What is Cancel Culture and How it has Become a Headache for Brands and Businesses

What is Cancel Culture and How it is Impacting Celebrities, Brands, and Businesses

In recent months, the term Cancel Culture has entered the Lexicon of businesses and brands as well as the celebrities who endorse them.

The act of boycotting and returning products and services of particular brands just because the celebrities or the businesses have allegedly offended the consumers is what cancel culture is all about.

For instance, in recent months, the Indian Unicorn and Food Delivery Aggregator, Zomato, and the Premium Watch and Jewellery brand, Titan, have been at the receiving end of the ire of consumers.

While the former was the target of Twitterati or the Twitter users for its political stances, the latter was forced to withdraw an ad mainly because the Netizens found the ad to be offensive based on their bigoted sense of right and wrong.

While these two cases indicate the Right Wing Led Boycott, the Liberal oriented boycotts of many premium consumer brands in the West indicates that Cancel Culture extends on all sides of the ideological spectrum and is not limited to a particular form of thought.

Indeed, Cancel Culture has become a major headache for brands and businesses.

Why Cancel Culture Goes beyond Revenue Losses and Can End up Closing Businesses

This is because in its basic form, Cancel Culture, as the name implies is Cancelling, Withdrawing, Boycotting, Returning, and Not Buying goods and services and hence, entails loss of revenues and reputation for the businesses.

While the former is tangible in the sense that Marketers can gauge the losses from goods and services being cancelled, the latter is hard to quantify, though causing immense pain, as reputational losses can have a Cascading Effect on all areas of business activities.

Indeed, Cancel Culture has become so big that it became the topic of discussion during the recent Presidential Campaign in the United States wherein each side accused the other of instigating their followers to cancel goods and services.

Moreover, Cancel Culture has also become so rampant that some Marketers fear that eventually, it would grow beyond mere cancellations and would morph into closing down the businesses as well.

This is the reason why many Marketers and their Advertising Agencies are treading cautiously as far as endorsements and ads are concerned.

In addition, Cancel Culture is a headache for businesses in terms of choosing Celebrities for endorsements as one never knows who would take offense at a particular celebrity and cancel goods.

How Cancel Culture Represents the Polarized Times and Why Social Media is to Blame

A closer look at Cancel Culture would reveal that it is as much a sign of the Polarization of the Present Times as it is about how Social Media led trends can impact businesses.

For instance, when a small group of consumers decides to boycott a particular brand and posts on Social Media like Twitter and Facebook, the nature of the medium is such that in no time, the Hash tags go viral and start trending leading to an Online Herd forming to indulge in Cancel Culture.

Indeed, in all the recent instances of Cancel Culture, it was noticed that there tends to be an Infectious Viral nature of the Tweets which quickly trend and the Online Mob takes over.

Further, an interesting lesson for Marketers from studying Cancel Culture is that there are no specific reasons for Cancel Culture and the grouses can be anything from not liking the views and ideologies of the celebrities who endorse their brands to statements made by the business leaders who own the brands.

What is more worrying is that Cancel Culture trending Hash tags often seem to devolve into irrationality in the heat of the moment impulse reactions thereby troubling the businesses.

The Other Side: Cancel Culture is a Necessary Disruption

Having said that, there are some experts who believe that Cancel Culture reflects the increasing awareness of consumers who are voting with their Wallets and making a point about what they see as businesses behaving irresponsibly.

Indeed, Cancel Culture is being celebrated by many who see it as a necessary Disruption that would force businesses to be aware of what consumers want.

On the other hand, the Flip Side of Cancel Culture is that it makes businesses and business leaders Think Twice before making Political Statements and that too in times when they do need to take a stand.

In other words, it would harm the larger cause of Corporate Social Responsibility as businesses and business leaders would be loath to comment on the issues of the day.

Moreover, the biggest impact would be on the Celebrities and the Brands that they endorse as Marketers would shy away from choosing those Celebrities known to be outspoken out of fear that they would harm their businesses.

There are also suspicions that business rivals and competitors are behind Cancel Culture adding another dimension to this vexatious problem and hence, it is our view that a detailed and thorough study is needed now.


Last, as we mentioned initially, Cancel Culture is not limited to one ideology and hence, businesses need to be firm when needed and flexible at other times.

For instance, Zomato stood its ground whereas Titan didn’t because the former was prepared to lose money and the latter was concerned about the safety of its employees.

Therefore, the responses to Cancel Culture must be calibrated based on the circumstances and there are no absolutes as far as dealing with Cancel Culture is concerned.

To conclude, Cancel Culture is here to stay and hence, businesses ought to prepare themselves and react accordingly.

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