Branding Pride: It’s complicated
We’re nearly five years out from the landmark supreme court decision ruling it unconstitutional to deny gay couples the right to marry and fifty years out from the Stonewall riots in New York City, which makes this Pride month, June of 2019, an especially monumental one.
In the years between now and that 2015 court ruling, a way to keep a finger on the pulse of the United States’ growing acceptance of the LGBT community has been following the advertising and branding put out during Pride month.
In 2019, it is more of a rarity to see a brand stay silent during Pride month than it is to see one come out in support of the celebration. In the past, this has taken the form of full-on campaigns and specially branded limited-edition products decked in rainbow stripes, including everything from sneakers to French fry containers.
There’s no question that brands are expected to communicate more inclusively, lest they run the risk of alienating an entire audience: the LGBT community.
But as a quick scroll down your Twitter timeline will show you, many consumers are fed up with the now-tired practice of slapping a rainbow on a product for a month and calling it a day.
In fact, it’s even become the subject of ridicule in some cases where consumers feel as though brands have made cheap attempts at garnering support through branding that feels out of touch. This feeling is summarized well by words from Out! Magazine deputy editor Fran Tirado in a twitter thread addressing both brands attempting to market to the LGBT community and that community themselves.
Tirado writes, “If we don’t hold brands accountable to better ideas, they will continue to see us as one-dimensional rainbow dollar signs, capitalizing on our oppression and giving nothing back for decades to come”.
Tirado also provided examples of frequently-used branding styles or choices that are ineffective in actually reaching the LGBT community and pointed brands in the direction of how to approach Pride month in a way that is resoundingly inclusive, such as the necessity of partnering with LGBT nonprofits on these campaigns.
Tirado’s words echo the sentiments expressed by Scott Goodson, founder and CEO of StrawberryFrog, the world’s first movement marketing agency in an article for Fast Company.
Goodson writes: “In these volatile times, brands actually should become more willing to take a stand. They should become more activist, not less. But they should do so in a thoughtful, considered way that is more likely to put them on the same side of passionate issues as their customers are”.
Therein lies the key to successfully marketing to a community during a time of equal parts celebration and remembrance of the difficulties endured to be able to freely partake in that celebration.
Brands and advertisers must approach Pride month with sensitivity, support, and great care to convey to those celebrating that they are standing behind them fully rather than demanding their business on the basis of sentiments that can come off as vague or hollow. There is, of course, something to be said for the impacts that can come solely from a brand taking a stand in the form of symbolism and representation, but many are longing for a more concrete effort from the brands they support.
StrawberryFrog is committed to supporting and celebrating its employees who identify as LGBTQ+. Our agency will be represented by employees participating in this year’s annual FRNY LGBT Pride Run, the first official event of 2019 Pride Weekend benefitting The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, otherwise known as “The Center”. Additionally, the Frog Pond is holding a celebration of our own – an all-agency happy hour outing at Boxers in Chelsea next week to celebrate inclusivity.
Happy Pride, everyone!
Jacqueline Preyer is a copywriter at StrawberryFrog.