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Three tips for creating a genuine and impactful Pride Month campaign

by Spike Jones, General Manager of Khoros Strategic Services | Jun 01, 2020

Pride Month is a time when people come together to celebrate, honor, and show support for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. Even though there won’t be any parades and concerts this year due to COVID-19, June is still a time to celebrate the lengths we’ve come as a country and to recognize the work that remains to be done for the LGBTQ+ community. As individuals, we showcase our support of Pride in a variety of ways, but what about the role of enterprise brands in Pride Month?

Khoros | Strategic Services

Ask yourself: is my brand truly an ally of the LGBTQ+ community?

Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself, as an enterprise brand, is not how to enter the Pride Month conversation, but whether you’ve yet established any lasting and genuine relationship with the LGBTQ+ community — both within your company and beyond your walls. 

If that answer is no, then your brand should consider first and foremost its responsibility in driving community outcomes every day of the year. If an advertiser is not a truly positive partner of the LGBTQ+ community, it simply has no business benefiting from it.

This distinction — between action and lip service, between community motivation and brand motivation — is important.

By now, brands understand that speaking up about social causes benefits them. The 2017 Edelman Earned Brand Study found that “51% [of consumers] will be more loyal buyers of a brand that speaks up, compared with those that remain silent.” They also found that “48% will advocate for and defend a brand that speaks up.” Also, according to Cone Communications, “Millennials represent $2.45 trillion in spending power and are 60% more likely to engage with brands that discuss social causes.”

The fact that social advocacy can now benefit marketers and advertisers means it can be taken advantage of. A brand must first and continually act in support of LGBTQ+ rights: speaking up in a way that makes sense for your brand and creates an actual impact in the community is far more important than social media-based lip service.

Consumer backlash against the commercialization of Pride and “rainbow-washing”

The number one Tweet during Pride 2017 was a meme that pokes fun at brands who randomly show up during Pride to temporarily flash and market their support for the LGBTQ+ community (45.3K RTs, 138K likes). This year is no different: even amid the pandemic, Twitter users continue to denounce opportunistic brands. 

The reactions to these tweets should be sufficient evidence for brands: LGBTQ+ consumers are definitely aware of disingenuous marketing campaigns around Pride and are quick to call them out — so much so that the term “rainbow-washing” was coined. 

According to Urban Dictionary, rainbow-washing is “the act of using or adding rainbow colors and/or imagery to advertisements, apparel, accessories, landmarks, et cetera, in order to indicate progressive support for LGBTQ+ equality (and earn consumer credibility) with a minimum of effort or pragmatic result.”

Just as brands rush to market themselves as green, or create pink versions of their product in “support” of breast cancer research (hence the terms “green-washing” and “pink-washing”), they also often incorporate a rainbow into their logo or product as a statement of allyship. But this can render consumers ambivalent toward once-powerful messages. Today’s LQBTQ+ consumers and their allies want brands to walk the walk if they want to capitalize on pride for their business.

In other words, it’s always important to be genuine and practice what you preach.

How to run a genuine Pride marketing campaign

In a 2017 article on cause-related marketing, Pixability’s CEO states, “You can’t bandwagon on an issue and expect success — the potential for backlash is real.” So, if your brand is active in its support of the LGBTQ+ community, and is ready to take a stand on social media, how can you make sure your Pride campaign lands well with your audience?

Let’s take a look at a few brands who have done Pride well over the years, and identify the strategies that helped them succeed on social media:

1. Highlight internal stories

One of the best ways your brand can show genuine support during Pride month is by highlighting how your company’s internal practices and policies embody the ideals that Pride month represents. 

In 2015, Gap Inc. participated in GLAAD’s #GotYourBack campaign by sharing a video that featured 13 Gap Inc. employees who each spoke to their different coming out experiences. This participation shows that Gap Inc. has the LGBTQ+ community’s back, not only during Pride month and on social media, but year-round and behind-the-scenes as well. 

When you take a deeper dive into Gap Inc.’s diversity and inclusion efforts, you find that their brand has a strong commitment to equality and diversity in the workplace. They have an employee resource group called Gap Gay Employees, Allies, and Resources (GEAR). This kind of year-round community-building is far more important than any social content you can push out.

2. Align with who you are as a brand

One way to ensure genuine Pride month activism is to align your efforts with the services and/or products that lie at the core of your brand’s identity. For example, if you’re not an apparel brand, think twice before creating — and more importantly, selling — rainbow t-shirts.

In 2017, for example, YouTube launched their #ProudToBe campaign in which they elevated the coming out stories of many of their platform’s most popular queer creators. And how exactly did they elevate these stories, you ask? Video. What do we know YouTube for? Videos. It makes sense.

During Pride 2016, Netflix partnered with Out Magazine and curated a “Pride Guide” that listed the top streaming LGBTQ+ films and TV series available for viewing during Pride. Considering people use Netflix to watch movies, it makes sense Netflix would use their streaming services to highlight LGBTQ+ films in support of Pride. Hulu is doing something similar this year with this announcement on June 17:

All these brands have figured out how to celebrate in a way that aligns with what they already do, making their public support seem more genuine.

3. Take your impact to the next level

Another key part of Pride month is realizing there’s still work to be done. So how can your campaign create an even greater impact in the community?

One way is to partner with non-profit organizations that are getting stuff done. That’s exactly what Bombas did here:

Note how Bombas emphasizes that LGBTQ+ rights are important year-round right at the beginning of their post. They show their commitment to the community upfront. (Also, note how they respond to Instagram users in the comments on their post. See how your brand can do the same here.)

Another great way to take your impact to the next level is to seek feedback from the LGBTQ+ community within your own organization on how to better your internal culture. Everlane, an online clothing brand founded on the principle of treating people fairly through ethical fashion and fair wages, has a “100% Human” collection. Apart from these shirts spreading the message that we’re all 100% human and all have an inherent right to civil liberties, purchases of these clothing pieces also benefit several different human rights organizations.

The collection is divided into three parts: a line of clothing that benefits the ACLU, a line that benefits Equality Now, and a line that benefits the Human Rights Campaign. The 100% Human collection even includes facemasks to help stop the spread of COVID-19 — another way in which Everlane is demonstrating strong brand values. Depending on which section of the collection you purchase from, Everlane donates $5 per item to these organizations. The best part? This collection is available year-round. It’s not a one-and-done Pride month situation.

While there are many brands out there who participate in Pride successfully, these examples are key because they address three very important questions:

  • What is my brand doing internally to support LGBTQ+ rights?
  • Does this campaign align with who we are and what we do as a brand?
  • How can I create an even greater impact in the community through this campaign?

Keeping these three questions in mind will help you to develop an impactful yet genuine Pride month marketing campaign. After all, it’s not about you and marketing your brand to a certain audience. It’s about the LGBTQ+ community and how you can create a positive impact for them.

To learn more strong social media strategies, read our whitepaper, The Social Media Pocket Guide.

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