If you are a marketeer, a strategist, a social activist, or actually just a person who uses the internet, you have heard about cancel culture. Yes, that faceless movement that has been stirring up across countries and continents, wrecking havocs for countless brands. From RedBull in Thailand, TRESemmé in South Africa to Oatly in Europe and North America.
Triggered by as little as an offensive tweet to as complicated as an investment deal, a canceling wave can take a brand down in a matter of hours. The scale of impact and how quick it can hurt a business would have been unimaginable without social media and our generation’s masterful use of it. It’s all a spider web of interlinked influence.
By the time a marketing manager realizes what is going on, sales have been lost, images have been tarnished, products have been taken down from shelves. It is fascinating to think about the amount of power at our fingertips, isn’t it?
But, what is the point of this canceling act? Yes, of course we want to punish. To send a message to those businesses. To show that we are not here to be tricked. We are not fools. What else? Isn’t it also about crying out loud for business to do better? Isn’t it also because we desperately need alternatives that actually align with our beliefs? So yes, we should cancel bad brands for good. But how about supporting good brands to build a better future? Are we doing that enough?
So, I set off to build a social listening search query in English across the US, UK, RSA, India and Australia to see how much are we ‘canceling for good’ versus ‘supporting for better’? How much are we using social media to stand up for brands that do good? How much are we tweeting to let our followers know a nice brand that aligns with our values actually exist?
Not to my surprise, canceling bad brands is so much more popular than supporting good brands on social media platforms. People are more triggered by and more likely to respond to scandalous news. But also, I get that canceling (stop buying) something is less costly than supporting (buying more) something else.
What is shocking, to me, is the insane magnitude of imbalance between these two types of social conversations. On average, social posts to support good brands only account for 5% of total mentions, leaving the whopping 95% of conversations in this topic fully about canceling the bad guys.
Why in today’s world, are we so much better or enthusiastically engaged in boycotting brands who don’t share our views than in supporting those who do? A possible explanation to the scalability of cancel movements is in how “hurt” as an emotion, can become internalized and owned by everyone, making it the thing that unites us against them. Whereas, a good experience a person has with a brand is often limited to that single person.
If this is the case, the way forward for brands could be to start investing in hashtags that can activate a lot of good stories to be aggregated. I am not talking about #VivaPatagonia or anything in that line of brand centric promo. It is about uncovering and tapping into something powerfully human and good, that everybody wants to take and make their own. Things such as #LikeAGirl or #AmericaIsBeautiful, both of which triggered sizable social movements that spread love and set the brand as an igniter of positive changes.
If hate talk is social then love talk needs to become social as well. Brands need to train their empathy fitness to understand the people they serve, to feel their tensions and aspirations. From there, nurture and enable a collective who talks love and spreads more positivity around.
By: Linh Nghiem