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Collision 2021: Dino Kuckovic On Cancel Culture



On day one of the long-awaited Collision event Dino Kuckovic (@dinokuckovic) (Director of Community & Events at Falcon.io (@falconio) and a favorite of ours since Web Summit 2020 gave a talk on cancel culture. 


The amount of time people spend on social media grew exponentially as our ability to physically socialize diminished (thanks to COVID). With this heightened presence came an onslaught of cancellations--whether it be of politicians, celebrities, or companies. This morning Dino delivered a talk aimed to help companies navigate the minefield of Cancel Culture: "Cancel Culture: you can run, but you can't hide." 


People tend to have a knee jerk reaction to the term "Cancel Culture," whether it be in favor of or against, which is why this topic, in my opinion, was perfect for Dino - someone who's able to give insight, give a rational take, and make people laugh. 


The talk began with a definition of Cancel Culture: "the popular practice of withdrawing support for [cancelling] public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive - whether it be online, on social media or in person."


Following the definition, Dino explained the rationale of people who support cancel culture and those who criticize it.  


Critics believe Cancel Culture prevents open debate, stifling the conditions necessary for social progress. That makes sense, considering in grade school we learned that the Catholic Church tried to cancel the guy who said the earth wasn't the center of the universe. "The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted," Dino quoted.


This is where things get messy. Freedom of speech allows for the exchange of information and ideas, but it also protects Cancel Culture in a way. Unlike the caveat of the First Amendment that precludes one from yelling "fire" in a crowded theater, there's nothing that protects any person or company from being "cancelled" without due process no matter the size of the infraction. 


"If we simply cancel all art that's considered offensive through the lens of this modernity, what's left? and is it even possible to separate the art from the artist, if not, what happens to Mark Twain (etc)" Dino said? 


Additionally, if we can't separate an artist from their art, what happens to Kanye's "Graduation" album? Or The Strokes (see: "Barely Legal")? Or Lana Del Rey's music after the mask incident?  Or King Princess's song "Cheap Queen" after everyone found out she was an heiress? 


Supporters of cancel culture view the phenomenon as a tool to achieving social justice, which I have to agree we are in desperate need of. "It holds individuals in power accountable," Dino continued, "the internet, in particular social media, provides a platform for [the] historically under-served to share their views, opinions, and lived experiences. In many ways Twitter offers that outlet for groups excluded from traditional institutions such as politics, educations, economy, and media to have a say." 


The very law that protects free speech was put in place to allow the people to have a say. "Truly that single tweet has the power to plummet share prices, hold those politicians accountable, and force celebrities to admit that they're wrong." It's no wonder over 150 public figures have denounced the prevalence of cancel culture.


Cancel Culture represents the voice of the voiceless. But what does it mean for brands? 



"Cancel Culture is trending and growing rapidly. And marketers, you're the target. Cancel Culture is tumultuous and unpredictable and, when it strikes, the result can be detrimental. That's why safeguarding your brand is a crucial component for protecting your brand from a crisis." Luckily, as Dino stated, "to be cancelled is not a finality."


Dino laid out a practicable plan for companies to carry out in case of a crisis. Having a pre-existing strategy for how to respond to the public being upset by something your company or someone within your company did or said and running it like a fire drill didn't initially sit right with me, considering what people want is to see genuine remorse and accountability. That was my initial take, but I changed my mind when Dino spoke about the most important aspect of this strategy: being a loved brand. 



Being a loved brand means being operating on the basis of morality and compassion for your audience, hiring for diversity, and owning up to your mistakes. As long as this is true, you're statistically very likely to survive being cancelled. 


Possibly my favorite quote from the talk was, "although people love brands to be human, being human means making mistakes," and when that happens, I don't see anything wrong with having a plan of action. 


With 2020 being the age of cancelling, we've seen the (metaphorical) public executions of a dozen companies on Twitter, with their accounts receiving a barrage of  Tweets from angry customers and any bystanders looking to get in on the action. As a former social media manager, every time I see this my heart goes out to the underpaid 20 something kid running the account. 




At the Q&A portion of the talk, I asked Dino if he thought social media managers should have more involvement in decision-making in times of crisis considering they typically have their finger on the pulse of what people are talking about online more so than higher-ups in the company. 


He responded: "100%, and I hope that 2020 opened up the conversation and invited you as social media managers, digital marketing managers, to the negotiating or to the decision making tables," he added that all of a sudden in 2020 every social media manager was an extension of health departments, disseminating information about COVID-19. 


In short, "they should be, and it's often an afterthought and it shouldn't be, so my recommendation especially if you're starting off is be vocal, be that pesky little tick -- derogatory idea here towards ticks -(laughs)- be annoying be persistent - when it comes to wanting that seat at the table." 


In typical Dino fashion, we reached the end of his talk having had important conversations and a bit of a laugh.

Adrienne Lucas
Executive Editor

A passionate writer with experience in editing, content creation, and social media marketing. A lover of animals, helping others improve their writing, and 2000's pop culture.


Collision 2021: Dino Kuckovic On Cancel Culture Reviewed by Adrienne Lucas on Wednesday, April 21, 2021 Rating: 5

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