Ahh, Pride Month. From the first of June through the 30th, the LGBTQIA+ community and our allies convene to celebrate the many accomplishments and strides made by those who came before us in the past 50-odd years. And in the last five years alone, brands have latched onto us — for better and for worse.
The LGBTQIA+ community has a long-standing history of struggle and marginalization — one that’s proven how society has come a long way, but still has even further to go. Yet, a beautiful community has risen up proud, self-determined and unafraid to take on the world as we know it.
While Pride Month should be about community, recognition, and honoring the millions of people who left us all too soon, it’s unfortunately become a money-making machine for many organizations that tend to drop off the face of the earth when July 1 rolls around.
Here are five considerations to help your brand avoid the performative pandering and be a true ally to the LGBTQIA+ community — all Pride Month and beyond.
1. Consider who your brand is to the LGBTQIA+ community
This is your starting point and the bare minimum when considering how to approach Pride Month from a business and marketing perspective.
From tons of commercials, ad campaigns and more that remind us that we’re seen and valid (were we not before?), Pride Month has become an opportunistic cash grab for many organizations. From rainbow caps to bowls and flair that do anything but give back to the community — whose profits are actually pocketed by companies that support anti-queer action and more — our community has grown weary and tired.
We want brands to do better, and some simple thinking before speaking is a nice start.
For example, the term “gay” is not a blanket noun for the entire LGBTQIA+ community. When you write for Pride Month campaigns, products or services, use LGBTQIA+ or a variation of the acronym (i.e. LGBT or LGBTQIA).
Also avoid using the term “queer,” unless you’re an explicitly queer organization, as it is a slur that’s been reclaimed by the LGBTQIA+ community (some members of the community don’t use the word at all).
Intention plays a major role here as well. What is the goal of your Pride Month campaign? To uplift the community or boost your Q2 sales? What did your brand do outside of producing some print ads and out-of-homes about what a great month this is? Be genuine, and don’t forget that people can tell the difference. And be prepared to weather the storm when — not if — the haters start to hate.
2. Speak up and put your money where your mouth is
Just because you slap a rainbow on your products or offer a Pride Month discount doesn’t mean you’re empowering the very disenfranchised LGBTQIA+ community. In fact, so many brands do this that we wonder what else could be done instead.
So, consider: what are you doing to give back?
For example, products from Barbie to Pop Tarts to Nike have been doing work that benefits organizations that work to serve the community directly. If your campaign has all the right intentions and looks to provide something equitable and long-lasting for the community, that heart will shine through.
Check out this list of brands that did Pride Month right in 2022, and these reactions to those that didn’t. But even brands like Target, that historically approach Pride Month the right way, have started backing down when homophobic and transphobic activists turn up the heat.
3. Stay in the know about LGBTQIA+ issues and statistics
Until the mid-1950s, LGBTQIA-identifying people were often the source of unfair targeting, harassment, assault and even murder by police and everyday individuals.
To this day, transgender folks experience grossly disproportionate rates of murder and hate crime-related injuries. Gay, lesbian and bisexual-identifying people are twice as likely to experience a mental health crisis and are 120% more likely to experience homelessness.
To us, Pride Month represents the acceptance, solace, and comfort we’ve grown into, as well as the families we’ve forged when our blood relatives couldn’t find the love in their hearts to validate our identities.
When history and media teaches the world that members of the LGBTQIA+ community are less-than human, these statistics are often brushed off with a simple “that’s not my problem,” yet it is.
The biggest question we ask when we see your Pride Month ads is simple: Do you really empathize with our historical plight?
Delving into LGBTQIA+ issues brings about discomfort and the common, “Oh wow, I can’t believe that happened! Why are people so hateful?” Because they’re taught, Karen, that’s why. Brush up on your history, consider your own thought processes and unconscious biases, and think about how your brand can cut through this generalized Pride Month clutter.
Instead of telling us we’re seen, heard and valid, and that you’re standing right beside us — it’s OK that you’re not — do something actionable. Show up, show out and do more than perform for us. Donate to LGBTQIA+ organizations, normalize LGBTQIA+ imagery in campaigns, hire real-life LGBTQIA-identifying people for your ad placements, or publish a statement on your unwavering support and admiration for your LGBTQIA+ customers and employees.
We’re self-affirming and passionate enough — we don’t need faux support or tired quotes that would work better on a dollar store card.
Having awareness of these issues will help your team craft an excellent campaign that leans into these insights in an authentic and caring way.
4. Change hiring practices first
If you have no one from the LGBTQIA+ community working on your Pride Month campaign, how will you know if the messaging is making any points at all?
For years, members of the LGBTQIA+ have reported being fired from “open and loving” workplaces for no reason other than being their authentic selves in the workplace. This has also led to disproportionate unemployment rates, financial instability and so much more.
For example, post-pandemic layoffs impacted LGBTQ-identifying folks at a rate of 17%, versus a nationwide rate of 14%. Remember that only a small number of the global population identifies as LGBTQIA+.
Our vast experiences, emotional intelligence and creative outlook make us excellent candidates for any job, and our ability to overcome obstacles with the best of them are all impressive qualities.
Not to mention, we can provide temperature reads on campaigns, offer a unique perspective and insert non-heteronormative nuance and greatness into the campaigns.
The LGBTQIA+ talent exists, but are you really looking for it? Hiring and retaining a team of LGBTQIA+ talent will inform your campaign success, feasibility and longevity. Don’t be afraid of moving the needle toward a truly inclusive workplace.
5. Know that Pride Month doesn’t end on June 30
While we unabashedly celebrate Pride Month with the bravest parts of ourselves, us LGBTQ-identifying folks still experience incessant pandering by businesses who don’t follow through once Pride Month ends.
Pride parades ride on long after June is over, and multiple day, weeks, or months have been designated to various members of the LGBTQIA+ community. There’s National Coming Out Day, Transgender Awareness Month, Bisexual Awareness Week and countless days, weeks and months dedicated to our gays, theys and everyone in-between.
Do periodic updates about sales and how many donations they’ve yielded as a result. Lean into these many celebratory days and craft sub-campaigns that add consistency and affirmation to your Pride Month promotional. This level of tact and care will go a long way.
If your brand is looking to create a sustainable Pride Month campaign, trust an agency who understands and embraces the LGBTQIA+ community. Contact us and learn how we can help you craft a heartfelt campaign that truly connects.