Do corporations care?

Opinion Piece

Max Irby, Club Writer

We’ve all been there. Relaxing, watching TV or YouTube when an advertisement appears, and a random company gives a thirty-second spiel trying to convince you to part with your hard-earned cash. More often than not, they’ll claim to value some random social interest, empathizing with the common man over everything else, all in the hopes that you are convinced to buy their product. The problem, of course, is that the message these companies send is hardly ever genuine. Does anyone really believe that Gillette, a company whose sole purpose over the past 117 years has been to make razors, has a vested interest, an interest so important that it trumps advertisement of their product, in quenching the fires of toxic masculinity? According to their newest “short film” aka advertisement, they do. Whether you agree with their message or not, it isn’t unreasonable to think that Gillette has no such interest, and as a corporate entity is far more interested in coming off as hip and progressive, latching themselves onto a positive message and making sure that everyone knows it. In today’s culture, the invisible hand has moved companies like Gillette to do this in search of more profits, and they have every right to do so. But we as consumers, should see through this “virtue signaling” and know it for the marketing ploy that it is.

Advertising is nothing new. It is a well-known fact that large companies with similar products catering to the same market must distinguish themselves from their competitors somehow. This could come in the form of a better product, but wouldn’t it be much easier if they could simply associate themselves with some positive social trend and come out on top that way? With the combination of cheap internet advertising and a wealth of arbitrarily popular social causes, any marketing team can find something they “value.”

The process is simple. First, find a social interest, preferably as free from controversy as possible. Next, dump money into advertisements, maybe throw in a couple cheeky Twitter posts about it for good measure (that’s what’s popular these days, right?). Finally, reap the benefits of media exposure, laugh at the outspoken minority who disagree with the message while profiting off of the extra attention, and enjoy sitting on the moral high ground for the next [X] days until someone else decides to do the same thing and supplants you as society’s moral God. The process is remarkably effective. Nike enjoyed a six billion dollar increase in overall value after their Colin Kaepernick campaign and managed to become even more dominant in its industry.

As consumers and informed citizens of the modern world, it’s important to take a step back from the hectic fervor of politics and the hivemind of social media, and take a look at everything with an objective eye. Don’t look at advertisements or commercials on the surface level — look at the motivations behind them. Does Pepsi actually care about protesters and the power of the people to bring about social change, or do they just want me to think that? Once we separate ourselves from the immediate emotional responses these messages elicit, it’s plain to see the truth. Companies aren’t going to stop virtue signaling anytime soon, for the simple reason that it works. The only way change will come is with a sway in public opinion. Despite its ingenuine nature, corporate virtue signaling is not a shortcoming of the capitalist system or some evil that companies cook up in their dank marketing dungeon miles underground to attack consumers. Instead, it is the next stage in the evolution of modern society. Can people see through the facade into the actual quality of the products that companies sell? Will they then see through the layers upon layers of “fake news” and sensationalized headlines that dominate the political battlefield? The answers to these questions will define the media landscape, and our society, in the coming years.