I’m glad that I’m not the only one who’s noticed this. Looking at corporate websites, all too frequently Progressive virtue signaling is given priority over the business that the company is supposed to be doing.
Social justice is all the rage in corporate boardrooms, and some on the left would like you to think it’s because of market pressure. Americans are firmly on the “right side of history” when it comes to gay rights, gender identity, and religious bigotry, and companies are responding. It’s in their best corporate interests to boycott North Carolina, threaten Georgia, and bully Mississippi. The culture wars are over. Taking a stand is now the path of least resistance. Don’t be fooled. The business world’s turn toward progressivism is the result of peer pressure, not market forces. It reflects the personal values and interests of the corporate world’s liberal elite, not the values and interests of the country as a whole. Apple, Disney, and PayPal fish from the same cultural and academic pond as the elite media and elite universities. When I was at Harvard Law School, my classmates were recruited not just by top law firms but also by top consulting firms and multinational corporations. Very few of them were conservative. Barely any of them were social conservatives. Back when I still did commercial litigation, my larger corporate clients were almost uniformly left of center, and the few Republicans on staff were stereotypical “Wall Street” conservatives. They may have been fiscal hawks, but they positively loathed the religious Right. My small-business clients were far more mixed. Conservative communities tend to spawn conservative entrepreneurs. Decades of stocking top corporations with talent from the “best” schools has now yielded a predictable result. Employees tend to retain not only the political values of their youth, but the activist mindset and philosophy of the modern progressive. That means an inconsistent (to put it charitably) view of free speech. It means public naming and shaming to enforce ideological conformity. It means living in a leftist cultural cocoon where Christian conservatives are largely viewed as malicious bigots.
The thing is that the progressive thinking goes beyond the external politics of the companies affected. It’s also a deep part of their corporate culture. It’s also toxic and eventually destructive to the business.
Your Corporate Moral Superiors
Superbowl 51 was by far the best football game in Superbowl history, or at least the best one I saw with my very own eyes. The triumphant come back, the game going into overtime, and the crowning of Tom Brady as the greatest football player ever, made the game historic. However, Superbowl 51 was historic in another regard – its commercials. Specifically, never had Superbowl commercials been so political, so biased to the left, and so sopping full of virtue signaling.
At first, imbuing politics into marketing doesn’t seem to be a wise strategy. Politics (regardless of which side you choose) is going to alienate half your potential market. Politics has no place in selling lumber, cars, or anything else for that matter. And it’s impolite. People want to watch a game, a show, or some other form of entertainment and needn’t their solace and free time ruined with politics. But Superbowl 51’s commercials were merely the latest example of an increasing trend where corporations have been oddly deciding to force politics into their marketing in an attempt to win over customers.
The question is why.
And my question is “who is doing this?”
The “why” is not only easy to answer, but important, because on top of it being annoying to be lectured by sanctimonious corporations, we need to know what’s going on behind the scenes and why, all of the sudden, corporations deem it their position to lecture the American public about politics. Usually that’s the domain of politicians, tyrants, activists, and other people aiming to rule over and parasite off of you. So when corporations do it the hair on the back of your neck should go up out of simple self respect and self-survival. But what you’ll find out is (thankfully) there is no malicious intent on the part of corporations to rule over you, but rather that they are being headed up by idiots who think virtue signaling in marketing is a good idea. And these people are nothing more than rank, indoctrinated sheep, following their political programming they received in school, and are too stupid and common to pose any intentional threat.
Understand the phenomenon of leftist virtue signaling politics being imbued into marketing is the unintentional byproduct of socialist political brainwashing Generation X received from academia during their collegiate years in the 90’s, and the millennials continue to receive to this day. I remember it very clearly because I was there when concepts like “diversity” and “going green” were first being shoved down our throats in about 1994 and by 1997 concepts like “Corporate Social Responsibility” were being floated in the business school. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND because previous to 1994 such concepts were not part of academia, let alone business school as (presumably) businesses would not be concerned about people’s politics, the environment, virtue signaling, etc., as they would be concerned about real world issues such as profits, accounting, marketing, etc.- things that were vital and required to operate a business. In other words, concepts like diversity, privilege, CSR, etc., had no demand or call for in the real world and were purely the concoctions and creations of worthless theoretical hacks posing as business professors (and professors at large).
Normally this would not matter as, in theory, Generation X would enter the real world and the cute pet theories of hack socialist professors would be disregarded as the demands of the real world would prove them to be worthless. But there were three variables that not only allowed such concepts to survive, but become the philosophical bedrock of Generation X and the millennials…and ultimately the corporations they would go on to infect.
