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A brand’s reputation can be distorted or ruined faster than the time it took to build it, thanks to the power and influence of social media and digital transformation.
In comes ‘cancel culture”, by its definition is vague for society and marketers to make a clear distinction but according to google(wikipedia) cancel culture is…
“Cancel culture or call-out culture is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those subject to this ostracism are said to have been ‘cancelled’.”
There is nothing new about cancel culture but it has been exacerbated by the power of social media and the need for brands to exercise empathy and authenticity over profits.
Brand empathy can be described as brands “seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another”. Brand empathy is when brands read the room/social tone and stand up for social injustices.
Social mob justice is a real phenomenon in the global digital and one that seeks to call out injustices and bring down powerful institutions. and as brands/marketers biggest nightmare is to find your value entangled and thus affecting the most precious brand equity brand reputation and empathy.
Consumers are now journalists and content creators plus everyone that who has a cellphone is now a videographer. Consumers are aware of their brand power and voices, and are quick to call out a brand that is no longer authentic, or stands for social injustices.
Here are some of the recommended strategies to protect your brand from cancel culture:
1. Social media policy: A tight social media policy that spells out what informs the brand values, content that will not be associated with the brand, employees or any person associated with the brand.(influencers)
2. Align values with influencers: Guidelines on what constitutes brand association ensures alignment based on brand principles.(e.g human rights)
3. Accountability: People over profits, social standing vs speaking up – brand silence is a ‘red flag’ but brand accountability will win over customers. Apologise first when in the wrong or being called out
4. Approved social media content: Social media content plans to be approved by more than one person to ensure it resonates with the corporate values, social media ethics, community and society as a whole.
5. Brand empathy: Disassociation with influencers or content that contradicts with brand value, society values or human rights or any amount to hate speech
Cancel culture will continue to erode brand equity for as long as long as brands don’t read the room or are tone deaf to society’s social ills globally, put injustices over profits and fail to be relevant.
Mfundo Ntsibande @ntsibandema (Twitter). A maverick of brand thinking, with 20 years of marketing and media experience. A marketing entrepreneur in publishing, digital, radio, TV and corporate thought leader, board member, author and writer.
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