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What we're getting wrong about "Cancel Culture"

You've heard the phrase, but what does it really mean?




Lately, the phrase is everywhere: cancel culture.


As a business owner, you might be scared to say the wrong thing online and succumb to the perceived vitriol that can come as a result. But let’s get real - what does cancel culture even mean? Is it a kiss of death for your brand, or are we misunderstanding how it works altogether?


Here’s are three things to remember:


1. Cancel culture is not new.


Let’s face it -- all we mean by “cancel culture” is that you withdraw your support from a brand or company because something’s emerged that you don’t like. We’ve been doing that since forever, but now it's branded as “cancel culture.” The truth is that customers have a right to withdraw support from brands that don’t align with their values; however, there’s a big difference between withdrawing support and trying to “come for" a brand or actively shame people.


2. Don't allow fear to immobilize you.


It’s a very real fear as a business owner: you don’t want people to withdraw support from your brand or company as a result of something you say on social media.


But here’s the thing: that’s inevitable. Sometimes the risk of losing followers comes with the territory of being a business owner who has real commitments to critical, non-negotiable values.


Your other choice is to say nothing about everything. But as a responsible business owner who takes ownership over the brand's positions, speaking out is part of the game. Ironically, taking a strong stand on an issue can have an unexpected result: a huge number of people may come to support you because of your stance.


3. Customers want to know where you stand.


A recent report on communication and public sentiment found that 66% of people expect you to take a strong position on causes. Gone are the days where you keep political views to yourself.


Thanks to Millennials and Gen Z, there’s a new wave of people who want to see what you believe - whether that’s advocating for racial justice or sustainable fashion. These customers want to know that the brands they support are actively doing something about the issues they care about most.


Don’t want to get too controversial? At least address the elephant in the room instead of staying quiet. For example: if you’re a local coffee shop, a unique way to address the pandemic (without getting caught up in the politics of it all) would be to share what safety precautions you’re taking to make it possible for customers to come get coffee safely with their friends. This says, "We believe in staying safe, wearing masks, and distancing. And you can trust us to do what we can to keep you from harm."



Whether you choose to speak out and take a stand is up to you. Ultimately though, you’ll find more freedom in leaning into what you believe than just staying silent.


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