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Google virtue-signaling? The "women led" business search

I guess it's a well-known fact that big corporates engage in virtue-signaling.

Today I got a small taste of it:

Why should I prioritize a woman-led business, rather than choosing a well-run business, with good products and services?

Same would apply of course to prioritizing a male-led, black/white-led, Asian/European-led, etc. etc.

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Looks like I won't be able to find a cafe without running into virtue-signalling quotes very soon!

I was curious about how a giant tobacco company would market itself.
This is from the front page of Altria Group:

Moving Beyond Smoking
From tobacco company
To tobacco harm reduction company

Now Altria is positioning itself as caring to its customer group.

More Virtual Signalling

Now comes more:

  1. Harm Reduction
  2. Underage Tobacco Use
  3. Offering Adult Smokers More Choices
  4. Supporting Cessation

Does Altria actually care about the above 4 points?
Maybe point 3 to increase spending through more choices.

But we also know that tobacco companies target young people to gain new customers (potentially lifelong):

From Marketing to America's youth: evidence from corporate documents

However, beneath the layers of industry public relations one cannot escape the essential fact that cigarette manufacturers are in business to make a profit and their profits depend on their ability to recruit new smokers. Given the evidence that most adult smokers begin smoking before the age of 18 years and few smokers ever take up smoking after age 25, it would be counterproductive for an industry that thrives on market share to overlook the specific customer demographic in which initial brand loyalties are formed.

On competition between tobacco companies:

Brand switching is not that common among smokers, usually less than 10% annually.10 Therefore, there is a strong incentive for a company to compete for market share among beginning smokers, since the long term prosperity of a given cigarette brand and company will depend on the percentage of new smokers that can be captured annually.

On public relations of tobacco companies insisting that they are only targeting adult smokers:

The public health literature clearly demonstrates that youth are exposed to a wide variety of industry marketing efforts, and that there is a consequent adverse effect upon adolescent smoking initiation rates. Despite this evidence, cigarette manufacturers have tenaciously held to the claim that their marketing activities are aimed only at established adult smokers, with the goal of maintaining market share and expanding market share through brand-switching.

In this case, tobacco companies are engaging in virtue signalling to be on the good side of regulators and also customers.

Hey Matthew,

Those are certainly potential areas for manipulation and they do signal virtue, but I don't think they'd fall into the "perfect" definition of virtue-signaling.

What's the difference?

Virtue-signaling sounds good, but is either ineffective in its pro-social action, or even harmful.

DECREASING TOBACCO IS GOOD FOR MOST EVERYONE

Decreasing tobacco is good for people in general, with the only cost coming at the producers of the tobacco.

But in the long run, we can argue that even the tobacco producers gain as the money that was spent on tobacco goes somewhere else, and those producers can find employment -or entrepreneurial opportunities- in more value-adding industries.

We can argue that it's a worthy goal, with real positive consequences.

SPENDING AT WOMEN-LED BUSINESS IS NOT GOOD FOR MOST EVERYONE

Spending your money into a women-led business is typical virtue-signaling because it's only good for the specific woman you're shopping from, but it adds no value to anyone else.

From a utilitarian point of view, you added no value to the world, since what you were going to spend in another business, you're going to spend in a woman-led business.

And when we look at it more logically, we can see that your choice probably came at a cost to everyone else.

It comes at the cost of general meritocracy, as well as it decreases the market's efficiency.
How?
Your choice doesn't promote the best business, but the one that is "women-led". The consequence is a decrease in market efficiency, more poor businesses kept alive by virtue signaling, more good business struggling, and that's something that everyone pays a price for.

So this is typical virtue-signaling because it might self-frame the virtue-signaler as someone who "cares" and is "open-minded", while actually doing nothing useful -and maybe even harming the collective-.

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As an added note to further explore the topic:

There is also what may sound like virtue signaling, but instead is actually helpful.

