With June marking Pride month in many markets around the world, it won’t be long until we start to see rainbow colours adorning websites with brands signifying their inclusivity of the LGBTQ+ community… And with a combined buying power of over $5 trillion, brands are of course no doubt tempted to hang their name to the cause to try and get to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
As a marketer or business owner should you jump on board the rainbow train and produce content that speaks to your inclusivity of the community? The answer is a subjective one, but in short – if you’re going to do it, do it well, make it genuine and avoid rainbow washing at all costs.
Rainbow washing, by definition, is the “deliberate use of symbols and specifically the rainbow for the sole purpose of profiting off the LGBTQ+ community.” It’s disingenuous, lacks integrity and is incredibly damaging for brands, as well as the overall inclusion movement.
In this article we explain the importance of embracing Pride marketing authentically and in a way that lands – essentially, how to create video marketing pieces that show unequivocal support for the community and tell stories that help drive positive change and impact the cultural conversation.
According to a recent report1, the LGBTQ+ community is estimated to include roughly 480 million individuals globally, and if the community were a country, it would have the fourth-largest GDP on the planet2.
That said, a recent study by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found that just 1.8% of characters in advertisements submitted to Cannes Lions featured representatives from the LGBTQ+ communities, despite making up approximately 8% of the world population3. What’s more, a recent GLAAD study showed that 20% of Millennials – consumers with considerable earning potential – identify as LGBTQ+. With statistics like this and cold hard cash on the line, why oh why is this group a constantly overlooked demographic for 11 months of the year?
Ensure representation in your campaigns, but don’t make assumptions. Unless it’s an important piece of context or adds an essential element to the story, don’t overtly identify the sexual orientation, or any other demographic factor of an individual. To ‘signpost’ someone as a member of the LGBTQ+ community can appear cliched and disingenuous. For example, if telling a story of a family, recognise that family structures are diverse – i.e., not every two-parent family features a mother and father; if telling a story about a dream wedding, recognise that not every couple features a bride and a groom; if telling a story about a personal hygiene product, recognise that not everyone identifies as a binary gender.
Representation is a major factor when it comes to driving purchasing decisions and consumer behaviour. A recent study by NPD Group4 revealed that 21% of respondents said LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion influenced their decision to purchase a particular product or service. Studies also show that this community pays particular attention when it comes to the sincerity of a business or brand, with 70% looking beyond the rainbow-washing and stating that a brand’s reputation as LGBT+ friendly, or not, has had a direct impact on their purchases. Sadly, a study5 released last year from Unilever, revealed exactly this – that 66% of LGBTQ+ individuals between the ages of 18 and 34 believe people from diverse backgrounds are featured in ads “just to make up the numbers.”
It’s vital to remember that representation matters behind the lens as well as in front of it. At 90 Seconds, we’ve embraced Tripartite Standards in our hiring practices and to help guide the way we run our global business. Tripartite Standards is an external framework to ensure a fair and progressive workplace and in turn, help us to practise our vision of being an inclusive and equitable workplace, with diversity at the heart of our culture. This is something that filters through all that we do, all year round, irrespective of the month in question.
So how do you ensure your campaigns are sincere and cut through the rainbow-themed clutter? First and foremost, brands need to go deeper. Forget the roll out of a rainbow-coloured logo, switched back to your typical one come 1 July – inclusivity of the community cannot be limited to June, it needs to be part of all you do, always. If a company’s efforts are limited to the creation of a Pride marketing campaign and not looking within and ensuring its business is representative and inclusive, then efforts need to be quickly redirected. Or as Rich Ferraro, Chief Communications Officer at GLAAD said recently: “There’s power in brands participating in Pride Month, and it’s important for their employees and their consumers to see support for the community during Pride Month. But it can’t just be during Pride Month. If a brand doesn’t have a 365-day-a-year plan for LGBTQ inclusion, they really need to prioritize that over prioritizing a one-off Pride campaign.”
Today’s consumer takes no prisoners and nor should they. With the world expecting more from brands and 70% of all consumers6 citing they expect brands and businesses to be socially and environmentally responsible, it comes to stand that consumers are keeping an increasingly watchful eye when it comes to the integrity and sincerity of charitable partnerships and marketing campaigns.
If your business is product-based, forget about adorning a special ‘rainbow edition’ if proceeds aren’t going to be directed back to charities that support the communities overtly claiming to be represented. In recent years, both Puma and Gucci have come under fire for exactly this – releasing rainbow sneakers during Pride month, without any association to charity; a move that did not go unnoticed7 and which left a lasting question mark over the integrity of their efforts.
More of an issue for privately-owned companies, but also be mindful of the beliefs and associations of major investors in your business. For example, brands are being increasingly held to account8 for promoting their support of the LGBTQ+ community during Pride month, despite company owners having a public political allegiance, or financial backing, to legislators who sponsor or support organisations that actively condemn the community.
But don’t be put off – there are many brands that do this well, and if a brand is genuine, meaningful, sincere and considered, their campaigns will rise above the rest. Take Jägermeister for example, who in a post-pandemic world which has seen nightlife ravaged, have shown their unequivocal support of the community through their “Save the Night”9 campaign which saw the donation of one million euro in partnership with The Lesbian Bar Project to keep these safe spaces open.
Whatever your vision, at 90 Seconds we can help bring your idea to life. Want to host a virtual Pride parade? Our Livestream or Virtual Event products might be what you’re after. Want to celebrate your LGBTQ+ employees and elevate their voices? Consider a People Story. Want to highlight the integrity and creativity behind a collaboration with a Pride-supporting charity? A Case Study could be your answer. Reach out to the team today.