Pride - Jumping on the Brand-Wagon?
Want to add a little Pride sparkle to your campaign? Senior Digital Marketing Account Manager Kizzy Burton outlines some dos and don’ts.
There are more than 1.3 million lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Britain, with an average annual salary of £31,000 and collective pre-tax income of £96 billion, according to a study by Out Now Consulting (Global LGBT2020). That’s a huge chunk of change!
One of the biggest challenges for any business is authentically marketing to the LGBTQ+ community. More than ever, we’re seeing worldwide brands attempting to jump on the ‘LGBTQ+ bandwagon’ to portray themselves as progressive or socially relevant whilst profiting from the pink pound.
Since consumers are increasingly considering the ethics of the brands they buy from, supporting gay rights has become a viable marketing strategy, but for some activists, it isn’t just about flying the rainbow flag.
Lazy attempts to try and capitalise on the growing wave of social positivity and acceptance towards LGBTQ+ people is more likely to annoy, with today’s consumers being increasingly cynical of overt and disingenuous corporate messages.
Matt Cain, editor-in-chief of Attitude explains the importance of credibility:
As most LGBT+ people grow up having to hide who they are before deciding to come out and celebrate their sexuality or identity, what we value more than anything else is authenticity.
We’ve explored some of our favourite Pride-friendly campaigns and a few gestures that fell flat, along with some advice on showing bona fide support.
It feels so right
Lucky Charms don’t have to think too far outside the box to be Pride-friendly; the classic American cereal is full of rainbows!
One of their stand out campaigns was #LuckyToBe which featured during Pride month. The cereal company encouraged people to ‘share what makes you colourful’ via social media. The campaign was named a favourite Pride campaign by GLAAD, an organisation that fights for fair LGBTQ+ representation.
Lucky Charms isn’t the only cereal brand to get involved with LGBTQ+ awareness, Cheerios celebrated the legalisation of same-sex marriage by using #LoveWins in a simple ‘Love is Love’ post. The gesture was subtle, but showed genuine acknowledgement without “cashing in”.
Virgin likewise celebrated marriage equality, impressing the LGBTQ+ community and allies alike with their ‘time for a honeymoon’ campaign. The adverts featured two champagne glasses, each smeared with bright red lipstick marks.
Ben & Jerry’s joined the celebration with a limited edition ‘Apple-y Ever After’ flavour, illustrated with an image of a gay couple.
Controversy sparked around H&M’s ‘She’s a Lady’ campaign, when One Million Moms - avid protesters of all things ‘filth’ in the media - stated, “H&M’s latest ‘She’s a Lady’ commercial includes what appears to be a man dressed as a woman”, and that it was “pushing an LGBT agenda”.
Ironically, the model in question was in fact female Champion Muay Thai Boxer Fatima Pinto, who is not transgender. Even more ironically, the ad does momentarily feature H&M model Hari Nef, who is transgender, but 1MM failed to notice. By including a transgender model amongst a whole array of women without drawing overt attention, H&M authentically enact their inclusive ideals.
A special mention to The British Army for their show of support during Pride in London this month. They have launched a special edition camouflage cream in the colours of the rainbow, supported by a poster campaign stating, “Camo cream is all about hiding and blending in, but this is a time for standing out and standing proud.”
This is a huge step for the army, since soldiers were only able to identify openly as a LGBTQ+ person since 2000. Stonewall recognises the forces in their Top 100 Employers for Diversity, a far cry from Donald Trump’s abrupt ban on transgender people serving in the US Military, announced by tweet this week.
It feels so wrong
Make no mistake: the LGBTQ+ community can tell the difference, and disingenuous attempts to cash in on the LGBTQ+ conversation will be eked out quickly by queer advocates.
If a brand hasn’t been seen to be consistent around same-sex marriage or gay rights, the audience may feel patronised. Similarly, if straight people are hired to portray the roles of gay people in ad campaigns, the credibility and validity of the communication is thrown into question.
JetBlue, an American low-cost airline, was noticed for all the wrong reasons after they tweeted in response to basketball player Jason Collins coming out. Their apparent lack of connection to Collins made gay rights supporters think twice. One Facebook user commented; “I guess I just don’t understand what JetBlue has to do with the story”. Another wrote: “Torn between applauding this sentiment and seeing it as a cheap marketing ploy”. Relevancy is paramount when it comes to joining the conversation.
Back on home turf, British queer rights organisation, OutRage! warned Tesco over ‘jumping on the gay bandwagon’ after they launched a niche gay-friendly motor insurance policy. The retailer vowed to offer discounts to same-sex couples to bring their pricing in line with heterosexual married couples, but OutRage! spokesman Peter Tatchell claimed,
“It’s good that Tesco is recognising the needs of lesbian and gay people with regard to motor insurance. However, I can’t recall it making a pitch to the gay community until now, and I hope it just isn’t an opportunistic attempt to jump on the bandwagon of the new laws”.
How can I get it right?
You may not have budgets like Virgin, Ben & Jerry’s or H&M, but a form of acknowledgement does go a long way. If your brand has no affiliation or specific relevance to the topic, a simple tip of the hat will suffice.
A post, tweet or update to congratulate a cause goes a long way.Use the appropriate hashtag to be seen and respond to comments. It also pays to moderate resulting conversations, ensuring that trolls aren’t souring your gesture of support in the comments.
When it comes to Pride season, it’s important to know your audience and consider how your product or service could be relevant to them. Create competitions and giveaways that appeal specifically to the unicorn squad, or offer a little added value to their experience.
For example, a coffee shop could profit from promoting opening hours during the busy Pride weekend, and offering free access to charge points with any coffee purchased, so parade-goers don’t miss an opportunity to take photos of the festivities - don’t forget to add a hashtag to raise awareness and increase engagement.
Lead, don’t follow! Why push out a halfhearted tweet when you can go that extra mile and demonstrate your involvement with the community?
Consider entering a float in your local Pride parade, and dedicate some of your online content to newsworthy articles or blogs around the subject. Let LGBTQ+ employees represent in their own ways, and give them support and space to do so.
At the end of the day, Pride isn’t about brands: it’s about people. As long as you can demonstrate authentic awareness and appreciation of the millions of individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, your message won’t go unappreciated.