THE HYPOTHETICAL "UGLY PEOPLE-LED BUSINESS SEARCH"

For example, if I were to say "I shop at disfigured or very physically unattractive business owners, because I know that many people tend to stay away from them while preferring more attractive folks".

Now that might be helpful because indeed that category is likely at a real disadvantage.

So my choice off-sets most people's natural avoidance of that group people, an avoidance that is not motivated by real personal qualities and/or quality of business services.
So that choice does help some people that, on average, might be "more in need", as well as making the market more efficient.

So the group at a disadvantage gains an equal footing, and everyone else also gains.

Of course, the issue with "proper" virtue-signaling is that it doesn't focus on issues where you can indeed do something good and value-adding, but only on whichever fad is most popular.

VALUE-ACCOUNTING DETERMINES VIRTUE SIGNALING 

So as we can see from these examples is that it's "value-accounting" that determines what's virtue-signaling and what's actually helpful.

Of course there is some grey area in that accounting, but as we repeat often here, the grey area is not infinitely stretchable.

Women-led business support, in my opinion, is virtue-signaling because it distorts the market while supporting a category that is in no need of support. Women in the west are not at a business disadvantage.
I'm not aware of any widespread customer preference of buying food from a man independently of food quality.

DISEMPOWERING TO THE RECEIVER

As a matter of fact, this type of "support" might add a few dollars to the bottom line, but its frame is highly disempowering at a mental level.

Same dynamics we discussed in "white people support of black lives matter".

Women at the receiving end of it might feel like they're at a disadvantage, less capable, or less liked.
So it might even come at a cost to the individual you're "helping".

If I were a female business owner, my reaction to that virtue signaling would be "f*ck you and your women support, I'm as good as anyone else, you can keep your pathetic "support", and I earn my customers with my own merits, by making customers want to shop with me".

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Thank you for this insight, Lucio.

I understand what this tobacco company, Altria, is doing is not the typical virtue-signalling.
Altria signals virtue that would benefit the world if the company successfully convinces people to reduce tobacco intake.

Whether Altria actually believes in this vision or virtue is another matter.
What I have confused is that I believed that Altria does not actually believe in what it espouses.
But that is more towards manipulation and deception rather than virtue-signalling.

In your example, the company on Google Maps espouses the virtues of supporting women-led businesses.
If Google succeeds in convincing people to support women-led businesses, that would promote market inefficiency and distort meritocracy, and hence that is overall value-taking to society.

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on April 22, 2021, 4:53 pm

So this is typical virtue-signaling because it might self-frame the virtue-signaler as someone who "cares" and is "open-minded", while actually doing nothing useful -and maybe even harming the collective-.

I see the difference from this statement.
Altria, the tobacco company, may not have real intentions of reducing tobacco consumption.
But it doesn't really matter if we look solely at the effect of public relations.
The message may indeed spur some people to quit or reduce tobacco consumption.
And that in itself is value-adding to society.

Maybe this is a smarter move from Altria than the typical virtue-signalling?
Now it is harder to hit on Altria because it shows a balanced stance towards tobacco consumption.
People may even think that Altria has healthier cigarettes and end up smoking more.
As we know, imbalanced win-win strategies can be more Machiavellian, effective and even fair.

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on April 22, 2021, 5:23 pm

THE HYPOTHETICAL "UGLY PEOPLE-LED BUSINESS SEARCH"

For example, if I were to say "I shop at disfigured or very physically unattractive business owners, because I know that many people tend to stay away from them while preferring more attractive folks".

Now that might be helpful because indeed that category is likely at a real disadvantage.

So my choice off-sets most people's natural avoidance of that group people, an avoidance that is not motivated by real personal qualities and/or quality of business services.
So that choice does help some people that, on average, might be "more in need", as well as making the market more efficient.

So the group at a disadvantage gains an equal footing, and everyone else also gains.

