June is finally here, and you know what that means … It’s Pride Month!
This serves as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle for equality, acceptance and recognition of diverse identities across the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and/or queer (LGBTQ+) community. And as the month unfolds, it’s time for a vibrant celebration of LGBTQ+ pride and resilience.
For marketers, Pride Month opens the doors to unique opportunities to engage with the LGBTQ+ community authentically — with emphasis on the authentic part.
That being said, getting campaigns and marketing initiatives right goes beyond simply pasting a rainbow flag on your logo or product. You’re aiming for respect, empathy and sensitivity at the end of the day, and that requires a deep understanding of the experiences, struggles and triumphs of the queer community.
Fortunately, recent years have seen a growing recognition of the need for inclusive marketing that truly represents and uplifts diverse LGBTQ+ voices. This includes calls for authenticity from consumers — and you can bet they won’t be afraid to call your business out for tokenism or performative gestures. It’s now imperative for marketers to go beyond surface-level support and embrace a marketing campaign that demonstrates authentic allyship and resonates with the LGBTQ+ community long-term.
With this in mind, we’re exploring the value of effective Pride Month messaging and providing practical insights on how to approach your Pride marketing campaigns and celebrations successfully.
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Inspiring Change: Leveraging Pride Month for Positive Impact
Today, businesses are becoming a big part of the LGBTQ+ conversation. By actively participating and empowering this community, you can help build a more accepting society.
What’s more, interweaving inclusivity and diversity into all facets of your organization and its marketing efforts is highly valued by individuals across the queer community and beyond — and it ultimately makes a difference in LGBTQ+ purchasing decisions. According to an annual LGBTQ community survey from Community Marketing & Insights:
- 85% of individuals agree that corporate support for LGBTQ+ equality is more important than ever.
- 80% said they’re more likely to give their business to organizations that empower LGBTQ+ voices.
- 73% claimed they’ve made a conscious decision to make a purchase in the past year due to a company’s queer-inclusive outreach, employment practices or supportive political stance.
Rainbow Washing: What Could Go Wrong?
Unfortunately, not all companies are in it for the right reasons. What do we mean by that? Some organizations may leverage a Pride Month campaign to suggest to consumers that they support LGBTQ+ people, without actually having put in authentic and consistent effort to show real support for the queer community: Essentially, it’s performative activism for commercial gain.
What Can Rainbow Washing Look Like?
The thing to note about rainbow washing is that it can be pretty difficult to discern whether or not a company is genuinely celebrating and uplifting LGBTQ+ individuals with their marketing efforts — particularly during Pride Month. While you can’t always be sure, here are some of the red flags that may mark phony advocacy:
- Placing a pride flag on logos or products without demonstrating a sincere commitment to LGBTQ+ rights or inclusivity.
- Launching initial Pride campaigns only during June.
- Neglecting to educate staff or employees on LGBTQ+ issues, resulting in inconsistent or inappropriate messaging.
- Using LGBTQ+ employees as props in marketing and social media content during Pride Month instead of wholeheartedly amplifying their voices or advocating for their rights.
- Focusing solely on surface-level visibility throughout June, without actively working to create a diverse and accepting environment year-round.
- Choosing not to donate or contribute to queer causes or organizations, thereby failing to invest in the advancement and well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals.
When teams make the conscious decision to prioritize short-term gains from pride celebrations over true support, they run the risk of gaining a negative reputation and losing the trust of customers and employees alike — that’s long-term damage most businesses can’t afford.
Looking at Pride Hypocrisy
Some LGBTQ+ activists and influencers are speaking out against big brands that are seemingly showing their support for Pride Month. Take Disney, for example — advocates have noted that the global company has cut queer scenes from its media before, yet the conglomerate has taken advantage of Pride Month as a marketing tool. Because of this, some believe they aren’t a true advocate for marginalized audiences.
Or, let’s consider the problem that LGBTQ+ supporters have had with Amazon and Walmart in recent years. These multinational corporations have maintained a position of support; with Amazon raising a Pride flag at headquarters and Walmart hosting local events for Pride celebrations. However, both have donated over $400 thousand dollars to fund politicians that voted against key LGBTQ+ legislation.
Tips on Doing It the Right Way
It’s clear that rainbow washing and performative activism are not what you’re going for during Pride Month. Instead, you want your marketing campaign to communicate your authentic support — and we understand that can be easier said than done.
So, what are teams doing to get it right? Consider the following strategies:
Lead With Empathy
Humanizing your campaigns is crucial to successful Pride marketing in June. Rather than solely focusing on creating Pride-supportive products, you can shift the spotlight to the people behind them. Use the opportunity to highlight stories, experiences and triumphs to bring about true understanding and empathy.
In fact, research from Morning Consult reveals that 77% of LGBTQ+ adults support when companies use members of the community in their advertising — 10% higher than those who support teams releasing LGBTQ+-themed merchandise.
You can make your Pride Month marketing even more impactful by demonstrating support through donations to LGBTQ+ causes. Aligning your campaigns with financial contributions shows that you’re willing to take tangible steps toward advancing LGBTQ+ rights and representation — inevitably fostering confidence in your business and stronger connections with individuals across the community.
Update Your Website, Job Descriptions and Social Media Profiles
By updating your socials and other communication channels to use more inclusive language, your organization can showcase support for diversity and representation more clearly.
For example, you might want to review your job descriptions and verbiage to ensure skills and qualifications are at the forefront rather than gender or assumptions about personal life. In terms of social media, it can be a great idea to feature LGBTQ+ employees and allies in posts to share their stories. This contributes to establishing your business as diverse and accepting not only in person but online, too.
Make It a Constant
It’s important to remember that LGBTQ+ campaigns go beyond a single month: If you’re trying to showcase a true commitment to inclusivity and allyship, your brand should find opportunities to demonstrate support throughout the year. Your organization can ultimately send a much more powerful message and avoid the possibility of rainbow washing.
By embracing pride marketing year-round, you can foster an environment where all individuals feel seen and create a longer-lasting positive impact within LGBTQ+ communities.
Moving forward, this will likely be a key to attracting and recruiting diverse hires, as research progressively reveals that the perceived inclusivity of a company is a major factor in the application process for members of the queer population. A study from Indeed found that — out of those who identify as LGBTQ+ — 87% of applicants researched the company prior and 71% checked the team’s social media to ensure they were LGBTQ+ friendly.
Stand Up for LGBTQ+ Rights
Approaching your Pride Month campaigns with empathy and making meaningful contributions to the cause is the best way for your organization to establish trust at a time when genuine support is needed more than ever. And by uplifting marginalized communities, you’re contributing to a more inclusive society.
Going beyond mere symbolism and actively avoiding disingenuous activism is essential if you want to foster a truly inclusive and supportive business — not only for your LGBTQ+ employees and consumers, but your entire audience at large. In leveraging your company’s resources and marketing capabilities to work towards equality, representation and acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community, you have the power to create meaningful and lasting impact that surpasses Pride marketing in June.