More and more brands now recognise Pride month as an opportunity to support the LGBTQ+ community but producing campaigns of substance remains a challenge. While many have fallen into the trap of simply of adopting a brightly coloured rainbow theme on their socials in solidarity – something which increasingly feels like an empty gesture – others have created collections of Pride-themed products. To the community they are trying to connect with, this approach has seemed performative and – at times – even offensive. The most notable of example? Skittles’ 2017 “Give the rainbow” campaign.
The fruit-flavoured candy brand received backlash for this initiative, which involved removing its colourful packaging for a limited edition white wrapper in honour of Pride month. To many, it was perceived as a racist push by Skittles that only whiteness could be with equated equality. However, the brand denied this and adopted grey packaging following criticism. Since then, Skittles has made a conscious effort to get things right by working with people from the community and donating proceeds from its Pride campaign to LGBTQ+ charities including GLAAD. In 2021, Skittles even collaborated with the Gay Times, Switchboard and Queer Britain to recolour historic LGBTQ+ images for its most recent campaign, Recolour the Rainbow.
Taking part in Pride goes beyond rainbow packaging – whether it’s removed or added. Consumers gravitate towards brands that are authentically inclusive and mirror their values so companies need to ensure they’re working to amplify marginalised voices in these communities as part of commercial partnerships that generate long-term change. As it stands, consumers aren’t buying into many of the Pride campaigns that are being pushed out. In fact, a study from Unilever found that 66% of US individuals from the LGBTQ+ community between the ages of 18 and 34 believe people from diverse backgrounds are featured in ads “to make up the numbers.”
So, what exactly can brands do to change this?
- Firstly, it is important to assess and evaluate whether you and your brand truly care about the LGBTQ+ community. Is Pride a tick box on your marketing community? Consumers will see right through this.
- If your values do align with the cause, educate yourself and your company. Acknowledge that as much as Pride is a celebration of a community made up of diverse individuals, it is also a movement in the ongoing fight towards LGBTQ+ rights.
- Make an effort to embrace the different intersections of the community. On too many occasions, Black people and other people of colour are neglected from the mainstream narrative. The LGBTQ+ community encompasses people from different backgrounds that have different experiences and stories to share. It is crucial there is representation behind the scenes of Pride campaigns as well as the frontline. Go even further by collaborating with LGBTQ+ non-profits and influencers.
- Invest in meaningful relationships and seek to help solve the long-term challenges the LGBTQ+ community are facing.
- Lastly, representation of the LGBTQ+ community shouldn’t be limited to Pride month. The most successful campaigns come from companies that put the effort in throughout the rest of the year. Make inclusivity an objective for your brand’s campaigns 365 days a year.
Here are standout campaigns from this year’s Pride month that have embraced a push of action beyond the rainbow hue…
Through its offshoot brand Collusion, the online retailer joined forces with youth worker Tanya Compas and her non-profit organisation for Black LGBTQ+ youth, Exist Loudly, as an extension of its Pride campaign. The collaboration not only resulted in a series of projects to celebrate the stories of Compas’ mentees but ASOS took further action by donating £38K to the organisation to help with the launch of its first long term programming for Black LGBTQ+ youth who are NEET (not in education, employment or training). This will help the young people connected to Exist Loudly access community and employability skills, explore creative mediums and network with industry experts from similar communities. On top of this, one of Compas’ mentees Moses – who also featured in the campaign – has now been signed to a modelling agency as a result.
Virgin Radio UK
The station launched Virgin Radio Pride UK to address important issues within the LGBTQ+ community as part of its core programming. The new station will be running up until the end of September and is also working with partner organisations within the community including The Food Chain, a charity which helps people living with HIV in London lead healthy, independent lives as well as mental health charity Shout, The Logbooks podcast and many more. The line up includes drag performer Tia Kofi alongside presenters Phil Clifton and Shivani Dave who will facilitate conversations around trans rights, gay adoption issues, living with HIV and insights to help parents understand LGBTQ+ issues.
The platform has been working on a series of projects as part of its broader Pride campaign. Alongside its “Show Your True Colors” initiative which highlighted the benefits Pinterest can offer its LGBTQ+ users, it added a new gender pronoun option on both personal and business profiles similar to Instagram’s and has been spotlighting content from LGBTQ+ creators throughout the month. Included in the latter is a collaboration with Nicole Crentsil’s platform celebrating Black women, girls and non-binary people, Black Girl Fest. The partnership brought together two artists Denai Moore and Chloe F.ilani. from the Black LGBTQ community to reflect on what brings them joy. Meanwhile, Pinterest also worked with grassroots publication AZ magazine to highlight four trailblazing QTIBPOC creatives based in the UK.
- BPerfect Cosmetics joined forces with drag performer The Vivienne to launch a limited edition eyeshadow palette called Sceptre. A percentage of sales from the collaboration will be donated to LGBTQIA+ charities.
- Harry’s partnered with writer and model Jamie Windust as part of its Stride with Pride campaign to talk through places that have shaped their identity.
- Bluebella launched a rainbow lingeries collection with RuPaul’s Drag Race UK contestants A’Whora and Tayce with 10% of its proceeds donated to the Kaleidoscope Trust.
- The Body Shop enlisted drag performers Lawrence Chaney and Tia Kofi to do a Reverse Roast as part of its #SelfLoveUprising movement encouraging other LGBTQ+ members to show self-love.
- YouTube produced a month-long YouTube original series’ as part of its Pride 2021 campaign to raise funds for The Trevor Project. Alongside the likes of Elton John and Demi Lovato, the platform also worked with YouTuber Dan Howell to release a one hour documentary entitled “Gay and Not Proud”.
By Jennifer Adetoro, culture editor of CORQ. Picture credit: Moses Kamanga via Instagram.