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International researchers examine phenomenon of brand cancellation
By our News Team | 2023
Social media allows consumers to quietly distance themselves from a brand and potentially reduce its reach and, ultimately, its profits.
Research published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning has investigated the phenomenon of cancel culture and homed in on the emerging problem for companies of ‘brand cancellation’.
The work sheds light on the motivations and strategies that have led to this trend in the world of social media and beyond.
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
Researched by the University of Nicosia in Cyprus alludes to cancel culture in which individuals or entities are, perhaps rightly, held accountable for their actions or statements.
The results are based on an analysis of 20 in-depth interviews with communication and marketing professionals. This offers new insights into the nature of brand cancellation.
Offensive advertising content is apparently the primary driver behind brand cancellation, although how we define offensive is a moot point as there will always be a proportion of any audience that will be sensitive to, or triggered by, a specific advertisement.
Nevertheless, there is certain content that can be more obviously defined as offensive – such as sexist, racist or otherwise discriminatory content, political propaganda, and victim-blaming.
Additionally, if a brand’s ethical stance concerns beauty standards, gender equality, environmental policies and health concerns, then these too can play a significant role in the cancellation of a brand.
Varied motivations to participate in brand cancellation
The research has shown that anonymity on social media, peer pressure, and a desire for justice can motivate individuals to participate in a brand cancellation.
Seemingly, nothing more sophisticated than unfollowing a brand has become a significant way to express one’s disapproval of a problematic brand. It allows consumers to quietly distance themselves from the brand and thus to potentially reduce the brand’s reach and, ultimately, affect its profits.
That said, in some cases, excessive or unjustified hate comments directed at a particular brand can have the reverse effect and even lead to increased support for that brand.
The University of Nicosia research underscores the need for businesses to effectively manage their response to brand cancellation.
Inevitably, from the company’s perspective, they need to be aware that there is a way back from cancellation. Usually, a sincere public apology and the implementation of corrective action in response to a controversy will help.
Brand management and citizen activism can be at odds, but there is space for compromise and acceptance on both sides, the researchers say.
You can read more about the study, titled ‘Online criticism and cancel culture in digital marketing: a case study of audience perceptions of brand cancellation’, here.
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