Cancel culture: a problem for brands or just noise?

Cancel culture: a problem for brands or just noise?

Dive brief:

  • While about half of American adults online say they will boycott a brand because of unethical business practices or if it mistreats employees, 25% say their brand loyalty may prevent them from doing so. , according to a new report Forrester shared with Marketing Plonger.
  • Among B2B marketers in the United States, 57% believe that cancellation threats do not have a significant impact on the company’s sales and almost 6 in 10 feel the same about the impact on their company’s brand, according to the September 2021 Forrester Consumer and Retail Energy Index. Pulse Survey cited in new report.
  • An important takeaway from the report, “Cancel Culture Is Loud, But For Most Brands, It’s Just Noise,” is that while the culture of cancellation has proliferated in society – aided by social media and divisive partisanship – its impact is nominal, affecting people more than businesses.

Dive overview:

Forrester delves into the hot topic of “canceling” a business or brand with a public campaign to hold it accountable for perceived bad behavior. While the potential impact of crop cancellation on brands may be overstated in some cases, most businesses will still want to try to avoid giving consumers a reason to launch a negative public campaign. The researcher suggests several ways for brands to mitigate the risk of getting stuck in hot water: recognizing mistakes, because 41% of American adults online would revert to a brand after apologizing; be essential because 32% declare that they will not boycott a brand anchored in their life and defend the values ​​of the company since 22% say that they will boycott a brand that does not share their values.

Several recent examples show how brands have failed to accurately assess the potential impact of the cancellation culture.

A much-publicized cancellation took place in early 2021 when privately-held Goya faced calls for a nationwide boycott of its products. This followed vocal support from Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue for President Donald Trump in the wake of the 2020 presidential election. Unanue was censored by Goya’s board for his comments and banned from giving any comments. press interviews without prior approval. However, Forrester’s research suggests that CEO comments aren’t necessarily a problem for most consumers.

“While less than a majority (40%) of American online adults indicated that they are likely to boycott a brand if the brand’s CEO does or says something inappropriate / offensive / outrageous, 32% were neutral on the issue, signaling that they could return depending on the nature of the problem, ”according to the report.

Last summer, employees at Activision Blizzard, which makes the Call of Duty and Candy Crush games, quit work, protesting what they called the company’s “muffled” response to a lawsuit. California accusing him of discrimination and harassment against women in the workplace. . Activision workers from around the world joined the protest, which led to the resignation of the company’s chairman.

With the increase in employee activism around company practices, consumers are increasingly exposed to cases of employee mistreatment, which companies should pay attention to. Forrester found that 53% of American adults online said they would likely boycott a brand if it was found that that brand had mistreated its employees.

There are continued boycotts of brands believed to be engaging in unethical business practices, including against Air France for shipping monkeys to labs, against Amazon for avoiding taxes, and against Caterpillar for selling bulldozers. to Israel (as they can be used to destroy Palestinian homes), to name a few. These examples point to increased consumer awareness of certain business activities, with Forrester finding that 55% of American adults online say they will boycott a brand if it is found to have unethical business practices.

“Trust is at the heart of business ethics, and when that trust is broken, consumers react,” according to the Forrester report.

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