Cancel culture has become more prevalent in today's digital era where consumers have become more social media savvy. While influencers and public figures often fall victim to cancel culture, brands are also not spared from this trend. Nike and H&M faced boycott calls in China due to the cotton row in Xinjiang while McDonald's and Coca-Cola Malaysia also copped flak for allegedly channelling aid to Israel. Tiger Beer, BreadTalk and Ya Kun Kaya Toast were also among the Singapore brands facing boycott in Myanmar earlier this year. Meanwhile, Circles.Life also came under fire for a tone-deaf Instagram post.
Brands facing the threat of being boycotted need to act on this brewing PR crisis before it spills over. According to Mutant Communication's "You're Cancelled Playbook 2021", the first step to manage being cancelled would be to find the root of the issue, and identify why you are being cancelled as well as who is cancelling you. MD Lina Marican said companies need to use social listening to know what people are saying and believing.
"But more than this, you need to look for data and look at the bigger picture. Usually, the negative sentiment is lower than you think and you can then use the data and a big-picture approach to inform your plans moving forward," Marican added.
The next step would be to release a statement, the sooner the better, acknowledging the situation and the fact that people are upset. According to Mutant, this should be done without gaslighting people or getting defensive. For brands that have the issue of publicly using the exact words "I'm sorry" or "We apologise", there are other ways to apologise publicly without using them.
According to the playbook, the statement should communicate that the brand understands the mistake, why people are upset, that it is listening, and that it is making changes. As long as the message is clearly one of a genuine apology and is followed by sincere efforts of change from the brand, it is clear that the brand is taking the situation seriously. However, Mutant said there will likely still be fallout due to the lack of apology and brands are recommended to apologise.
Industry players share with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE the steps brands can take when they are caught in the crossfire of cancel culture.
Click on each picture to watch a video!
1. Lina Marican, managing director, Mutant Communications
2. Lavinia Rajaram, head of communications, APAC, Expedia Group
2. Shouvik Prasanna Mukherjee, chief creative officer, APAC, Golin
4. Naushaba Salahuddin, director, head of PR and communications, Zilingo
5. Sharul Channa, local stand-up comedian
This article was created by Janice Tan and Lau Lay Hian.
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