If you don’t live under a rock, you have heard the term “canceled.” We all remember when Kanye West was “canceled” for his views on slavery, and Kevin Heart earned his #cancelled badge when old tweets surfaced involving homophobic remarks. The list of canceled celebs continues to grow, like a witch list in the Crucible.
Cancel Culture is in its prime and the term “canceled” is becoming an overused hashtag that is quickly losing steam – much like its cousin terms “woke” or “slay.” Perhaps this is because people continue to throw it around without understanding not only the meaning behind the phrase but the consequences it carries.
So what does it actually mean to be canceled, and what can that mean for brands?
Cancel culture is a true reflection of how societies function. A collective majority decides what’s valued, tolerated, and morally acceptable. When other members of that society step out of those bounds, it’s natural to seek to punish them. So the cancel movement is nothing more than a cultural boycott–a punishment deemed acceptable by society to hold the guilty accountable. Media Studies professor, Merideth Clark, describes it as “an act of withdrawing from someone whose expression—whether political, artistic or otherwise—was once welcome or at least tolerated, but no longer is.” It’s like cutting off a cheating ex and encouraging all of your mutual friends to follow. It is about reassuming power.
So, now you know what it actually means to be canceled, but you may be wondering how that affects brands. Two words: attention economy. Attention is one of the most valuable resources of the digital age, and attention economics is “an approach to the management of information that treats human attention as a scarce commodity.” Attention economics fuels Cancel Culture. In today’s digital market, when you deprive someone of your attention, you’re depriving them of a livelihood.
The intention of canceling people can be valid, but that doesn’t mean it is always effective. Kanye is still making bank with Yezzys, despite his unorthodox views, and although Kevin Hart did not host the Oscars, he is still highly successful.
What do you guys think? Do you agree with this trend or are you over it? Drop your thoughts in the comments below! Also, if you are a business owner seeking guidance on how to avoid getting “canceled”, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.