The Cancel Culture Revolution

November 10th, 2020

Seinfeld’s Kramer would have loved Gen Z and their demographic cohorts, the millennials. The ‘90s character had a penchant for boycotts, too. Whether he was objecting to Kenny Rogers Roasters or refusing junk mail from the USPS, Kramer was never afraid to scratch his protest itch with a good, old-fashioned boycott.

Today’s boycotts, of course, are in disapproval of much more serious matters – your brand. And it’s called cancel culture.

It’s not just Gen Z and millennials who are riding on the cancel-culture bandwagon. They have the reins, but, according to a recent survey from LendingTree, four in 10 consumers are currently boycotting a company, which includes:

  • 52% of Millennials
  • 51% of Gen Z
  • 37% of Generation X
  • 22% of Baby Boomers
  • 16% of the Silent Generation

Fear of Getting Canceled

All of the boycotts and canceling are ultimately meant to keep brands and businesses more accountable – for their record on racial and gender equality, their political alignment, their carbon footprints, and so on. These things matter in 2020.

If your brand doesn’t jive with the boycotters’ dogmas, you risk being canceled (read: put out of business). It’s a cultural movement that holds accountable everyone from influencers and brands to celebrities, politicians and anyone with power.

If the online mass believes you’re in the wrong, they might stop buying your products and services, and encourage everyone else to do the same. With the internet, and the blistering pace at which social media moves, that doesn’t take long.

So, what’s a brand to do?

In a world where “reputation is everything” rings louder than ever, it’s important to have a plan of attack. And, according to Emma Monks, VP of crisis intelligence at online crisis monitoring firm Crisp, that plan “should include 24/7 monitoring of the changing tides of sentiment and commentary about the company and its associated high-profile individuals on social so that the brand can be the first to know and the first to act on the signals of an impending crisis. If the brand does become embroiled, fast and authentic responses can ward off a serious boycott attempt.”

Evolution, Revolution

In the end, all these boycotts are essentially micro-revolutions – the kind of revolutions John Lennon was singing about. It was true back in 1968, and it’s true today: We all want to change the world. But now we all have rock-star reach; social media is our microphone. And the question for brands is: Are you plugged in?

To Grease or Not to Grease

A Rights to Privacy advocacy group is calling for the boycott of Netflix. They claim the streaming service’s “Are you still watching?” notification is an invasion of privacy.

Silly? Perhaps. But if one person puts that out there on social media, it could grow into a movement. Pretty soon, there’s nothing to remind us that, “Hey, you’ve been watching 18-consecutive hours of ‘Ozark.’ Maybe you should chill … without us.”

Sure, that boycotter might be a squeaky wheel. The question is, should Netflix grease it?

If they acknowledge it, do they risk amplifying the gripe unnecessarily? It’s a fine line for businesses deciding whether or not to grease
a squeaky wheel. Navigation is key.

As Bozell Creative Director Tim Young said on a recent edition of Bozell’s “Then & Now” podcast, “That’s the benefit of having a strong brand, so that you can navigate those waters. And what I mean by that is … you have your North Star. You know and understand where you fit in the conversation.”

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