Authenticity and Virtue Signalling
Updated: May 21
Virtue Signalling is an attempt by a person or brand to show good character by supporting a cause. While often misused by companies to gain favour, there are simple ways to ensure that you and your company remain authentic with your messaging.
What Is Virtue Signalling?
Virtue signalling is the act of expressing a viewpoint to show good character or support for a cause. As customers have become more socially conscious in recent years, their expectations have changed. Consumers expect companies to be 'good' . Companies and retail brands use virtue signalling as a means of communicating support for a cause that is in line with the thoughts and views of either their employees or customers. While virtue signalling is an incredibly important and impactful tool. There is a big difference between talking the talk and walking the walk. Many companies falsely reap the benefits of cause association without doing the real work to support the initiative. Fortunately, customers can see through the charade and will even boycott brands that falsely signal virtue.
This is why it is important for brands to be authentic.
How To Be Authentic
There is no one rule to make sure that your company is authentic when supporting a cause. However, there are a number of questions that you can ask yourself to make sure that you are in line.
'What is our history with this cause?'
When a company is clearly ignoring an issue and then suddenly makes a big splash about supporting it, customers might be right to assume that something is up. A company with a history of destroying the environment that shouts from the rooftops after planting a single tree would clearly be in that case, but just like everything else, it all starts with one. It does not mean that a major polluter is not allowed to plant trees (they can and should), but it does mean that they should be planting more than one before telling the world about how great they are.
This leads to the next question
'Are we making a real positive impact or marketing?'
If you have a trackable impact, you can proudly show your progress to date, and this is where we like to focus at Pledger.
While it is incredibly important to tell your giving story with cause marketing, you have to make sure that you are not overselling your impact, especially if that impact is less than the damage you are creating.
At Pledger, we love to work with causes with trackable impact. Here are some of our cause partners.
'How committed are we?'
While not every company can be all things to all causes if you are telling the story you have to make sure that you are not telling a half truth. Here is an example of a seemingly false attempt at virtue signalling by Bethesda a few years back. If you are going to tell people that you support a cause, you should not only do it when convenient.
Ways To Show Support
There are many different ways to show your support for a cause , here are a few:
Social Media Communication
This is one of the most obvious forms of virtue signalling, and that is because it is one of the easiest. Many companies will change the colour of their logos or employ the aesthetic related to a cause, campaign, or protest to portray their support for it. This is very clear during pride month and has been seen very recently given the conflict in Ukraine.
One clear example is Blackout Tuesday, which started out as a day to remind the world about George Floyd's murder. On this day brands post solid black images on social media. Other companies like Apple Music and Spotify also aired silent playlists in support.
Withdraw Services to Show Indignation
When a group of people perpetrate hatred or crime towards another group or there is political and social injustice meted out to people by either people or governments, companies would bar the perpetrators from their services and take access away. This is done to oppose morally and socially unjust activities.
This is a serious measure that involves sacrificing a portion of profits and gains by a company as halts services or breaks existing partnerships.
For example, Netflix stopped business activities with North Carolina in response to anti-LGBTQ House Bill 2 that remained in books. The law barred transgender people from using restrooms that aligned with their gender identity, in opposition to which Netflix also stopped shooting in N.C.
Support Causes Financially
There are some causes where a brand might not have the ability to go out and support physically. Maybe they are limited by time, or possibly by geography. This is where a donation is a great way to support a cause.
While many Pledger retailers will give a set amount on every product, we have some retailers that will highlight certain lines as supporting unique causes. This gives your customers the ability to choose products to buy based on the causes they are supporting.
A perfect example of this is the brand Pink Clouding.
If you have any questions or want to learn more you can reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org Or, feel free to check out our beautiful integration on Shopify.