Cancel culture, or call-out culture, consists of publicly denouncing various issues. Many brands today are targeted by consumers for their past or present actions or their image. How can a brand progress in the eyes of consumers?
From heaven to hell, sometimes there’s only one tweet that separates a brand from this chasm. In the space of a year, numerous consumer boycotts have emerged on social networks. Brands accused of conveying a racist image because of packaging, such as Uncle Ben’s or Aunt Jemima, had to make quick decisions to avoid the wrath of all consumers and have since changed their image. “Brands must come to terms with their memory, with their reality. You have to agree to have that part if that’s the case. The past is not because it’s assumed or accepted, that it’s bonded”, explains Amélie Aubry, managing director of Edelman France. As a result, a brand must be able to bounce back quickly in the event of a bad buzz. To do this, a classic protocol must be implemented to best manage the crisis. Brands and retailers are not the only targets of culture call-outs. In July 2020, The Cass Business School, a business school at City University London, pledged to change its name following revelations about the link between the slave trade and the fortune of Sir John Cass. “Cancel culture focuses on the history, the past, sometimes shocking, of a brand and not necessarily on the current crises awakened by actions of the present. That said, to prevent it is necessary to be in anticipation and s ‘ask about what creates the relationship of trust with a brand’recalls Amélie Aubry.
Rethinking its legitimacy
It is difficult today, at a time when the consumer is at the center of everything and where social networks amplify the speed of communication, not to position oneself or to remain neutral, like L’Oréal which, in the movement of the Black Lives Matter, has decided to withdraw the terms “white, whitening and clear” of its packaging to celebrate all skin tones. A rapid communication from L’Oréal which nevertheless earned the brand to be accused of opportunism. Positions on the part of companies are sometimes just as dangerous for their reputation. For Amélie Aubry, it is necessary “that brands return to their brand territory, to their legitimacy, because today, it’s a bit: I answer everything or I don’t answer anything”. The cancel culture becomes harmful when more traditional media such as newspapers or television take hold of the subject. For Amélie Aubry, the sinews of war lies in consumers’ lack of knowledge, “many consumers still have poor information hygiene by not necessarily verifying sources”. So it’s not easy for consumers to find their way around and understand the values and commitment of a brand if they themselves aren’t able to take an interest in the depth and anteriority of their image. There is a real organizational gap, according to Amélie Aubry, “Mass distribution brands must follow the example of luxury brands and houses that have this culture of memory”. One of the keys to success is to accept your past to better move forward with the times.