Say it or not say it?" An exploratory answer around the inspirational figures in ethical luxury communication: A step out of the paradox


  • Lahbib Oxana
  • Kessous Aurélie
  • Valette-Florence Pierre


  • Luxury
  • Ethics
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Celebrity endorsement
  • Green scepticism
  • Social causes
  • Environmental defense
  • Luxury

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Luxury brands, sometimes perceived as compatible with CSR requirements, sometimes as incompatible, can meet difficulties to clearly ensure if they can promote their ethical efforts or not. In addition, an increasing number of consumers now doubt the trustworthiness of the brands ethical moves, and may accuse them of using woke or green washing strategies. Drawing on the paradox of ethical luxury, this study assumes that an inspirational figure could participate to reconcile the tensions between the motives to consume luxury for its symbolic and personal benefits, and the increasing ethical incentives of luxury clients. By promoting its ethical roots through an influential spokesperson, the brand can demonstrate its efforts indirectly. The purpose of this research is to better understand how individuals mentally represent the role of an inspirational figure in ethical luxury communication. Through the projective method Album On-Line, twelve participants have imagined a luxury brand’s CSR engagement through two scenarios: the presence of impacts of the ethical commitment on the luxury brand’s final products (e.g., the use of recycled materials) and the absence of impacts (e.g., supporting a charitable cause). A common tendency of scepticism regarding the ethical pledge and situations of emotional ambivalence has been observed across the two groups. Interesting divergences have moreover emerged between the two scenarios regarding the visual and semantic representation of the message. Managerial and theoretical contributions are provided, alongside avenues for future researches.

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