Conventional definitions of corporate hypocrisy focus on decoupling talk and action; incidences where an organization's ‘talk’ does not match its ‘walk’. However, in the context of corporate social responsibility (CSR), marketing communications are often aspirational and hence prone to accusations of hypocrisy. We therefore ask: is hypocrisy always undesirable? This case-informed conceptual paper draws upon the Diesel ‘Global Warming Ready’ campaign to investigate how humor – specifically irony – elevates conventional understandings of hypocrisy towards what we term ‘helpful hypocrisy’; the mobilization of critical reflection on complex ambiguities of CSR in non-moralizing ways. In doing so, we distinguish between idealized ‘single-talk’ and extended ‘double-talk’. We develop an analytical model to help analyze the layers of double-talk in the context of ironic CSR marketing communications, and we construct a conceptual model that explains the role of double-talk and irony. Based on our research, we propose an agenda for future research.
Bibliographical noteEpub ahead of print. Published online: December 31 2019
- CSR communication
- CSR consumption