Influencer marketing and the cancel culture dilemma

Linn Muhr. Foto: Abraham Engelmark

For decades, brands have worked with influential people to represent and reflect their brand culture when using their products. The good judgement and liability in such a person is the essence of influencer marketing.

At times like these, when a lack of judgement is exercised, companies easily fall into the trap of cancel culture, which by no means make them the good guys. This considered, it is easy to understand why many brands pull away to avoid a publicity shit storm. This begs the question: how should brands navigate this weak spot of influencer marketing?

Unfortunately, customer demand for brands to take a stand in social and political issues is at odds with audiences’ swift ability to identify mistakes and point figures. This complex dynamic often results in a significant lack of room for discussion about cancel culture as a whole, and this dilemma. Instead, brands often become the force that puts a nail in the coffin.

This is why light should be shed upon the complex relationship between brands and their audience. Simultaneously, they nurture one another in a mutual agreement while failing to support one another when the ground is shaking.The dilemma with cancel culture is that while it regulates behaviour and normalises taking accountability for our actions, it also breeds the idea that everyone must be perfect. Mistakes become discouraged. And, by being part of it, the social lives and mental health of individuals are being put at stake.

In a polarised world one could argue that the need for more tolerance and forgiveness is key, rather than a cancellation culture that indicates an incapacity for improvement and denial of the opportunity for an apology. Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact that no one wants to go down with the ship when customers start to question a brand’s moral behaviour.

Brands who work with influencers need to be aware of the risks that come hand-in-hand with people based marketing; after all, people make mistakes! Stupid and even immoral behaviour does not have to be tolerated, but it’s important to be pragmatic and handle the situation with care instead of adding fuel to the fire when a mob put individuals on trial.

Even though there is a demand for fast decisions within this industry, your actions should reflect your core values and therefore be based on consciousness, not anxiety. That is why it’s important to take one step back and press pause before you cancel.

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Linn Muhr. Foto: Abraham Engelmark

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