The term 'cancel culture' has become part of our everyday lexcon. But what is cancel culture, why do many fight against “cancelling”?

Cancel culture is often seen as a response to a celebrity or public figure doing something offensive enough to capture the wider community's ire.Targets of cancel culture typically hold significant privilege in society – either through money or status – and people involved in the cancellation of public figures might see it as a way of getting back at those who might otherwise escape consequences.

One recent case of cancel culture in Singapore is local influencer Sylvia Chan. After a stream of allegations surfaced online, and as newer allegations come to light, members of the public called for her removal from her current role and for her to be #cancelled.

The phenomenon of cancel culture is complicated, with numerous pros and cons. For example, the #MeToo movement was born out of cancel culture, but brought about global attention towards sexual harassment in the entertainment industry and held several serial abusers accountable for their actions. However, there are also times when people are pre-emptively cancelled by those who don't know the full story.

As cancel culture becomes more commonplace, businesses too must also be careful with how they present themselves in the public sphere. It helps to remember that while cancel culture may be perceived as activism, it often stems from nothing more than a desire to educate or inform someone of how they have wronged others.

How Brands Can Adapt to Keep Up with Modern Consumers

Over the last few years, there’s been a host of high-profile, internationally-recognised brands that have seen their bottom lines impacted by cancel culture. Lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret faced a boycott for its repeated portrayal of unrealistic beauty ideals. In response to the backlash, the business ended its annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, choosing to partner with women famous for their achievements rather than their looks, including Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Megan Rapinoe, and Eileen Gu.

Another example that went viral was the Pepsi advert featuring model Kendall Jenner that aired during the global Black Lives Matter protests. With the brand trying to capitalise on the movement, the ad depicted Jenner joining protestors in the street, gifting a police officer a can of Pepsi as a peace offering. This instance of tone-deaf marketing generating massive backlash online, and Pepsi removed the video less than 24 hours later. The controversy impacted Jenner's reputation too, with the star releasing a teary apology to fans.

As social media users become increasingly politically aware and spend more time online due to the pandemic, avoiding serious missteps like these is essential for a brand reputation. While cancel culture might seem like a minefield to navigate, taking the time to understand how customers feel will save your business from a huge problem.

1. Understand the Difference Between Customer Success and Customer Service

There are some clear distinctions between customer success and customer service that might help your business steer clear of controversy. While customer service is about solving problems by reacting to keep customers happy, customer success involves developing a proactive plan to build trust with your target market over a long-term period. This might include genuine marketing campaigns that showcase your brand’s values, or analytics that measure how your customers feel about a certain topic.

2. Never Use Societal Issues as a Marketing Ploy to Sell Products

Customers want to know the underlying values of the brands they buy from. But leaning into societal issues to sell more products is complex, and customers are ready to call out any businesses that fail to deliver an authentic message. If you’re going to share statements in response to current political and societal events, make sure your own business is genuinely committed to the issues .

3. Take a Stand and Stick By It

Approximately 90% of consumers expect brands, especially CEOs, to take a stand on the major issues facing society today. In fact, not taking a stance is often seen as complicity with injustice. However, it's even worse to shift your position based on how the wind blows. Taking a stand undoubtedly presents a potential risk to sales numbers, but you can’t build any trust with your customers if they think you're faking it.

4. Own up to Mistakes

Taking part in social justice movements is a complicatedand even the most experienced brands get it wrong from time to time. If you make a mistake in your messaging that sees a flood of angry posts sent in your direction, the best thing to do is make a sincere apology. While you can't please everyone, being honest and transparent with your customers is the most important thing.

The Customer Has Never Been More Right

Almost everyone has heard the phrase “the customer is always right”. But where did it come from, and what does it mean in the modern age? The term is often attributed to 19th-century American retail magnates like Marshall Field and Harry Gordon Selfridge, though Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz also had his own version of the concept.

While some people contest this common phrase, the idea gained popularity when consumers had little protection against bad businesses. As consumers slowly became more empowered and companies realised that negative word of mouth massively impacts profits, caring about customer satisfaction – even when inconvenient – became the best way forward.

While the concept of “the customer is always right” has undoubtedly changed over the years, maintaining consumer trust is critical to a successful business. However, to appreciate what customers dislike, you need an in-depth understanding of who makes up your target market and what they value in a business.

This means communicating in their most preferred way – usually digital channels – and providing a service that feels like they're purchasing from a person rather than a monolith. By being empathetic and developing strategies that cater to specific customer needs, you can enhance your brand’s viability and create a loyal customer base.

Still not convinced? Consider these reasons for why the customer is always right and how it will improve your business operations.

1. Bad Reviews Will Harm Your Reputation

Racking up a bunch of one-star reviews might put your business in jeopardy. If your business becomes mired in cancel culture resulting from a public failure, you can expect people – rightly or wrongly – to flood your profiles with negative reviews. Many businesses struggle to recover from this hit to their reputations, and adopting a model where the customer is always right will help you avoid such developments.

2. Develop a Positive Business Ethic

When you put customer satisfaction at the top of your priorities, it helps to establish positive business ethics that spread throughout your organisation. Instead of viewing people who buy from your company as a means to an end, treat them as they are, human beings who deserve your assistance and respect. That way. you will improve your brand’s reputation.

3. Upgrade Your Customer Service

Modern customers expect businesses to provide stellar service no matter the situation. By putting your customers first in every situation, your team will go the extra mile and strive for excellence. This means implementing strategies that ensure you always communicate effectively and arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. If successful, customers will come back time and again.

Get to Know Your Customers with M1

Developing a comprehensive understanding of your target market is key to providing outstanding customer service and preventing your business from being cancelled. These days, the best way to get to know your customer is through data analytics.

M1 makes it easy to get started with our Enterprise Big Data - Telco Analytics solution which helps brands profile customers and learn about their specific preferences. Keep your business up-to-date and receive targeted insight on everything from gender and location to footfall information and dwell time. Such enterprise business solutions are designed to help build marketing and sales strategies that tap on what your customers truly value while abiding by strict privacy controls.

This way, you can develop strategies that appeal to your customer base and drive them to engage with your business. Get started today and deliver the right messages at the right moment. With a range of managed applications and corporate solutions at your fingertips, the you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of your customer for growth and success.