Why Virtue Signaling is ALL the Rage—and is ALL Wrong

Why Virtue Signaling is ALL the Rage—and is ALL Wrong

Mark Raffan

One of the topics widely discussed in episode #6 of the Content Callout podcast was the concept of virtue signaling: brands publicly expressing opinions or stances in regard to politics, political movements, etc.

WHY: Why would brands take a stance?

In recent months, we’ve seen some brands embracing horrid core virtue signaling. Brody points out that it’s a head-scratcher. He doesn’t understand why brands feel the need to get involved in some of these movements knowing the impact it will have on their bottom-line.

It comes as NO shock that two factions in the US are split two ways right now. So the question becomes: Should you even support a movement? If you know 50% of your customers won’t agree with your position, you’re creating a polarizing opinion immediately, regardless of the side you choose. Why would you go there? Yet we are seeing it left and right. Why?

Are companies struggling? Are they swinging for the fences to do anything they can to save market share? OR have they done some persona work and their persona IS the hard progressive? Maybe they know that that’s their target? It’s a slippery slope. Unless it’s an obvious strategic decision—marketers shouldn’t go there.

Has business progressed to a point of having to make statements about who we are, the type of business we are, and the culture we want our business to embrace? Are we willing to polarize ourselves in the marketplace and take a 50% loss on prospective customers? It’s not strategic—it’s a knee-jerk reaction that is 100% fear-based.

Are brands afraid of ‘Cancel Culture?’

If you’ve been paying attention to politics, you’ve likely heard the term “cancel culture.” Brands might fear that if they don’t make some sort of public statement that they’ll get “canceled.” Brody points out that DivvyHQ is a software company that sells software to corporations. Their customers don’t care what movements they support. So he emphasizes, “Let’s just not even go there because if we do go there, who knows what the ramifications can be?”

Don’t support a movement—support equality

There is a big distinction to be made between supporting movements and supporting people. By saying you support X or Y you get lumped in with the ideology that exists with that particular group and it may be polarizing—regardless of what side of the table you sit on. You’ve associated yourself with the brand of that group and that’s how people will view you.

Customers want to come out and say something about this, which I applaud. But you need to be strategic. Yes, we support diversity and inclusion. Yes, we want to hire more people of color. Yes, we want to hire more women. Yes, we want all of that 100%. Let’s talk about that. Let’s not talk about the movement.

The problem is that whatever you do is wrong. Whatever you put on social media is wrong. If you align with any side, then you’ve aligned with the wrong side (according to some part of the population). By choosing a side, you create brand reputation issues.

So it’s hard for marketers and brands to navigate. The bottom-line? Marketers should avoid religion and politics. To hear the full discussion on virtue signaling, cancel culture, and where marketers fit into the mix, listen to episode #6 of the Content Callout podcast.

Mark Raffan

Mark Raffan

Mark is a serial entrepreneur and lover of marketing and influence. Mark built the #1 negotiation podcast in the world and is an expert negotiation, influence, and persuasion coach that has coached executives and their teams in some of the largest companies in the world.