Is ‘Cancel Culture’ the Right Approach to Influence Change through Consumer Power?

It wasn’t Kanye’s announcement that he was running for president that led to this defence of cancel culture, but it could have been.

Nor was it Facebook’s role in the demise of democracy and perpetuation of hate or the empty and performative stance against racism of any kind by so many brands over the last weeks, but it could have been.

We’ve begun conflating the cancelling and breaking up with brands with intolerance, when it’s the most modern illustration and exercise of consumer power, today.

We’re not defining cancel culture, because we think it’s more important than that, especially because it is the exercise of consumer power. We’re defining it as a filter on what brands we bring into our lives and on what and who we choose to buy from. If we were to sum up why we defend cancel culture in four words they would be: because life’s too short.

This isn’t about an intolerance for a difference of opinion. It’s about an impatience for a better world.

This isn’t about an intolerance for a difference of opinion. It’s about an impatience for a better world. We can accept that brand X has a different opinion and set of values than we do. But in a world torn apart like ours, why would we pay them any attention, let alone our hard earned money?

Breaking up with people, institutions and brands that don’t fundamentally share our values is a good kind of cancel culture and a brand’s fair warning. Again, life’s too short.

In a world where product and service commoditisation and alternatives strive, why give a moment’s thought to those whose positions we cannot accept without objection or those who neither stand with us nor for us, especially when there are other options available?

We don’t think, as popular press would have it, that this is a bad thing, allowing that we leave room for both atonement and then forgiveness. We all vote with our wallets, ears, eyes and attention – and we are surrounded by worthy alternatives, or at least even trade-offs

In this world populated as it is by increasingly conscious consumers, brands need to be more worthy and authentically prove their worthiness across a broader spectrum of actions than ever before.

Why? Because people are paying attention like never before, and they will not pay for that and those who do not stand with them.

The time for brand fence sitting is over. The fence sitter’s concerns that taking a stand is complicated or a risk that notes the brand is not perfect – those days are gone and no longer stand as a reason to not do what’s right, at least as you see it.

Fence sitting is the new moral equivalence and will lead almost as quickly to being cancelled as sitting on the wrong side of said fence, irrespective of whether your fence leans left or right.

In these times, when normalcy has been shed like a snake’s skin and when all kinds of status quo are up for grabs, we the people are impatient (perhaps desperate) for a better world. So we too are equally impatient with those brands (human and otherwise) who stand between us and that by their actions or inactions.

Life is short and the shelves are stocked aplenty with good enough alternatives. So why compromise when you can cancel? That’s how we can influence change, and that’s a good thing.

We have but one life to give and we will not give it to Kanye, nor to brands that don’t recognise what’s expected of them in our world.

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