Consistency, universality, and time.
It wasn’t as if academia called it quits in 1998 when most corporations were balking at the opportunity to set up unnecessary and expensive CSR departments. Academia and academics continued to preach leftist politics, environmentalism, and feminism in all facets and disciplines in colleges and universities. And since nearly ALL Gen X’ers and Millennials were being forced to go to college, and since nearly ALL of them were weak-minded sheeple, academia had the perfect host to install their leftist, virtue signaling theories in them over the next 20 years. And though in 1998 Gen X were mere entry-level plebs in the world of Corporate America, in 20 years time they would rise to the rank of mid, even executive level management….
which is where we are today.
This has resulted in quasi (albeit unconscious) Manchurian candidates in positions of power in the previously non-leftist-infected world of Corporate America. And since leftists in academia have been consistent, it also means they have successfully brainwashed a consumer generation – the millennials – in that same leftist, feminist, glass ceiling, virtue signaling philosophy. This is only made worse for the fate of the country by two facts.
1. The life philosophy Gen X and the Millennials have is of zero value to themselves and society. Normally college and education, certainly the real world, would have taught them a skill, a work ethic, production and the importance of producing something of value for society. This would lead to economic growth, progress, advancement, and increased standards of living. However, leftist virtue signaling has no value whatsoever. It is a zero-calorie life philosophy where simply advocating and “signaling” the politically correct and approved positions is deemed enough to replace real purpose and agency in life. And since it takes absolutely NO EFFORT OR LABOR to do, it is the preferred religion and life ideology of the weak minded.
This is why it’s no surprise most Millennials have no meaningful form of employment, no meaningful lives, no real future life plans, and no meaningful people in their lives. It’s also why Gen X is just now finally paying off their student loans, maybe recovering from the housing crisis, are nowhere near where their WWII counterparts were at this age, and are just as good at divorce as their Baby Boomer predecessors. You have two full generations of wasted crops that are of zero value to society.
But, understand through their eyes it’s all OK and all is forgiven because of their effortless and laborless belief in…
choose your flavor of virtue signaling
I’m going green
the glass ceiling
I’m for equality
I’m for the poor
I’m for the old
I’m for the children
I’m against white males
I have white guilt
I acknowledge my privilege
etc. etc. etc.
2. Bar the Baby Boomer generation and what remnants of the WWII generation remain, the entire country is thoroughly steeped and indoctrinated in this new and worthless religion. The academic left has successfully convinced a majority of the population that their mere, pathetic, and ultimately worthless political beliefs are a substitute for genuine work, accomplishment, achievement, sacrifice, agency, purpose, and love for their fellow man. It is a religion so thorough, and so universal, that likes, political positions, and political posturing are more important than having a job, having a family, and having respect for yourself. And so, now that real purpose and reason in life has been replaced with a leftist religion, and most of these people literally have nothing else in life, it makes pandering and virtue signaling to leftists the perfect marketing tool for Corporate America.
In short, it is no different than the US interstate system. The academic left has (I still believe unintentionally) laid down a system, a philosophical/religious infrastructure of which now the majority of the population subscribes to and drives on. And no matter how worthless, wrong or damaging, there is an economies of scale efficiency to take advantage of it, and Corporate America, now headed up by true believers itself, is fully intending to do so. Ergo it doesn’t matter that politics does NOT belong in advertising. It does not matter that socialist policies are antithetical to corporate profits. It doesn’t matter that you’ll risk alienating whites, males, or legal citizens, or even the sovereignty of the country itself. It’s a religion believed from the heads of CSR and marketing departments, all the way down to the 6 year old getting his or her first dose of leftist political indoctrination by his politically correct teachers about global warming.
So who are these people now heading up corporations, fully intending to avail themselves of the leftist indoctrination highway infrastructure? Are they evil masterminds? Are they the next generations of George Soroses? Are they cutting edge visionaries who have insights into the minds of the American public nobody else has?
Unfortunately, no. It’s quite the opposite actually. There’s very little individuality, intelligence, and visionary thinking going on. It’s nothing but a bunch of mindless conformists who have the same worthless marketing and diversity degrees, spewing the same bland “pro-diversity” “you go girl” pablum they’ve been programmed to since the 90’s. There’s nothing new, there’s nothing unique, and it’s damning proof corporate America, especially under Gen Xer’s leadership, are plumb fresh out of ideas, innovation, or intelligence.
