Cancel culture: navigating a growing demand for content with the prospect of brand damage

Cancel culture is referred to as the removal of support for an individual or company based on their views or actions and is connected to social media and the boycotting of brands.

This concept became popular in 2018 and in recent years has quickly caused a culture shift of how businesses are presenting themselves and communicating. Is the fear of miscommunication hindering companies’ ability to organically connect with audiences or is this a necessary sensitivity to ensure inclusivity and forward-thinking businesses?

In the last fifty years business communications have transformed from annual reports and carefully curated articles to an expected continual stream of content, funnelled through social media. This is a change which has created the pressure to constantly be forming new ideas and a never-ending stream of discussion resulting in companies having less time to fine-tune the tone and presentation of content. Paired with this increase in content, there appears to be not only an increased in public sensitivity but an underlying excitement surrounding cancellations.

More and more time is being spent on ensuring company communications cannot be construed as inappropriate or offensive but is this causing a culture of fear when it comes to voicing opposing opinions? Is cancel culture preventing the natural debate which historically has allowed businesses to push for social changes though the exploration of opposing views and contradictory ideas?

Many businesses are being damaged by resurfacing content which was previously published and now is being interpreted without context of the time period. Similarly, some other companies are experiencing boycotting without due process. Some argue that cancel culture is achieving social justice within businesses and holding companies accountable for ensuring diversity, inclusivity and messages which are not causing offence.

Never has voicing opinions been so accessible through social media but not only are companies experiencing cancellation due to actions but also their lack of action. 64% of consumers admit to boycotting products due to the social and political views of the company but 54% of consumers also believe that brands are manipulating social beliefs solely as a marketing ploy and this is creating consumer distrust. How do brands navigate the danger of miscommunication when no communication on social issues also poses the opportunity for cancellation?

It presents as an unnavigable problem for companies and individuals. The danger of this continually growing content consumption and the developing fascination surrounding cancel culture is the development of a false consumer interest in business morality which is often forgotten by the next social media post yet is having damaging implications for businesses.

Lexie Cook 
EP business in hospitality