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Helitha Rupasinghe
Helitha Rupasinghe

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Understand The Basics of Corporate Cringe

Corporate cringe is a term that has gained popularity in recent years, particularly on social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. It refers to the often awkward and cringe-worthy attempts by corporations to appeal to younger or more diverse audiences through marketing campaigns, social media posts, and other public relations efforts. This can range from tone-deaf language and pandering to cringey memes and attempts to co-opt popular cultural references.

At its core, corporate cringe stems from a lack of authenticity and a misunderstanding of the target audience. When companies try too hard to be cool or relatable, it can come across as disingenuous and even offensive. This is especially true when the corporation in question has a history of unethical practices or has been on the wrong side of social justice issues.

2017 Pepsi Ad

One example of corporate cringe that gained widespread attention was Pepsi's 2017 ad featuring Kendall Jenner, which attempted to co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement for commercial gain. The ad was widely criticized for its tone-deafness and sparked a backlash on social media, eventually leading to its removal.


Another example is the recent trend of corporations adding rainbows and other symbols associated with the LGBTQ+ community to their logos during Pride Month, without actually taking meaningful action to support the community or address issues like workplace discrimination.

So, what can companies do to avoid corporate cringe? The key is to approach marketing and public relations with authenticity and a genuine desire to connect with the audience. This means doing the hard work of understanding the values and concerns of the target demographic, rather than relying on surface-level stereotypes and assumptions.

It also means being willing to take a stand on social justice issues and making real changes within the company to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. This can include everything from diversifying leadership and hiring practices to supporting social justice causes through philanthropy and advocacy.

Finally, it's important for companies to be humble and willing to listen to feedback, even when it's critical. Social media has given consumers more power than ever before to hold corporations accountable, and companies that ignore or dismiss criticism are likely to be met with even more backlash.

In conclusion, corporate cringe is a symptom of a deeper problem in many companies – a lack of authenticity and a disconnect from the values and concerns of their target audience. By taking a more genuine and proactive approach to marketing and public relations, and by making real changes within the company to support diversity and inclusion, companies can avoid the pitfalls of corporate cringe and build a stronger connection with their customers.

What are your thoughts on the phenomenon of "corporate cringe," where companies try to appear relatable or trendy in their marketing or branding but end up coming across as inauthentic or out of touch with their target audience?

Top comments (5)

adaptive-shield-matrix profile image
Adaptive Shield Matrix

Why are corporations not honest, more direct and inclusive?
Because it does not pay!
Why should you care about some complaining/noisy customers if you can fool 10x more with some sweet empty promises?
Why should you fix/improve your product if you can just strong arm any opposite argument ? (either by bulling, shaming or suing...)
It simply does not pay to be nice, compassionate and kind.
Corporate capitalism is a cutthroat society.

Everything a company does as a public announcement - are lies, professionally classified as marketing. You have to create an thriving/great image, without promising anything concrete. If you are honest/truthfully/open about your values - you are easily attacked and destroyed. Every statement is as vague and non-specific as possible to not be pinned down at a later date by people who believed in it.
You can only be open and honest if you feel secure enough (for the other party not using this information against you).

hr21don profile image
Helitha Rupasinghe • Edited


Have you noticed these new trends?

  • Quiet Quitting
  • Rage Quitting
  • Career Cushioning
  • Desk Flipping

And do you know what these mean?

hr21don profile image
Helitha Rupasinghe

Well said!

moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

Corporations are neutral evil, presenting themselves as lawful good (e.g. Unilever).

Some of the social success stories are because their teams present themselves as chaotic good (e.g. Wendy's).

But they're not.

All we can do within capitalism is force them to be lawful evil, and hope that's enough; anything else is a pipedream.

Smaller companies can be better. Corporations can't.

hr21don profile image
Helitha Rupasinghe

I agree that smaller companies can sometimes be more nimble and authentic in their approach to business, but I also believe that it's possible for larger corporations to make meaningful progress in the areas of social responsibility and ethical business practices.