Virtue signaling, in short, is where you take a position or advocate a position as a mean to signal to others that you're virtuous.
You may not actually be virtuous.
You may not even believe in the position, lying entirely about what you advocate.
But that isn't your main goal.
Your main goal is to convince sheeple that you are a good person, you care about the poor, you care about minorities, you're morally superior, ie - you have virtue.
Of course, in reality, you really don't. You don't care about the environment. You don't care about the wage gap. You don't care minorities. You don't care about the children. And you certainly aren't morally superior. But if you can convince weak-minded people, especially those who also wish to virtue signal, then you can sucker them into do things for you.
For example Target.
I loath Target with all my heart.
Not because of their politics or even that they allowed whoever to use whatever bathroom in their stores. I'm actually for transgendered rights. It's the gallons of smugness they have about themselves and how they just outright lie to their customers about their corporate morality, if not superiority.
They donate 5% of their pre-tax profits back to the community.
They go out of their way to hire waifs of women as security guards.
They're body positive.
Anybody can use whichever bathroom they want.
Oh, and they will remind you of this every two seconds if you're in one of their stores.
Let's be clear what's going on here.
Corporations realize that the socio-political trend in the US is drifting to the left. Not just in terms of economics, but socially as well. Ever since the 90's a huge trend in deriving one's value from any one of a number of approved, leftist, politically correct political stances has occurred. Going green, being a feminist, organic, non-GMO, diversity, the environment, etc. etc. And since now at least half of the population derives their entire life-value from their beliefs (and not their accomplishments) corporations know these beliefs are the only thing a lot of people have in their lives. Therefore, if they virtue signal to these sheeple that they too are (choose your plate of BS)
for the whales
for the snails
these sheeple will buy their product.
In other words when you see Chipolte CONSTANTLY remind you about how organic it is, it isn't because their founders had some moral crusade they truly believed in. They just wanted your money.
The body positive ads you'll see in women's magazine? Yeah, the editor doesn't care that if you're fat...or...unhealthy...of that you're likely to be fat and childless by 50. They got your money.
And the colleges that sell you sheep $150,000 doctorates in some SJW BS crusaderist "studies?" The ones where you'll constantly have to beg charities or the taxpayers for government handouts so you can do absolutely nothing to advance the world? The ones where the student loans will cripple you for the rest of your life? They don't care, they got your money.
I absolutely love it when leftists always claim corporations have all this power to "trick" people into buying their product. But yet, while they're at the trough, slopping up the virtue signaling slop these companies sell them, they have the clueless gall to tell me they're too smart to fall for it.
So carry on virtue signaling leftists! Buy your fair trade (as far as you know) Starbuck's coffee. Buy your slave-labor Apple product. And please shop at Target. Because you're too stupid to see corporations' slimy marketing for what it truly is - virtue signaling euphemistically paraded as "Corporate Social Responsibility."