Here’s the No. 1 Thing Brands Can Do to Avoid Public Outrage and Cancel Culture

8 January 2021

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Opinions expressed by Businessman The contributors are their own.


I had a former manager who wanted us to post, share and comment on any and every cultural moment. He will get angry when we miss something. He fills our inbox and texts us what other brands and companies have done.

“Are we going to wish people a Happy Ramadan?” If we do not, then it is a very big memory.

“It’s the Super Bowl. Nothing is more American than football. What is our plan “

“This is Cinco De Mayo. What should we say? “

How about we not say anything? Let’s just say nothing. Please.

In our always “attention economy”, we are drowning in a wealth of information, which continues to demand more and more of our attention. Since the onset of the epidemic, our collective digital focus has only increased: 50 percent of consumers have been online more. Whether it is Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, we scroll endlessly on social media by sticking to our phones.

And with the democratization of content creation, anyone can create that next video, the next post, that next tweet, which may go viral. It is therefore no surprise that brands are under intense pressure – to be smart, to the point, to be successful, to stay relevant and to have a lasting relationship with us.

McDonald’s is stripping its golden arches to promote social distinctions. A United Bank has shared a new debit card design featuring Harriet Tubman signing Wakanda forever. Gap produced Half Blue and Half Red Hoodies after the 2020 presidential election. Brand after brand “trying to talk to us in these moments.”

And recently, Tropicana insisted on hiding orange juice and champagne in a hidden mini fridge to deal with parents in an epidemic. The backlash was swift, with consumers resenting that the brand would glorify alcohol use as a parental mechanism, normalizing alcohol abuse for parents.

“We want to apologize to anyone who is disappointed or offended by our recent campaign,” Tropicana wrote. “The motive behind this did not in any way mean that alcohol is the answer or speaks of the struggle for intoxication.”

The Mimosa campaign of Tropicana may be one of the last accidents we witnessed in 2020. This pressure also serves as a reminder of the brands the new year will continue to fix. Many of us are terrified of this epidemic on our phones and at home, we are tired and frustrated and stress is running high. When brands make mistakes, we may be less likely to forgive, which is set to highlight our feelings on Twitter.

Related: What to do when you wake up for a PR crisis

So what is the number 1 thing brands can do to avoid public outrage and to revoke culture? If you have no place to authentically enter the conversation or connect with that cultural moment, do not do so. Sit in your FOMO. Do not do anything. May be the best decision for you in the new year.

When we enter 2021, here are three questions we ask as leaders when it comes to our brands and the moment:

1. Why are you pressuring?

It is one thing to be in the relentless pursuit of great content. To decide that you suddenly need to make a social post on the afternoon of the same payday as black women is a completely different thing. When there is no thought or preparation, mistakes are made and brands begin to descend into a pool of “cancel culture”.

As someone who was once a junior marketer, I have felt this intense pressure from senior leaders. Leaders who do not want to spend time being active and are constantly reacting to what they are seeing on their social feeds. It can serve as a source of inspiration, or it can send us into a death spiral, where we are constantly chasing what others are doing and imitating. Sometimes we replicate content and ideas from competitors that are not really great.

We should collaborate with our teams, agencies and thought partners to reflect cultural moments in 2021. Being proactive rather than reactive. To think about the ongoing conversation in this epidemic and what role our brands can play. It should be clear on what and when and why we should enter into these conversations for our brand.

2. What does your brand stand for?

Amid an epidemic, economic crisis and large-scale demonstrations over systemic racism, consumers are looking for brands that will work and advocate for change. According to the 2020 Edelman Brand Trust Survey, 80 percent of consumers want brands to “solve society’s problems.” It is no longer enough to show its support across social channels with short, passionate statements.

This goes beyond the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag – especially if you don’t have any black talent in your brand’s Instagram feed. This goes beyond a social post on the importance of Women’s History Month – especially if there are no women in your senior leadership positions. This goes beyond encouraging people to buy red and blue hoodies for the presidential election – especially if you have nothing to say about the social, economic and political issues facing our country.

What does your brand really stand for? How many of us can answer this question easily? You need to know what your values ​​and beliefs are. You need a well-defined railing for the things you will stand for that moment and the matters you will stand for.

Related: 3 Ways to Succeed in Marketing in the Modern Age

3. Why should you participate in this moment?

In the case of Tropicana, it was tempting to not negotiate how stressful upbringing is going on in this epidemic. A better approach: to show children who are remote working and finally enjoying the parents after another long pandemic day of virtual school.

Why should you participate in this moment? If you are ready for the cultural moments you want to be involved in, and you know what your brand is, then you can definitely answer this question. Brands that can seize the moment to create relevant and authentic content are those who have worked hard.

Public resentment and fear of revoking culture is not difficult to live by. We all make mistakes. Bur When we are deliberate, thoughtful and ready, we will make fewer mistakes along the way.

Some people can remain silent and sitting outside is not an option. I would argue that you must think about why, when and how you show up. If you don’t know the best way to do this, then sit out of this phase and wait for the moment where your brand can have a meaningful impact.

Related: Is it time to hibernate or speed up your PR efforts?

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