How Brands Can Authentically Show Pride (And Generally Be Genuine)

The LGBTQ+ community made a lot of progress this year and it was all because brands showed their support. This is what fuels pride, authenticity, and the spirit of being proud to be yourself. Brands should not just follow but lead when taking on these issues in order for them to get ahead in 2018.

“Pride month brand campaigns 2021” is a marketing campaign that has been around for a while. It is a month to show pride and be genuine in your branding.

While a brand’s mission statement might reveal a lot about it, the aesthetic component of it can reveal a lot as well. More than words, logos, colors, site and graphic design, and other elements may connect with a community. 

Branding, on the other hand, is much more than the aesthetic assets that go with it. And no time is this more poignant than in June, when marketers align themselves with Pride Month.

On the beginning of the month, rainbows begin to emerge in applications, on items, and on company logos. To others, it seems to be a reassuring display of public support, something that the LGBTQ+ community does not always have.

Brands, on the other hand, may quickly cross the line from demonstrating support to outright pandering in the eyes of others.

Let’s have a look at the differences.

When Does Marketing Become Pandering?

One of any marketer’s key responsibilities is to assist in the sale of the brand and its products/services to its target customers. Some may consider the LGBTQ+ community as another another niche market to tap into in order to expand the pool of potential customers for their products.

That’s probably why so many companies leaped at the chance to put rainbows on their social media pages and join the Pride discourse. To meet the overwhelming demand for Pride clothing, flags, accessories, and more, a slew of well-known firms, from Chipotle to Banana Republic to Verizon Wireless, are advertising them. 

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Brands vacillate between real Pride celebrations and problematic advertising that seems forced, or even worse, pandering. So, where do you draw the line in this situation?

Here’s The Secret: It’s All About Intention.

Every company and marketer should ask themselves this question before starting a new campaign: Why are you doing this? “Why are you selling this Pride shirt?” you could inquire in the case of Pride. “Why are you using the colors of the Pride flag in your logo?”

There are a variety of reasons why businesses choose to promote Pride Month via their branding, promotions, and advertisements, including:

  1. In order to demonstrate support for the community

  2. To collect funds for charity that are affiliated

  3. to gain financial gain

One of these items is not the same as the other.

The general public has caught on that many brands are less committed to the first two reasons and primarily add Pride to their marketing and content calendars in light of the last answer: to gain financial gain. In fact, half of Americans consider items that are Pride-themed to be a marketing ploy rather than a genuine representation of a company’s values, according to a study by YouGov.

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People have a lot of strong feelings about corporations and Pride.

Of course, corporations exist to make money, but that doesn’t alter the reality that customers want to purchase from firms they can trust and who they believe appreciate the value of Pride to the LGBTQ+ community and its visibility. 

Even if your goal is to gain financial gain AND support the LGBTQ+ community in the process, it can still come across as inauthentic.

Credibility Participating in the Dialogue

At the end of the day, marketing is about being open and honest with prospective clients/customers while also actively giving value. Before you start reaching out to a new audience segment (or even before you speak to your regular audience), you should think about the following questions.

How are you adding value to this group of people?

There’s something to be said about rallying around a cause or a group of people. However, in this situation, the old saying “actions speak louder than words” is incredibly accurate.

You may support a candidate for office, but how much does your “support” mean if you don’t campaign for them, tell others about them, give to them, or vote for them?

In 2015, Chipotle distributed “Homo estás?” advertisements during Pride parades, which drew considerable criticism for abusing the Supreme Court judgment that legalized same-sex marriage (though they had used use the phrase in marketing campaigns in years prior).

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They’ve now switched to selling T-shirts with the phrase on them and donating the earnings to LGTBQ+ groups; this seems more genuine, relevant, and concrete to the community.

Have you ever interacted with this audience before? Why now, if not before?

Many people are identifying certain businesses as blatant pandering in the case of Pride if they seem to be coming out of the woodwork in favor of LGTBQ+ rights when they generally exhibit very little or no support, or worse, if they have actively or unwittingly hurt the cause or the community.

You don’t have to remain out of the discourse just because you haven’t been historically active! It does, however, imply that you must deliver a lot of value and demonstrate that you are serious about addressing these challenges inside your company. 

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Johnson & Johnson is an example of a brand that has seriously committed to helping the LGBTQ+ community. I noticed their rainbow-adorned products at Target and was intrigued by the note at the top of the label that said in bold, “More than just a rainbow.”

It goes on to say that they started a  CARE WITH PRIDE™ program back in 2011 and has raised $1 million+ for its partner nonprofits. A Johnson & Johnson executive vice president recently  wrote about the importance of allyship and how they started the Open&Out program to foster a safe, diverse culture. In a lot of their messaging related to helping the LGBTQ+ community, they mention that it is their overall brand goal to “help people everywhere live longer, happier, healthier lives.” They have made a commitment, and the care they show in their contributions and content resonates well.

If you want to be like Johnson & Johnson and supporting the community on an ongoing basis, consider why, and then consider telling that story to your audience.

How do you intend to keep active in the future?

While a campaign may be a one-time event, your beliefs should not be. If you decide to change what your brand cares about, be sure to integrate it into your organization’s DNA and continue to promote it.

Supporting Pride provides a forum for corporations to reach out to a previously neglected demographic that has been left out of the discourse when it comes to human rights.

Many businesses have taken their support to a new level, including LGBTQ+ rights into their corporate culture. Microsoft, for example, has 48 Employee Resource Groups (ERG) and Employee Networks that let Microsoft employees interact with others who share their interests.

They also raise funds for LGBTQ+ awareness organizations including the Trevor Project, Mermaids, ACON, Egale, and others, as well as committing resources to the inclusion of all queer individuals. With their new Pride product offering, such as their $14.99 limited-time Pride-themed Skin cover for the Surface Pro, they have vowed to donate $100,000 to these charities this year.

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They provide a variety of callouts on their website to learn more about the groups they support, as well as connections to additional LGBTQ+ services and information. 

Make it clear to your audience whose causes you support and how you have contributed to their success. 

Conclusion

“Being capitalism’s feisty best buddy comes with a hefty price tag.” 

Pinkwashing is defined by Shon Faye, a journalist and trans activist, as “a public relations strategy that is designed to conceal distressing realities and uncomfortable truths [and] isolates sexuality from class, race, nationality, religion, and gender in order to tell us that equality is possible for all,” a winning strategy.

Only by being genuine can a brand develop a genuine relationship. So, how can a company actually show that it supports the LGBTQ+ community? 

To begin, be bold and invite vital conversations both internally and via your marketing activities. Second, assemble a broad, representative team that represents a wide range of viewpoints.

In commemoration of Pride, my firm updated its logo. In our situation, we altered our logo since our leadership team includes proud members of the LGBTQ+ community, and our firm encourages an inclusive and comfortable environment for all employees. We want to demonstrate to our workers, as well as their families, that we are devoted to a supportive, welcoming, safe, and open workplace culture.

During Pride (or any other cause or movement to which you want to contribute), it is critical to acknowledge the issues and hardships that your audience (and even members of your organization) face, and to consider how you can honestly position yourself to be not just outspoken, but also helpful.

“Authenticity is a key component of any brand. It’s the cornerstone of any successful marketing strategy.” Brands that are authentic will have a greater chance of success than those who are not. Reference: brand authenticity.

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