This Saturday, thousands of people are set to visit the capital for the annual pride parade that marks the end of London’s pride festival. Pride is how the LGBTQ+ community and its allies celebrate as well as address the ongoing fight for equality.
The very first pride occurred in 1970, marking the anniversary of the previous year’s Stonewall Riots City in NYC, which effectively kicked off the LGBTQ+ equal rights movement. The original Pride was to commemorate the riots as loud and as colourfully as possible for those who had, and continued to, fight for their rights.
Essentially, Pride is a protest.
Considering this, as soon as June hits, brands across the globe adorn their marketing collateral with love-themed slogans and rainbows, commonly known as the symbol of LGBTQ+ pride.
During pride season, it’s not hard to spot a brand who’s doing just this. Whilst it’s encouraging to see Disney releasing ‘love’ emblazoned, rainbow vests and McDonald’s serving fries in rainbow containers, this symbolic support may not actually amount to anything legitimate.
A growing number of people feel that over the years, pride has started to lose sight of its original aim with brand sponsorship detracting from its true origins and meaning. Corporate incentive grows as public support for LGBTQ+ issues swell, but through that commercialisation, brands risk alienating that very audience. Brands that capitalise on using pride and the LGBTQ+ community may not always be supporting said causes consistently throughout the year.
Some of these brands are already starting to feel backlash from their pride-themed campaigns. Adidas came under fire for using straight, cis celebrities talking about what makes them proud in general, rather than actually talking about LGBTQ+ issues. Costa was also called out for stating that the proceeds of its rainbow cups are going to support their own internal LGBTQ+ network, with critics stating that’s something they should already be doing themselves rather than using customers to do so.
So, how can brands genuinely do pride proud instead of just using it as a marketing tool?
Here are just a few of the ways brands and agencies alike can avoid “rainbow-washing” and provide consistent support to LGBTQ+ causes throughout the year:
Pride month is welcome to everyone, including brands and companies. Marketers shouldn’t be afraid to run pride-based campaigns, nor feel obligated to take a "pride or die" approach. People want to see the support of major names feel represented. Brands should embrace the celebrations thoughtfully and develop campaigns which go beyond the rainbow veneer.
Think beyond a single month of the year and commit to sustained, commitments of advocacy.
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