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Pride Month is a time when people come together to celebrate, honor, and show support for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. Now more than two years out from the start of COVID-19, this June is a time to celebrate the lengths we’ve come 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?
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 not, 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. If a brand cannot speak to how it plans to directly support and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, then it should not join trending social conversations or benefit from high engagement rates during Pride Month.
This distinction — between action and lip service, between community motivation and brand motivation — is crucially 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.
Brands who randomly show up during Pride to temporarily flash and market their support for the LGBTQ+ community get called out for it on social media.
Twitter users continue to openly denounce opportunistic brands. This 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.
Brands that have established genuine relationships with the LGBTQ+ community can enhance their support through Pride Month corporate messages. Many Pride Month company posts do a great job of this, and here are a few that really exemplify the right type of messaging.
Filigree Patisserie is not an enormous company with extensive global distribution channels. They make great sweets and have a mouth-watering Instagram account. But even if they’re not a mega-conglomerate, this doesn’t stop them from giving back to the LGBTQ+ community. In this Pride Month company post, they highlight their work with the community and their continued dedication to it:
So many social media posts during Pride Month express a brand’s support for or commitment to the LGBTQ+ community, but not many go the extra mile to highlight the incredible stories that make that community so strong. That’s exactly what Target has done here, with an Instagram post that shares the story of Leah Johnson, a queer Black author:
And Target’s successful Pride campaign isn’t limited to social media. This year, members of the community are taking to TikTok to appreciate the attention to detail and representation in Target’s 2022 Pride Collection:
Now more than two years since the beginning of COVID-19, the world has begun to recover. But last year, in 2021, many communities were still having a very difficult time, and the prospect of not being able to properly celebrate Pride was a real downer. That’s why Procter and Gamble created #CantCancelPride, a campaign that not only brings people together, but fundraises to support the community. They highlight that campaign in a beautiful way on their Instagram page:
Supporting the LGBTQ+ community during the month of June is great, and every company should be finding ways to do so. But the community doesn’t exist only one month per year. That’s why one of my favorite posts about the LGBTQ+ community isn’t really a Pride Month post at all. SAP posted this one on National Coming Out Day in October, highlighting the fact that they’re thinking about Pride 12 months a year:
As we’ve seen, Pride Month isn’t the only great time to support the community; for the best brands, it’s a year-round priority. Lucy & Yak, a clothing brand based in the UK, supports the trans community specifically by sticking to one sizing system (instead of a binary “men’s” and “women’s” sizing system). They also highlight some of their customers on their social media accounts, as in this Instagram post:
As we’ve seen, you can’t simply jump on a Pride Month bandwagon and expect an amazing response, because there’s a major risk for backlash — and more importantly, it’s important for your company to practice what it preaches. 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?
Here are some great strategies that will help brands succeed in their Pride Month social media campaigns.
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.
Back 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.
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 just makes sense. Popular streaming service Hulu also leveraged their strengths in 2020 to bring LGBTQ+ focused stories to the forefront:
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.
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 commit to helping tackle issues that specifically affect the LGBTQ+ community. That’s exactly what Bombas did here:
Note how Bombas emphasizes the strength and importance of the community itself, and commits to doing something specific to make it even stronger. (Also, note how they respond to Instagram users in the comments on their post. See how your brand can do the same here.)
Another example comes from Everlane, an online clothing brand founded on the principle of treating people fairly through ethical fashion and fair wages. They have 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.
Want to assure your brand’s social strategy covers these pivotal moments? Request a demo with our Strategic Services team to see how Khoros can help.