Pam Anderson
Jun 2, 2024

Pride Month marketing: From rainbow-washing to wariness

As we kick off Pride, corporate participation is expected to dwindle.

Pride Month marketing: From rainbow-washing to wariness

With Target downsizing its Pride collection and the Bud Light backlash last year, companies are wary about Pride Month campaigns and the potential repercussions. This is in stark contrast to a few years ago, when LGBTQIA-focused brand campaigns surged. At the time, this trend sparked accusations of rainbow-washing, as many questioned whether companies were merely jumping on the marketing bandwagon.

Given we’re in an election year, executives and brands have become increasingly hesitant to take a public stance on social issues. Despite increased representation in marketing and media, it’s disheartening that offering support to diverse communities is still seen as divisive.

So, what does this mean for marketing and PR strategy? After all, there is a huge value prop for brands that can garner positive awareness by showing genuine support and alignment with the LGBTQIA community. Here are some key considerations for marketers and brands seeking to participate.

Support before spend

PR pros should guide clients to ensure their campaigns and partnerships align with their brand values. Before posting that “happy Pride” message, reflecting on your brand values and past actions is crucial. Consider these questions:

    Do we genuinely support our LGBTQIA employees and the community at large?
    Have we shown appreciation/support in the past?
    Are we prepared to back up our support if critiqued?
    Is our product or service offering inclusive?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then it’s time to do more work to ensure your marketing is not performative. Brands offering support in the current climate must be ready to stand by their commitment, even if it means facing backlash. This momentary pushback is minimal compared to the discrimination and violence the LGBTQIA community systematically endures.
Trust over profit

One of Pride month's most common marketing tactics is a collection launch. The problem?

These collections often seek to profit from the community rather than support it. There are other ways to illustrate alignment. Consider:

  •     Hiring queer creatives/influencers.
  •     Hosting an event in support of a non-profit.
  •     Showcasing current customers from the community.
  •     Making a substantial donation rather than a portion of sales.

Partner beyond Pride

Whether it’s Pride, Black History Month or Disability Awareness Week, it’s essential to recognise these causes exist beyond one moment. While doing a campaign during these holidays can feel more timely, it often can come with the need for increased planning and budget due to increased competition. During Pride Month, LGBTQIA influencers receive a high percentage of their profit and brand partnerships. Instead, consider a campaign during another time – or, even better, explore long-term partnerships that allow for consistent value for both parties.

Ultimately, 70% of consumers want to buy from brands that reflect their principles. Marketing leaders must navigate what aligns with their values and take a stance as Gen Z and Millennials demand further transparency. Those who fail to do so risk being perceived as inauthentic and uninspired.

Pam Anderson is the associate director of PR at 829 Studios.


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