Cancelling vs. Calling-Out
The difference between cancel culture vs. calling-out has gotten scrambled somewhere along the way. What is the ultimate goal of cancelling a brand?
Undoubtedly, consumers were quick to pounce during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests. And rightly so. They called out brands for a lack of statement, delayed statement, and for statements that didn’t say enough. Social responses are being closely watched right now and cancel culture is proof of that.
As a result, expect to be called on to be better and do better when your brand does not meet the expectations of the public. What you do next will define your brand in the public eye.
In the past, it takes the calling out of brands to elicit an apology or statement. If you’d like to read more about the mechanics behind brand apologies, check out this article.
Consumers are smart and they are not here for ‘fauxpologies’. More than ever, they want proof that brands are doing more than issuing statements. They want to know what you’re doing to back it up. Therefore, many consumers will give brands a chance to make things right.
Calling Out for Change
For brands to make things right, it’s important to hold them accountable. Sacrificing them to cancel culture is very one-sided. When consumers call out a brand, they have them in the perfect position to implement changes.
Mistakes are made (often) because we are all human. But change can happen when we hold each other accountable and continue to show up and do the work to create change in the world.
This WFAA news clip featuring Bree Clarke, founder of Iman Project, is a must-watch for some insight into cancel culture. When consumers call out brands, as opposed to cancelling, then the brands have that opportunity to have these difficult conversations. And difficult conversations lead to effective change.
“Listen. Learn. Unite.” -Bree Clarke via the Dallas Mavericks
Holding Brands Accountable
Brands need to post with a purpose, but they also need to be accountable for what they say. Let’s talk about brands and public figures that were very publicly called out or cancelled due to something they posted or said.
- Many former employees of Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie spoke out following the company’s BLM statement. They alleged that they were given code words to racially profile black shoppers. While UO did not see a drastic decline in followers, Anthropologie lost 10,000 of their 4.1 million followers on Instagram.
- L’Oréal was immediately called out after their BLM statement. In 2017, the company fired Munroe Bergdorf, a black transgender model and activist. As Bergdorf posted, “You dropped me from a campaign in 2017 and threw me to the wolves for speaking out about racism and white supremacy.” L’Oréal recently rehired Bergdorf to serve as their U.K. Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board in an effort to #dobetter.
- In recent months, Glossier was called out by former employees who witnessed mishandling of racist incidents in their retail location. In an interview with Fortune, former employees stated: “We’re not trying to cancel Glossier” and one unnamed source continued, “If you’re about to be in charge of helping other Black businesses, you need to fix your own house first.”
- Politically speaking, there was the call to cancel Goya after the CEO showed support for Trump. And there was also the call by Trump to cancel Goodyear after he misunderstood the company’s ban on MAGA hats. This call to cancel Goodyear was done while campaigning against cancel culture itself. As a result, neither proved effective.
In short, it’s important to call out brands in order for them to do better. Hold them accountable for their words by asking what’s next.
Due to the pandemic, we’ve been held virtually captive by our electronic devices in 2020. Consequently, the social media masses came together to call out brands for their empty statements (or lack thereof) on social injustice. Brands need to take to heart that uncomfortable conversations and being called out are the steps that propel society forward.
With all of this in mind, the phrase ‘cancel culture’ has become mainstream and oftentimes, overused and misused. Taking to social media to cancel brands is not always effective. Large brands will eventually bounce back. And then where is the real change when these powerful brands resume as they did before?
Summing up, the ‘what’s next’ here is up to us. The consumers and the brands. Consequently, calling out a brand is essential to initiate that change internally. Social media has taught us that voices are being heard in 2020 and companies are actively working to make serious changes within their company and communities.
What are your thoughts on calling out brands vs. cancel culture? Let us know in the comments below!