The following post kicks off our “Diverse Voices” blog series, digging into effective ways to communicate with diverse audiences. Click here to read more in this series.

What brands should consider before running Pride campaigns

Christopher Street Liberation Day March, 1970 (Photo by Diana Davies, courtesy of New York Public Library)

Christopher Street Liberation Day March, 1970 (Photo by Diana Davies, courtesy of New York Public Library)

Since its official declaration in the United States 20 years ago, the world has celebrated “Gay & Lesbian Pride” throughout the month of June. In 2019, 49 years after the first march in New York City, community leaders have continued to fight for equal civil liberties, facing the marginalization of intersectional groups with issues such as basic healthcare and employment rights. Although there has been gradual progress, there is still so much to do.

However, 2019’s Pride Month seemed to be celebrated more than in previous years. With this year marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, every news outlet covered Pride events, and popular brands rolled out content specific to LGBTQ+ communities and allies. Surprisingly, brands that have never spoken out on the topic of diversity and inclusion made their voices heard for the first time. Hundreds of Pride hashtags were shared from brand advocates, and several logos were changed into Pride Month’s signature rainbow gradient.

But as a black woman identifying as lesbian, I interpreted many of the rainbow-painted advertisements not as authentic, but as opportunistic. While there are plenty of brands who successfully ran inclusive, effective and realistic campaigns during Pride Month, the number of forceful, commodifying advertisements was alarming. Before running a Pride campaign, brands should ask themselves the following questions:

Is the ad’s content aligned to the brand’s public stance on social issues?

As we saw in campaigns that backfired last month, it’s not a good idea to hop on the bandwagon of a social issue unless it makes sense for the brand and is done authentically. If this type of content is so foreign to the brand that they fail to incorporate appropriate pronouns when addressing LGBTQ+ people, the lack of diversity within the organization will become very apparent. To help brands educate themselves, the Human Rights Campaign graciously compiled a guide to “Getting Transgender Coverage Right.”

Is our charitable giving campaign authentic?

If a generous portion of proceeds for Pride Month charitable campaigns aren’t donated to nonprofits that benefit the LGBTQ+ community, your brand runs the risk of being viewed as fraudulent. And considering that a great portion of LGBTQ+ identifying people are millennials (the most altruistic consumer market today), brands can expect to be held to the messaging they pair with Pride campaigns all year long, not just during the month of June.

Are you celebrating the right people?

Marsha P. Johnson (Photo by Diana Davies, courtesy of New York Public Library).

Marsha P. Johnson (Photo by Diana Davies, courtesy of New York Public Library).

Pride Month was founded to commemorate and shine light on those affected by anti-gay crimes and legislation. If your brand is running a Pride campaign, it’s important that the people at the core of the movement are represented. With today’s technology and advanced styles of communication, marketers have the opportunity to target and represent diverse communities by showing their real history. Showcase LGBTQ+ heroes, such as Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Stormé Delarverie. Allow queer-identifying people to tell their own stories. Pride Month is designated as a safe space for LGBTQ+ visibility, so brands should balance the ratio of social responsibility on behalf of straight binary allies with the honoring and representation of queer voices in their content. The LGBTQ+ community is very vigilant of smoke and mirrors.

With so many brands boarding the Pride bandwagon this year, it will be interesting to see how many of them keep the same energy all year. Obviously, LGBTQ+ identifying people do not disappear after the month of June. And with more than 1.4 million people identifying as queer in America, we hold considerable consumer power, worth over $1.7 trillion.

That’s a lot of rainbows!

2019 Dallas Pride Parade (Courtesy of  Dallas Pride )

2019 Dallas Pride Parade (Courtesy of Dallas Pride)

Cover image: The Stonewall Rebellion (Photo by Diana Davies, courtesy of New York Public Library)