June is Pride Month, the annual celebration of the LGBTQ community. This month-long holiday honors the historic 1969 Stonewall riots that heralded the start of the Gay Rights Movement in the US.
It’s been a tumultuous ride throughout our nation’s history to secure even the most basic rights for the queer community. Still, since the landfall 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage across the country, companies have increasingly found it profitable to engage in Pride Month marketing in the purported support of LGBTQ individuals.
Pride marketing can create good optics and increase revenue for many companies, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Over the past few years, large corporations that conduct Pride Month marketing campaigns have been criticized for hypocrisy. These companies recognize the considerable buying power of LGBTQ people and their allies, but fail to support the community meaningfully. Some might even actively work against it by funding anti-LGBTQ politicians and legislation.
When creating a Pride Month marketing campaign, it’s essential to recognize that the LGBTQ community is still largely marginalized worldwide. There are over 70 countries that criminalize homosexuality, and in 13 of these, homosexuality is punishable by death. Even in countries where same-sex marriage is legal, like the US, there are still anti-LGBTQ hate crimes. One can even argue that the anti-LGBTQ sentiment is increasing in this country, despite what the slew of rainbow-themed corporate logos would have you believe.
In 2022 alone, the legislative branch proposed over 300 anti-LGBTQ bills, largely targeting trans people, in 28 states. This number surpasses the amount in 2021, which the Human Rights Campaign deemed the worst year in recent history for LGBTQ rights. It’s only June, and it’s predicted the number of anti-LGBTQ legislation will increase.
It’s more critical than ever to show support for the LGBTQ community and celebrate queer identities. If you want to engage in Pride Month marketing in the most respectful and meaningful way possible, here are some dos and don’ts to consider when planning your campaign.
A rainbow-themed logo may communicate visually that your company allies with the LGBTQ community, but if that’s the extent of your support, you’re doing a disservice. A rainbow logo is the bare minimum of involvement. It often feels disingenuous and disrespectful if your organization doesn’t engage with any other type of LGBTQ support during the year.
Taking an active rather than passive approach to Pride marketing is vital. While allyship is optically beneficial to a company’s reputation, there’s an essential distinction between performative and genuine allyship. If you’re only trying to make a quick buck from the queer community through a rainbow logo without substantial support, that’s performative allyship. To engage in genuine allyship, you must demonstrate meaningful support through action.
There are many active ways your Pride Month marketing can make a meaningful difference. For example, you can partner with an LGBTQ nonprofit or charity during Pride Month and donate a percentage of your sales to that organization. You can also make it a company-wide campaign or even release limited-edition Pride merchandise and donate the proceeds to help the queer community.
If you want to boost the organization you partner with further, consider featuring them in an article on your blog or company website. You can showcase their contributions to furthering LGBTQ rights and spotlight individuals working within that organization.
Additionally, you can choose to extend your partnership with LGBTQ nonprofits or charities year-round. This action signals that while your company celebrates the queer community specifically during Pride Month, your involvement in the cause doesn’t end once July rolls around.
It’s common for companies to pick up the queer community and parade them around in June, only to drop them again once the month ends. This is merely another example of performative allyship instead of actual engagement.
If your company rolls out the rainbow carpet for one month out of twelve, that’s not contributing actively to furthering the needs of the LGBTQ community. You might release limited-edition Pride merchandise or feature a marketing rainbow-themed rebrand for June, but you’re not doing nearly enough if your engagement ends there.
If you want your company to be a genuine ally for the LGBTQ community, you should enact policies that support the community year-round rather than just June. Pride Month is an excellent reminder to review your company’s policies and ensure they amplify LGBTQ voices.
Does your company employ any members of the LGBTQ community? Are you doing enough to ensure your LGBTQ employees are adequately supported and comfortable reporting any discrimination? Are you offering health insurance that covers trans-affirming healthcare?
You can also uplift the LGBTQ community by supporting organizations or politicians actively fighting for queer rights. Make it a point of intention to support and engage with community activism year-round through partnerships or monetary contributions.
The LGBTQ community is vast and diverse, and there are many ways to be queer. While the stereotypical white, gay male may be the most prominent face in terms of privilege, you shouldn’t limit your branding to the “white-picket-fence” model of the community.
You might believe that once equality is granted for some of the community, equality can be achieved for the rest later. However, this idea leaves a large portion of the community underrepresented and unsupported.
Pride marketing should strive for equality for all. This means supporting the faces of the LGBTQ community that are often less visible or portrayed as less respectable. The entire community deserves to have their identities supported and celebrate Pride without restrictions.
Your Pride Month marketing should reflect the entire rainbow of the LGBTQ umbrella. The experiences of a white, gay male are very different from a brown, trans woman, but both equally deserve representation and support.
As you consider nonprofits or charities to partner with for Pride month, look for organizations working with some of the more marginalized identities within the community. Feature articles or blog posts spotlighting diverse voices or activists that vary from the “white-picket-fence” model. It helps to consider your company’s impact if any member of the LGBTQ umbrella looks at your campaign and sees themselves reflected in your marketing.
It should go without saying that your company shouldn’t participate in Pride marketing if you don’t plan to support the LGTBQ community year-round. It’s crucial to actively support LGBTQ voices at every turn and avoid partnering with or contributing to anti-LGBTQ creators or outright hate groups.
Many big corporations put on a false mask of support with their pride marketing while simultaneously supporting anti-LGBTQ+ legislators. AT&T is a long-term Pride sponsor and signed the Business Statement Opposing Anti-LGBTQ State Legislation, but also contributed over $300,000 to Anti-LGBTQ campaigns, according to Data for Progress. Other corporations with similar actions include Toyota, Amazon, and General Motors.
Pride marketing is more than just optics or monetary gains. A company shouldn’t be riding on the coattails of the queer community for profit at the expense of real engagement. Pride marketing, at its best, is about demonstrating real support and working with the LGBTQ community to celebrate.
Pride Month is about expressing pride in being queer and a time of celebration for all identities in the community. It’s about recognizing how far we’ve come since the 1969 Stonewall riots, but also how far we have left to go.
Activism is a crucial part of Pride Month, and that means engaging with ways in which we can further the rights of all LGBTQ individuals. Your marketing should be equal parts celebration of the joy of being LGBTQ and striving to improve the lives of the LGBTQ community through activism.
Pride Month is a great time to reflect on your company’s LGBTQ policies and spotlight your LGBTQ employees. It’s also a chance to encourage volunteer work with the LGBTQ community throughout your organization.
When planning a Pride Month marketing campaign, remember to let the LGBTQ employees within your company shine. They have the inside perspective of what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ community and can guide your campaign so that it’s not patronizing or exploitative.
If you don’t have LGBTQ employees at all levels of your organization, consider why not and aim to remedy that problem. Pride Month is an excellent time to reflect on how you can improve your organization, including restructuring to be more diverse.
Your Pride marketing campaign should reflect the LGBTQ voices in your organization, not the invention of people who aren’t a part of that community.
If you enjoyed this article and want to read more about what you can do to support the LGBTQ people within your company, check out How to Make Your Workplace a Safe Space for LGBTQ Employees. Want to learn more about queer-owned businesses and how you can support them today? Head to 11 Queer-Owned Businesses to Support This Pride Month and Beyond.
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