Published 2 years ago.
About a 4 minute read.
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The explosion and proliferation of social media has given power to the masses to share their opinions about brands — and sway others’ opinions in the process. But 73% of those surveyed said they’re less likely to cancel a purpose-driven brand.
Over the past few years, the concept of “cancel culture” — when one misstep or
wrong word from a person, a celebrity or brand can ignite a social media
firestorm that can quickly sour public opinion about that person or entity — has
grown like digital wildfire. Even beloved and legacy brands can be just one
away from death by social media firing squad.
In fact, new
from Porter Novelli aims to help us understand the mechanics of corporate cancel
culture — including:
Why do people cancel companies, and what do they hope to gain?
How long does a “cancellation” last and what does it take to get back in the
good graces of social media public opinion?
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The explosion and proliferation of social media has given power to the masses
and amplification to the individual. US consumers are now emboldened to share
their opinions and misgivings not only with their own networks but directly with
the offending company. In fact, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of those
surveyed feel more empowered than ever before to share their thoughts or
opinions about companies.
The Porter Novelli study concludes that no brand is excluded from cancel
culture, even those with loyal fans. Two-thirds (66 percent) of those surveyed
say even if they love a company’s products or services, they will still cancel
that company if it does something wrong or offensive.
2020 was a hotbed of social and racial unrest — while many around the world were
just beginning to feel the effects of lockdown due to
Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police was the final straw that
re-galvanized much of the US public in support of the Black Lives
movement; which put brand responses to the
under unprecedented scrutiny. Brands that issued hastily prepared statements
denouncing racism, without reflecting that ethos within their
or working to incorporate it, are still feeling the consequences of that misstep
— and others’ reputations took a hit by not responding at
Yet, there are things companies can do to protect from the impacts of cancel
culture. The majority of consumers (88 percent) are more willing to forgive a
company for making a mistake if it shows a genuine attempt to change; and 84
percent say they are more likely to forgive a company for a misstep if it’s that
company’s first time making a mistake. Further, companies with an authentic
Purpose fare better—as nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of US consumers say
they are less likely to cancel a company if it is purpose-driven.
According to the study, more than a third (36 percent) of US consumers say
they’ve cancelled a brand in the past 12 months; among them, nearly a quarter
(23 percent) have cancelled that brand permanently. And it seems no brand is
safe from cancel culture — two-thirds (66 percent) said they’d cancel a brand
that they perceive has committed a wrong, even if they love that company’s
products and services. But, 73 percent of respondents said they are less likely
to cancel a purpose-driven brand.
Porter Novelli examined four cases of brands —
and Wells Fargo — that were
cancelled in 2020, how they responded to the backlash and whether their
reputations have recovered. While L’Oréal and Oreo have fared fairly
well — the cosmetics giant seemed to genuinely learn from its mistake and take
significant steps to rectify it, while the cookie maker stood strong in its
support for a still-controversial cause — Goya and Wells Fargo are still feeling
the backlash, thanks to their lackluster efforts to address the offenses.
Cancel culture is gaining traction and brands should be prepared. Still, to be
cancelled is not a finality. In the eyes of many US consumers, cancellations are
a way to share their disapproval with companies so that change can be made. It’s
a way for individuals to exercise their collective online voice and boycott
power to influence organizations.
Read Porter Novelli’s Business of Cancel Culture
Published Feb 1, 2021 1pm EST / 10am PST / 6pm GMT / 7pm CET