Navigating Cancel Culture on Your Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Cancel culture header

Whether you’re for it or not, “cancel culture,” or call-out culture has become the norm and is here to stay. With global platforms like Facebook and Twitter in the hands of virtually anyone, nobody’s safe. And yes, because brands are run by humans who could make mistakes, that includes brands too.

Of course, there isn’t anything to worry about as long as you keep a clean image. But as a business that deals with all kinds of people, it’s critical to know how to navigate it — just in case.

Since there seems to be someone canceled on a daily basis, you need to know how to navigate cancel culture, especially if it could affect your ongoing influencer marketing campaigns and your overall success.

What Exactly is Cancel Culture?

Cancel culture is the current global trend of “canceling” or boycotting a person, brand, or even art due to something said or done that is considered widely offensive.

Being canceled can prevent individuals from progressing in their careers or finding a job, while brands may lose customers or, worse, their entire business.

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

How Can Cancel Culture Affect My Brand?

In the past, it was an unspoken rule for brands to stay out of politics or any issue that could offend or alienate a specific audience. But neutrality won’t work today. Consumers expect their brands to take a stand, and silence has become louder than ever.

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

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

Your brand may feel a domino effect after an influencer you happen to partner with gets canceled. If you’re not careful about choosing an influencer, what’s supposed to be a mutually beneficial partnership, may turn into a waste of time, money, and reputation.

Avoiding Disaster

Before you learn how to deal with the possible consequences of partnering with an influencer who’s been canceled, you should first learn how to avoid it altogether.

For example, if you’re a sustainable fashion brand, you can’t just partner with a regular model or fashion influencer. You need someone who practices a sustainable lifestyle. This should be reflected in not just the clothes they wear, but also in their lifestyle choices. Otherwise, it may come across that “sustainability” is just a marketing ploy for you.

Michelle Chavez (@michelleforgood) is an excellent example of a sustainable lifestyle influencer. Aside from the clothes she wears, she also makes it a point to support brands that do not hurt the environment.

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

  • Do extensive research - Often, brands choose their influencers based on recommendations or simply because they have a big following and a beautiful Instagram feed. While it might be tempting to partner with someone “famous,” it’s crucial to dig deeper.

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

Since hiring an influencer should be a partnership, your relationship with them can’t be merely transactional.

*Pro-tip: Getting to know the influencer is a two-way street. It’s also essential that they get to know your brand beyond its products. This 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 Influencer Fails

It’s one thing to own up to mistakes made as a brand. It’s another to take responsibility for someone else’s actions. But that’s the reality that brands have to face. Remaining silent is not an option.

Address the issue - Like it or not, your brand may take the fall for your influencer’s mistake, and the worst thing to do about it is to keep silent.

One memorable example of an “influencer fail” left unaddressed was Scott Dissick’s (@letthelordbewithyou) Bootea sponsored post. The socialite-turned-influencer accidentally copy-pasted the tea brand’s instructions into his caption, and eagle-eyed followers were able to take a screenshot before he edited it.

Bootea Scott Disick

Though Scott Dissick’s influencer fail isn’t too bad, the brand’s credibility may have taken a slight hit. Hiring influencers is not exactly frowned upon, but this mistake made it appear as if the personalities Bootea partners with don’t even bother to try its products.

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

  • Respond Quickly - Make sure you respond to the issue immediately and be transparent about your current relationship with the influencer in question.

An excellent example to learn from was the canceling of Chrissy Teigen, who had multiple partnerships with major retailers such as Target and Macy’s department store. Target quickly came up with a statement that it would no longer be carrying the star’s Cravings line in its stores in light of the issue.

Safely, a cleaning brand Teigen was initially part of, also responded with a simple announcement.

Making a swift yet well-crafted announcement helps detach your brand from the issue and move forwards. Staying silent will only keep people guessing.

According to a study by Porter Novelli, consumers see cancel culture as a tool to help companies improve. Instead of fearing it, the best thing to do is engage with your audience and understand what matters to them. This way, you’ll have an easier time finding the right influencer who echoes what your audience cares about.

Denise Langenegger

Denise Langenegger is part of the team at Instasize – a content creating tool kit for anyone editing photos and online content on mobile.

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