Ergo we can reliably predict the boring demographic profile of this herd of sheep. They’re predominantly Gen X. They’re predominantly in worthless soft fields such as marketing, general business management, (or blatantly political and worse), CSR, or “diversity.” Very few if none will be actual producers (engineers, accountants, doctors, etc.). And if there’s any availability of their politics, you’ll find them to have the politically correct and approved leftist political beliefs their indoctrinators told them to have in the 1990’s. Alas, when we compile a list of marketing, CSR, HR, and (heaven help you if your wasting the shareholder’s money on this) “diversity” heads of companies that are the most ardent of corporate virtue signalers, you will clearly see the trend and understand why corporations have decided to lecture you about politics.
If you don’t know about Salesforce.com, that’s alright, it’s an unprofitable firm that has never turned a profit. However, Salesforce.com did make news when it’s CEO, Marc Benioff, announced it would create a CEO position. Not a “Chief Executive Officer” position, but a “Chief EQUALITY Officer” position. Here, the new “CEO” is not the actual virtue signaling culprit (he’s actually quite an accomplished gentleman from Microsoft), but Marc Benioff himself. If you look at his background, again, Gen X, general business degree, a sales and marketing background, and his resume speaks more about changing society than...well…turning a bleeping profit. Again, his politics of virtue signaling is more important than reality, a triumphant accomplishment of the left.
Though on the cusp of Gen X/Young Baby Boomer, Maggie Hardy Magerko – now CEO of Lumber 84 – is the one responsible for the blatantly pro-illegal alien, anti-US sovereignty ad that (I personally hope) bankrupts Lumber 84. Though she claims she is pro-Trump and didn’t think the commercial would be controversial, again she fits the profile. A milquetoast degree in “business administration,” an older Gen X’er, and the luxury of not having to live in the real world because she inherited the company from her father.
Who can forget Target and their “can-see-it-from-a-million-miles-away” virtue signaling when it came to transgendered bathrooms? There was no problem to solve. Transgendered people had been using bathrooms just fine for years with no major complaints or problems. But that’s not enough for Target’s corporate virtue signaling culture. They needed to do something, and damn the shareholders’ profits if we have to!
The truth is Target has always been on the forefront of corporate virtue signaling. If you shop there you’ll be reminded constantly that they donate 5% of pre-tax profits to the community. You’ll also be reminded of diversity as nearly all of their models are not white (even in the whitest parts of Minnesota), their CSR department looks like a 1990’s Burger King Kids Club rainbow coalition special, and though not personally responsible for Target’s unrivaled track record in virtue signaling, their “Executive Vice President and Chief External Engagement Officer” – Laysha Ward – is the epitome of what this article is talking about. Journalism degree, “Masters in in Social Work,” and a resume of touchy feel good non-profit “work” that hasn’t done a single thing to genuinely help minorities or women. Then again, Target is not interested in genuinely helping minorities and women. They are interested, however, in virtue signal marketing to the equally brainwashed, suburbanite sheeple Gen X soccer moms so as to get them to buy an indulgence from “Diversity Rich Target” to forgive them of their white guilt.
Coke, like Target, has been an early adapter corporate virtue signaler. Though not explicitly political in their ads, their ads always had the leftist kumbaya, hipster, hippie, ski-bum-parasite, globalist feel to it. So one cannot personally blame Coke’s new marketing director – Melanie Clark – for their historical track record. But Ms. Clark’s background again precisely fits the profile. Gen X, worthless BA in business administration, a masters in “marketing,” and the obligatory conferred (and many) “women’s awards” in any modern day woman’s CV. She may not have come up with Coke’s “America the Beautiful” Super Bowl ad, but I’m sure she’ll come up with something similar next year.
The problem with virtue signaling is that it never ends because virtue signaling is always a competition in subjectivity. It’s all too easy to gain in the virtue competition by saying that somebody else is not virtuous enough. So sending virtue signals can be risky if somebody wants to gain by attacking your virtue. Which leads to an ever increasing cycle of attacks.
Why Is Big Business So Liberal? The Pepsi Case
In 2005, we wrote several posts about a speech that Indra Nooyi, then president and CFO and PepsiCo, gave at Columbia Business School. As described by a Power Line reader who was present, Ms. Nooyi used the fingers of one hand to illustrate the world’s continents (excluding Australia and Antarctica):
First was Africa – the pinky finger – small and somewhat insignificant but when hurt, the entire hand hurt with it. Next was Asia – the thumb – strong and powerful, yearning to become a bigger player on the world stage. Third was Europe – the index finger – pointing the way. Fourth was South America – the ring finger – the finger which symbolizes love and sensualness. Finally, the US (not Canada mind you) – yes, you guessed it – the middle finger. She then launched into a diatribe about how the US is seen as the middle finger to the rest of the world.
