They say that bad publicity is still publicity. However, in the time of social media, where every mistake is blown up and immortalized for everyone to see, is there a silver lining in being embroiled in a very public scandal?
What It Means to be Cancelled
Brands should pay attention to “cancel culture,” a concept in which the public withdraws support from a brand or an individual. The term has been mentioned and discussed repeatedly in recent years across media, politics, and culture. Critics claim that the movement, which mostly exists online, is a modern-day exercise of mob mentality. At the same time, those who participate and support cancel culture do so to achieve social justice when institutions have failed to do the right thing.
It is difficult to say whether cancel culture is right or wrong because it is a complex subject. Some people who have been canceled deserve public scorn because of perpetrating abuse or hate against another person or a group. On the other hand, some have been canceled for seemingly inane mistakes that they have apologized for in the past.
Brands have also received the ire of the public over the years. Everything from Netflix and Amazon to The Salvation Army has been declared “over.”
It should be avoided as much as possible. One recent survey found that 64 percent of consumers worldwide will be willing to boycott or buy from a brand because of its position on social or political issues.
Being involved in a scandal, especially one that spreads online fast, can give brands a lasting negative reputation. There are many ways to prevent being scorned online by internet users. A factor that could ensure that you will remain in the public’s good graces is hiring the right digital marketing agency to conceptualize an effective and yet socially relevant campaign.
Does the Issue Warrant a Response?
Sometimes, the public cancellation is, quite simply, a witch hunt.
A few people did not have a positive interaction with the business and shared an unflattering review online. Or, perhaps, your marketing team sent samples to a controversial social media influencer.
Sometimes, people are calling a business out for legitimate reasons.
L’Oreal had a brush with cancel culture when transgender activist and model Munroe Bergdorf revealed that the brand dropped her for her political tweets. She called the brand hypocritical for supporting Black Lives Matter in the wake of George Floyd’s death after they dropped her for speaking out against racism.
L’Oreal did the right thing by reaching out to Bergdorf privately, hiring her as a diversity consultant, donating to various charities, and reinstating the model as an ambassador.
Craft an Apology
After determining if the allegations were legitimate, then the next course of action is to address them. This is crucial because it can either go well and repair the brand’s reputation or make the clamor so much worse.
When creating an apology, there are several things that the brand needs to do. First, admit fault. If the brand was wrong, it should be acknowledged, not ignored. Waiting for the issue to die down will do more harm than good in the long run. Acknowledge your fault, then mention it in full detail to the public. Second, express remorse for the actions. Finally, state what you will do to make sure that the mistake never happens again in the future.
Only a few brands manage to get the apology right, but one is AirBnB which has been accused of racial profiling and discrimination in the past. A study by Harvard researchers found that African-American names are less likely to be accepted by as much as 16 percent than guests with distinctly White names. In its apology to users, Airbnb admitted that the company acted too slowly in addressing the issue. The company also revealed that it had hired an expert to make changes from within so that no discrimination will ever happen again.
Follow Through with Promises
The issue does not end with an apology. People will continue to keep an eye on a brand to ensure that they will never err again in the future. That is why companies must follow through with the changes they promised to make. Otherwise, the snafu will continue to haunt the company for years to come.
A significant number of consumers also believe that people who were responsible for the mistake should be fired. No one wants to support a brand that continues to be associated with people who have in the past been deemed problematic.
No brand is immune to cancel culture, but any brand can also survive it as long as they take the necessary steps to rebound and regain the public’s trust.