Marketers Celebrate Pride Month  

By Brendan Gill  | 

Pride festivities went virtual last year due to coronavirus concerns, but now the world is reopening and there’s cause to celebrate. In honor of June’s Pride month, brands are doing their part to support LGBTQ efforts via various thoughtfully executed campaigns. The key is to avoid “rainbow washing”—aka, slapping Pride-themed elements on existing products or campaigns without actively engaging the queer community. “Brands need to approach Pride not as a marketing moment to sell products and profit from LGBTQ people, but [as] a time to loudly use their reach and influence to affirm our community and support advocacy organizations in authentic and impactful ways,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD. Forging authentic bonds can have lasting results, as LGBTQ individuals contribute to a whopping $1 trillion of the country’s disposable income, according to a 2020 Kearney report. And these consumers are more likely than other groups to seek out brands that genuinely support them, thus rewarding inclusivity with loyalty. Here’s how marketers are showing the love.

Dedicated Diversity Initiatives
Following a May announcement in which McDonald’s pledged to improve representation by more than doubling its investments in diverse media platforms, the fast-food giant launched a multichannel campaign aimed at supporting the LGBTQ community. Called “Livin’ It,” the Pride month initiative features digital video ads plus a blowout virtual party that aired on Revry, an LGBTQ TV network. The daylong “House of Pride” celebration boasted celebrity appearances, musical performances and a tutorial on vogue dancing. The chain plans to increase its national advertising budget on Black-, women- and LGBTQ-owned platforms from four percent to 10 percent by 2024.

In a similar vein, Vizzy Hard Seltzer debuted a plan to increase queer visibility in the arts. Led by drag queen Priyanka, 2020 winner of the Canadian reality TV series Canada’s Drag Race, the #Vizzybility Project hopes to spotlight underrepresented LGBTQ artists with four awarded mentorships and grants. Of the 13 percent of Canadians who identify as LGBTQ, 69 percent agree they wish to see less stereotypical media portrayals of this demographic. Vizzy’s campaign wants to highlight a community that—until recently—has been somewhat excluded from mass advertising.

Sharing Stories
From campaigns to conversations, H&M put a tech spin on its Pride month marketing endeavors. The clothing retailer developed an app that uses novel image-recognition technology to detect rainbow-patterned objects, from flags to food to fashion accessories. When users scan a rainbow item, the app takes them to a “Beyond the Rainbow” landing page featuring stories from various LGBTQ influencers, celebrities and H&M employees. These intimate accounts are meant to be real, relating coming-out travails, childhood experiences of love and hate, and reminders that queer liberation was hard-won. Consumers are encouraged to post about their own experiences on social media, while donations will benefit the Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention among queer youth.

SodaStream’s latest campaign likewise centers on stories from queer communities. The seltzer maker teamed with transgender actress and LGBTQ activist Laverne Cox to highlight tales of personal triumph while promoting a limited-edition water kit called Rainbow Story. An eponymous short film shows Cox sharing memories of her struggles, remembering that the road to self-validation wasn’t always brightly painted. For the third year in a row, SodaStream will donate a percentage of Pride month proceeds to ILGA World, an international nonprofit that petitions for queer rights.

Expanding Education
One problem standing in the way of LGBTQ representation may be misinformation. A February study conducted by Procter & Gamble and GLAAD found that 81 percent of advertising executives believe “an inauthentic execution of LGBTQ people and scenarios would lead to a larger backlash than not featuring them in ads at all.” P&G is now on a mission to change that perception via its Visibility Project initiative that seeks to help brands develop authentic and inclusive LGBTQ-related messaging strategies. The packaged goods company committed more than $1 million over the next three years to support this important effort. Marketers know speaking to these groups is key. In 2017, a separate GLAAD study revealed that 12 percent of millennials identify as transgender or gender-nonconforming, while 60 percent of agencies believe companies that depict LGBTQ lifestyles can help consumers “understand and respect LGBTQ people.”

E-commerce giant Shopify is doing its part to spread the word by teaming with The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative to publish a list of queer-owned brands. This curated compilation can be found on the Shopify app, where over 60 businesses are organized by category for easy sorting. Through such varied efforts, marketers are fighting for LGBTQ equality and inclusivity. Their support extends far beyond a rainbow logo printed on a product—these are efforts in which we can all take pride.

Brendan Gill
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