As I recall, an insincere apology eventually ended the incident.
A few years later, Pepsi adopted a logo that was obviously copied from the Obama for President logo.
Ms. Nooyi’s business career continued to prosper; she is now PepsiCo’s CEO. But her politics haven’t changed:
“How dare we talk about women that way,” Nooyi said on Thursday morning, referring to comments Trump made on the campaign trail and in an Entertainment Tonight video roughly a decade ago that surfaced in October. “If we don’t nip this in the bud it is going to be a lethal force in society,” Nooyi added…
When asked about the election result … Nooyi responded, “is there a box of tissues here?” However, she then pivoted by saying the new administration will need to ensure the safety and inclusion of non-white people, women, and the LGBT community. “The first thing we have to do is assure everyone living in the United States that they are safe. Nothing has changed as a result of this election” she said.
She must be a smart woman, but this is idiotic. Did she seriously believe that people would start lynching homosexuals because Donald Trump was elected president?
Pepsi is in the news again. It is being widely derided for producing one of the dumbest commercials in the history of television. The commercial stars Kendall Jenner (Kim Kardashian’s little sister), along with a cast of hundreds. One of Bob Marley’s grandsons furnishes the music. (“We are the chosen, we are the movement.” Straight from an Obama rally. What movement?) The ad consists mostly of a protest demonstration, but an anodyne one: the signs say “peace” or “join the conversation.” The marchers (or dancers) are squeaky-clean, multi-racial and happy. A Muslim girl wearing a hijab and a nose ring features prominently. At the end, Jenner gives a policeman a can of Pepsi and everyone cheers. It is hard to say what that is supposed to mean. Here is the full, 2:40 version of the commercial:
Pepsi’s ad was greeted by howls of outrage from the Left. Pepsi was appropriating the Black Lives Matter movement and other serious social concerns for a crass commercial purpose–using Kendall Jenner, no less. Pepsi has now pulled the ad and issued an apology. The ad was like a hall of fame of political correctness, but I haven’t seen any sign that conservatives objected to it, as opposed to laughing at it.
Pepsi obviously thought that it was catching a wave. Protests are big! The Resistance is everywhere! Everyone we know is a liberal! Let’s identify our product with the Left! If that sounds like a poor business plan, bear in mind that there are virtually no conservatives in corporate marketing departments and ad agencies. (This particular commercial was created by Pepsi’s in-house marketing group.)
That may be enough to account for the biggest marketing disaster of 2017, but I think there might be something else going on. I have often wondered–likely you have too–why large corporations are almost always liberal. Warmed-over Marxism offers no explanation, but I wonder whether part of the answer, at least, may be found in globalization.
Playing one-upmanship in virtue signaling is always an exercise in futility because it’s always easier tot tear things down rather than build things up. So the Pepsi commercial was an all too easy target for Saturday Night Live, to nothing else of the rest of the usual harpy crowd.
Not that the ad was not a very easy target. (Video NSFW for Irish language.)
That the real problem with the Progressive virtue culture. It’s all about beautiful people doing thing that must be beautiful because they are doing them. There’s no there, there. It’s all clouds and vapor with no real substance. almost like carbonated sugar water.
In chasing “hip” Pepsi managed to basically insult everybody. And I do mean just everybody on the planet. This advertising fail will be taught in classes for decade as an example of what not to do. The biggest problem is that trying to be relevant rather than good typically just pisses off everybody. Consider these two ads. The first from AIG shot in Tokyo. A bunch of rugby players playing superhero and saving people from hazards. The ad makes it’s point and it doesn’t even need dialog. Or politics.
Or this ad from Verizon. A French race car driver learning to speak Southern.
This is an ad that just about everybody can understand and laugh with. At least in the US. In fact you could do similar ads for different part of the country. And there are almost no political overtones.
The fact is that when Corporations go Progressive they tend to start to treat their customers like groups rather than people. The thing is that pandering to vocal groups rather than dealing with your real customers doesn’t end well. Especially for a company that’s selling something to the consumer. Trying to send endless virtue signals in the end will only be an attempt at feeding the insatiable. Because for those people there’s always more. Trying to be right with them when they are predisposed to think of your company as suspect at the very least and evil incarnate at worst is just chumming the water for the sharks.
It used to be that the guiding force for company executives was “mind your business.” In far too many cases executives have forgotten just why they sit in the fancy chair. Sometimes, like William K. Vanderbilt, you just have to say; “the public be damned.”