If you have walked down Oxford Street this June, you will notice a change to the logos and shop fronts. It’s Pride! A celebration of personality, individuality, and togetherness; and brands have joined in the fun. Marketing has become a big part of life, how we experience the world, and express ourselves. So, it’s great that companies are spreading awareness of LGBTQ+ issues during Pride, right?
Well, as awareness is gaining prevalence, ‘rainbow washing’ has too– companies claiming to support LGBTQ+ causes with logo changes, with little substance behind them. To many, this comes off as exploitative– waving a flag in sympathy just to turn a profit. However, when brands go beyond that, the community notices.
Current Pride marketing
Across the world brands joined in to support Pride, applying the colours to their logos and running campaigns to support. And for good reason… A poll found that 75% of LGBTQ+ themed ads outperform generic ads when it comes to consumers remembering the brand name, and these ads are 47% more likely to lead to effective performance. However, 64% feel unrepresented by these ads, suggesting that brands need to do more.
We’ve chosen some of our favourite LGBTQ+ supportive campaigns that have shown effective, authentic allyship in past years.
Levis – Respect All Pronouns
Levis has been a long-time supporter of the LGBTQ+ movement, predating the legalisation of homosexual marriage in the UK, with their first collection launched in 2014. Levis brand campaigns moved from marriage inequality to the HIV/AIDs crisis, to their recent 2021 ‘Respect All Pronouns’ campaign, which emphasised visibility for gender non-conforming individuals. They point out that despite the movement’s progress, “the Trans Community is still fighting for their voice.” This shows an awareness of LGBTQ+ issues, and a willingness to support the community.
Absolut Vodka has supported the LGBTQ+ community as far back as 1980, long before it became a common characteristic in branding. The sponsorship of Ru Paul’s Drag Race Season 1 in 2019 (an early pioneer of queer culture in media) set it aside as a brand that was willing to go beyond what was acceptable. Furthermore, they were a founding sponsor of the GLAAD media awards, and have contributed to LGBTQ+ charities for years, including those providing direct support to gender non-conforming youth such as the Trevor Project. Their limited edition Absolut Rainbow (2022) spoke about chosen families, a core facet of life as an LGBTQ+ individual.
Microsoft – Together We Can
Microsoft’s ‘Together We Can’ message in 2022 was unique as it sought out real LGBTQ+ employees from their global community spanning over 120 countries. They launched under the message ‘Pride Has No Borders’ to raise awareness about intersectionality, and the inherent value of stories from LGBTQ+ people of differing race, class, or ability.
Why is authentic allyship important?
The more the values of a company align with consumers, the more likely they are to engage. 83% of millennials claim this is important, and 64% say they would support a brand purely because of its position on a social issue. Taking a stance, more than simply changing a logo, makes waves through LGBTQ+ audiences, bringing a supportive company firmly to mind. Currently, 87% of individuals believe all Pride campaigns should donate to LGBTQ+ charities, and 96% think brands should be more supportive.
So, here’s how companies can set themselves apart following this Pride Month:
- Go somewhere over the rainbow
As we’ve seen, true allyship comes from active efforts to support LGBTQ+ individuals. Donating to non-profit organisations, pledging and seeing through company policies benefitting LGBTQ+ employees, or contributing to research into understanding what the community needs from brands are a massive way to set your June campaigns apart.
- Contribute all year round
June may be the month of the Stonewall riots, but the diversity of sexuality and gender should be reflected all year round. Companies can show consistent support for the community by depicting non-stereotypical LGBTQ+ relationships or individuals in their everyday branding and imagery, being mindful of the stances of partnerships, and following through on policies that benefit LGBTQ+ employees.
- Uplift the community
Through the lens of sales numbers or ad recall, it is easy to see the LGBTQ+ community as a marketing tool. But remembering that each member is an individual with a story, complex history, struggles, and the need to be understood. Every small thing a company can do, from representative ads, to donations, go some way to show individuals they are understood and valued by society.
Thanks for reading. Happy Pride!
About the author: Emil Kimber (he/him) recently joined MTM as a Research Executive in the quantitative team. Market research has helped him explore his passions – in particular how different sections of society respond to TV shows, ads and games, and he is keen to apply his work to understanding the representation of LGBTQ+ issues in media.