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Somewhere over the rainbow, the month of June beckons to us in all its Pride filled glory. Shopfronts and social accounts will be decked from head to toe in glitter, rainbows, and feather boas. Streets will be parade route ready, and quite frankly after the past two years, we are SO ready to celebrate with the LGBTQ+ community.
Now our aim isn’t to turn something so positive into a negative too quickly - after all, awareness and visibility is a massive step in the right direction for the rights of LGBTQ+ people. However, this once a year rainbow-washing can sadly be disguised as advocacy without any authentic support for the community that brands are profiting from. Surface level rainbow coloured shows of support can actually be what our Founder, Kumba, described brilliantly in her blog post in regards to Black Lives Matter: Performative Activism.
When Pride rolls around, brands are quick to come up with strategies to capitalise on a niche market - infusing rainbows into logos, sponsoring Pride Events, donating small portions of Pride Collections to LGBTQ+ centred organisations and charities, and more - but where does the support go once the month of June is over?
While visibility and representation have absolutely increased in recent years, we are still only part of the way there - especially in certain parts of the world. In fact, being gay is still punishable by death in a whopping 11 countries. Even in the USA, under the recent Trump Administration, Transgender people were constantly subjected to their human rights being in jeopardy, and even had rights to non-discrimination in the health services reversed. The latest statistics from the Galop Hate Crime Report 2021 show that 9 out of 10 LGBTQ+ people in the UK have experienced anti-LGBTQ+ verbal abuse, and 64% have experienced violence or physical abuse.
So, as it is currently LGBTQ+ History Month here in the UK, it is the ideal time for brands to reevaluate and take stock as to how they are being true allies all year round, and not just when the rainbow flag is in fashion for 31 days.
Make sure that if you are creating a collection of merchandise specifically for Pride, a heavy portion of that profit is going directly to LGBTQ+ charities and organisations. By giving a substantial donation, or (even better) 100% of the proceeds, you are showing that your brand is worth more than just words (or rainbows). Here are some fantastic charities and organisations to consider donating to:
A special shout out to ASOS, Herbivore, and Morphe who donated 100% of their profits from Pride collections and collaborations to LGBTQ+ organisations.
Always make sure you know the morals and ideals of your suppliers. It’s one thing to say that you support the LGBTQ+ community but when your money is supporting people, companies, and countries that are actively anti-LGBTQ+…it can really seem the opposite.
So we recommend doing a bi-yearly check on knowing where your money is going. Are you sourcing materials from a company that actively donates to politicians who are anti-LGBTQ+? Are your suppliers outwardly homophobic on their personal social media channels? Are your products being made in countries where being a part of the LGBTQ+ Community is illegal? As the old saying goes; put your money where your mouth is. If your supplier's ideals don’t line up with yours and what your brand stands for, then there will always be another that does.
Diversity and Inclusion should be a core value for any current brand - and this is of utmost importance not just for your consumer base, but also for your employees. Below are just a few of the ways your brand can implement change from the ground up:
With 46% of LGBTQ+ workers remaining closeted at work, based on HRC findings, being vocal and actively supporting the Queer Community is not just about profit margins; it’s about letting your employees and co-workers know that they are safe and supported in their place of work.
Be vocal with how you are supporting the community. Often without inside connections to a brand, consumers have no idea how much work could be going on behind the scenes. Update consumers with what charities you are supporting, with what training you are undertaking, and which suppliers you may be switching to and why. Communicate your values clearly via your social media channels when matters arise that are important to the community.
Supporting the Queer Community when it is convenient (ie. during Pride Month) is not empowering or lifting up their voices - it is objectifying them. Identify, celebrate, and lift up LGBTQ+ people all year long whether it be behind the scenes within your company, or fronting campaigns with people of the community. With 64% of adults thinking that it’s positive for the LGBTQ+ Community to be featured in advertisements, it proves that representation and visibility plays such an important part in bringing in the new “normal.”
A great example of a company being transparent with their support is Zenni Optical. In 2021, while donating a significant portion of the proceeds of their Pride Collection to the It Gets Better Project, they also gave their customers a way to join in with Pride Events Online, proving that their support went beyond their own collection and profit.
The beauty of the internet being in the palm of our hands means it can be so very quick and easy to see which companies truly support the LGBTQ+ community, and which have hopped onto the Rainbow to find the little pot of gold at the end. Let’s take logos as an example. In countries where Pride Events are common, such as the UK and the USA, major brands have a rainbow overhaul across their social media accounts in an overwhelming show of support for the month. However, if you were to hop on over to their accounts catering to the markets for the Middle East or Russia, you would see a noticeably quieter stance on Pride - so quiet in fact that the month is just entirely ignored. Showing your support no matter the geographical location is imperative to demonstrate to your audience that your support comes from a place of authenticity.
“We needed something to express our joy, our beauty, our power. And the rainbow did that…The rainbow flag is a symbol of freedom and liberation that we made for ourselves.”
- Gilbert Baker, Creator of the Rainbow Flag
Business is all about appealing to a wider audience and inviting people in to belong in your brand. Let LGBTQ+ people know that with your brand they belong all year around, and not just for one month out of the year by reaching out to our digital marketing creatives.