Now I'm thinking about a similar note.
When I travel, I quite often run into postcards with art drawn by handicapped people.
If I buy merchandise produced by handicapped people like postcards with their art, that actually supports their livelihood.
I don't think that this counts so much as virtue-signalling.
Especially, like what you said, people don't really flaunt these purchases on social media or to their friends.

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"I shop at disfigured or very physically unattractive business owners, because I know that many people tend to stay away from them while preferring more attractive folks".

ironically I think saying something like that, that actually may be helpful for those people, even with 100% good intentions, may end causing some kind of controversy in this society.

Women at the receiving end of it might feel like they're at a disadvantage, less capable, or less liked

with that kind of "help" they are only perpetuating victim mentality, one of the mos toxics mentalities a person can have, even if the person IS a true victim, for his own good it is better to never adopt a victim mentality, at least not a long term victim mentality, feeling like a victim for a short amount of time, when justified, may be useful if it motivates you to search justice or do something proactive, yet long term VM is just a form of mental contamination you need to get rid off if you do not want a self fullfiling snowboling profecy in full force against you.

I talk from personal experience, and when you have a touch of narcicissim it makes it even worse, cause you do not want to be just another victim, you secretely start to consider you the biggest victim in the world with an amazing capacity/sensibilty for suffering you may start even being in a twisted way proud of...

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Whether Altria actually believes in this vision or virtue is another matter.
What I have confused is that I believed that Altria does not actually believe in what it espouses.
But that is more towards manipulation and deception rather than virtue-signalling.

Exactly.

The typical virtue-signaling is:

  • Wasteful, ineffective, useless, or even harmful: it's not meant to be effective, it's meant to self-frame the signaler as virtuous (some signalers might actually believe they're being helpful, but that's another issue)
  • Fad-based: for easier self-promotion, and to join the group of virtuoses, the signaler must latch onto something that is popular, that others are signaling about, and that resonates with people. And that's based on the "zeitgeist", the esprit of the times, and changes with time

Some issues that qualify as current fad-based virtue signaling:

  • Green-stuff 
  • Black lives matter support
    • Anti-police movements: in some twisted way, opposing police is a way of saying "I'm courageously bucking the system to support oppressed minorities"
  • Women's support
  • LGBT: in some cases and places, this might actually add some value

And a few more that I might have missed.

Atria was most likely not being forthcoming in your example since they have an obvious and major conflict of interest in (not) reducing tobacco consumption.
If they were really 100% into it, they'd either cut advertising budget, or stop production -obviously, they aren't doing any of that-.
But it's not "typical" virtue signaling since it doesn't latch onto a strong fad, and you never know that whatever small steps they take actually helps -albeit I'm skeptical of that-.

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Quote from Stef on April 22, 2021, 11:02 pm

with that kind of "help" they are only perpetuating victim mentality, one of the mos toxics mentalities a person can have, even if the person IS a true victim, for his own good it is better to never adopt a victim mentality, at least not a long term victim mentality, feeling like a victim for a short amount of time, when justified, may be useful if it motivates you to search justice or do something proactive, yet long term VM is just a form of mental contamination you need to get rid off if you do not want a self fullfiling snowboling profecy in full force against you.

I talk from personal experience, and when you have a touch of narcicissim it makes it even worse, cause you do not want to be just another victim, you secretely start to consider you the biggest victim in the world with an amazing capacity/sensibilty for suffering you may start even being in a twisted way proud of...

Victim mentality, exactly.

Thank you for highlighting it, it's a keyword that was missing in that BLM article and that I now added.

And interesting observation of some personalities that take it yet one step forward, it makes sense.

Edit: and yes, exactly, the cultural-specific fads also dictate what you're not supposed to support if you want to self-frame as virtuous. And that is also often delinked from what's actually helpful.
Supporting the police for example is a huge no-no, even though some cops these days might be real targets of hatred and at a higher risk of death/injury on the job.

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