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Navigating Cancellation Culture in Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Like it or not, “cancel the culture” or call culture has become the norm and it’s here to stay. While global platforms like Facebook and Twitter are in the hands of almost everyone, no one is safe. And yes, because brands are run by people who can make mistakes, that includes brands.

Of course there is nothing to worry about as long as you have a clean image. But as a business that deals with all kinds of people, knowing how to steer clear just in case is crucial.

Since it seems like someone canceling every day, you need to know how to navigate the cancellation culture, especially if it can affect your ongoing influencer marketing campaigns and your overall success.

What Exactly is Cancel Culture?

Cancellation culture is the current global trend to “cancel” or boycott a person, brand, or even art because something is said or done that is widely considered offensive.

Canceling can prevent individuals from advancing in their careers or getting a job, while brands can lose customers or worse, their entire business.

Cancellation culture isn’t exactly new. Since the beginning of time, public figures have been excluded for any behavior deemed problematic. However, thanks to the power of social media, it has become a controversial trend that puts everyone under the politically correct microscope.

How Can Revoking Culture Affect My Brand?

In the past, it was an unspoken rule for brands to stay out of politics or anything else that might offend or alienate a certain audience. But neutrality won’t work today. Consumers expect their brands to take a stand, and the silence is louder than ever.

While 53% of people believe that brands have the power to solve societal problems, 64% will stop supporting a brand because of its position on an important issue or issue.

Unfortunately for brands, accountability doesn’t end with their own social media accounts or even their employees – it extends to influencer partners as well.

Your brand may feel a domino effect after an influencer you partner with is cancelled. If you’re not careful about choosing an influencer, what should have been a mutually beneficial partnership can turn into a waste of time, money and reputation.

Avoiding Disaster

Before you learn how to deal with the potential consequences of partnering with a canceled influencer, you should learn how to avoid it altogether.

For example, if you are a sustainable fashion brand, you cannot partner with a casual model or fashion influencer. You need someone who practices a sustainable lifestyle. This should be reflected not only in the clothes they wear, but also in their lifestyle choices. Otherwise, “sustainability” may turn out to be just a marketing tactic for you.

Michelle Chavez (@michelleforgood) is the perfect example of a sustainable lifestyle influencer. In addition to the clothes she wears, she also takes care to support brands that do not harm the environment.

Knowing your brand means asking yourself what you care about, your values, and what you stand for.

  • Do extensive research – More often than not, brands choose their influencers based on recommendations or simply because they have a large following and a good Instagram feed. While it can be tempting to partner with someone “famous”, it’s crucial to dig deeper.

Try to get to know the person behind their online personality. Do they respond to their followers? Check out their other, less public social accounts and try to get to know their personalities.

Because hiring an influencer must be a partnership, your relationship with them cannot be purely transactional.

*Pro tip: Getting to know the influencer is a two-way street. It’s also important that they recognize your brand beyond their product. That way, your partnership will be genuine and the influencer will be more mindful of their actions as they represent a brand they care about. *

Dealing with Impressive Failures

Owning up to mistakes made as a brand is one thing. Taking responsibility for someone else’s actions is one thing. But this is the reality that brands have to face. Silence is not an option.

Address the problem – Like it or not, your brand can take the blame for your influencer’s mistake, and the worst thing to do is to remain silent.

A memorable example of an unaddressed “influencer perpetrator” was the Bootea sponsored post by Scott Dissick (@letthelordbewithyou). The socialite influencer accidentally copied and pasted the tea brand’s instructions in her header, and eagle-eyed followers were able to take a screenshot before editing.

Bootea Scott Disick

While Scott Dissick’s impressive fail wasn’t too bad, the brand’s credibility may have taken a slight hit. Hiring influencers isn’t exactly welcome, but this mistake made it seem like the personalities Bootea partnered didn’t bother to try their product.

A better response to the mistake was to downplay the issue and post a short clip of Scott drinking tea.

  • Answer quickly – Make sure you respond promptly and are transparent about your current relationship with the influencer in question.

A perfect example to learn from was the cancellation of Chrissy Teigen, which has multiple partnerships with major retailers like Target and Macy’s. In light of the issue, Target made a statement that it will no longer carry the star’s Cravings series in its stores.

Confidently, a cleaning brand that Teigen was originally a part of also responded with a simple announcement.

Making a quick but well-crafted announcement helps you separate your brand from the problem and move forward. Being silent only keeps people guessing.

According to a study by Porter Novelli, consumers see cancellation culture as a tool to help companies thrive. Rather than being afraid of it, the best thing to do is engage with your audience and understand what’s important to them. That way, you’ll have an easier time finding the right influencer that reflects what your audience cares about.

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