Each year, in the summertime, Pride collections emerge like a swarm of vividly coloured locusts. They envelop every storefront and Instagram feed in June, promising solidarity for LGBTQ+ communities. In 2021, we are yet again observing the second virtual celebration of pride month. Numerous brands have leveraged pride marketing to increase visibility and lend support to others within the LGBTQ+ community who are still exploring their identities. However, brands tend to forget the existence of the community as soon as July rolls on. It makes us question, is this just another marketing gimmick?
While it is customary for Pride-themed merchandise to spike during June, a practice known as rainbow capitalism, is often criticised and compared to pinkwashing. Nevertheless, there is still tremendous value that can come from rocking rainbows during this time of the year. Like ‘empowerment campaigns’, several brands climb the trend wagon in Pride month, with no concern for the cause. Pride marketing is empathetic, where aiming ‘just for sales’ will misfire and attract more backlash from the audience and hurt the entity's image in the long term. Therefore, brands should not use Pride month to ramp up the sales but instead use their platform to show support and disperse awareness.
In 2020, Burger King's Pride month initiative was very thoughtful and won many hearts. Their tagline stated, "The pride is on you. The parade is on us", along with their delivery vehicles transformed. The campaign persisted till July 5. This year, diverse brands showcased their support to the community beyond rainbow washing and making the most out of pride marketing.
Popular brands like Fossil, Apple, Reebok and others often dedicate enormous resources during Pride month to LGBTQ+ non-profit organisations (among them, The Trevor Project, GLSEN and different groups), which means you could be helping others gain access to valuable resources, too.
To honour Pride month, Fossil launched its all-new limited-edition Pride collection to celebrate the spirit of love, equality and the very essence of individuality. The proceeds from this collection will benefit The Trevor Project — the world’s most significant suicide prevention and crisis intervention organisation for LGBTQ+ young adults.
In the case of Apple, it has released two new Apple Watch Pride bands this year and a new Pride watch face for users. The brand also supports many LGBTQ+ advocacy organisations, including Encircle (which offers safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth, young adults and families), the National Center for Transgender Equality (committed to social justice advocacy for transgender humans), and others.
To add on, Reebok’s newest collection celebrating the LGBTQ+ community features a vibrant assortment of Pride-inspired footwear and apparel. The items were designed by Colorful Soles, the brand’s LGBTQ+ employee community, which also partnered with the legendary House of Ninja (spotlighted in the iconic documentary, Paris is Burning). Moreover, Reebok is donating $75,000 to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which advocates for affirming access to social, health and legal services for persons of all gender identities and expressions.
Into the bargain, loads of fashion and beauty brands create Pride-inspired products that not only help you look great but also feel good as they support organisations that empower and uplift LGBTQ+ communities.
To give some instances, the Gap Collective Pride collection includes T-shirts, hoodies, socks and more for all ages. The brand is donating $50,000 this season to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), an LGBTQ media advocacy organization.
Levi's is flaunting the Pride collection "All Pronouns. All Love" by emphasising respect for people's pronouns. They have the inscribed phrase "they/them, she/her, he/him, we" on their collections, which is gender-neutral. It will be donating 100% of the profits to OutRight Action International.
NYX's limited-edition collection comprises a wide makeup range that will bring a colourful ultra-metallic sheen. It will also donate $100,000 to Pride efforts globally and contribute towards the LA LGBT Center.
Other brands are also making their Pride-themed offerings and donations a year-round initiative, including Happy Socks, donating 10% of the sales from its rainbow-coloured socks to InterPride throughout the year, and Pink, which has expanded its offerings with its gender-inclusive Pink for All collection that debuted earlier this year.
Next door, LEGO has launched a limited-edition LGBTQ themed set. This is the first LGBTQ set with 11 monochromatic figures, each with an assigned colour and 346 pieces creating a rainbow cascade.
Meanwhile, TGI Fridays have introduced a decadent, delicious dessert. This dessert is six layers of rainbow-coloured vanilla cake piled high with vanilla icing and sprinkles and is available for home delivery and in-store locations. Part of the profits generated from the sales will be donated to support GLSEN.
Many music platforms in India, like music streaming service Jio Saavan and Spotify, and music channel VH1 are also celebrating Pride Month.
Unlike other brands, Skittles took a bold move of launching limited-edition Skittles Pride Packs that come in grey packaging rather than rainbow washing. Even the candies inside are grey with delicious strawberries, orange, grape, apple, and lemon. For every pack sold, $1 will be donated to GLAAD.
Shira Kogan, Director of Corporate Development at The Trevor Project, said "We are thrilled to see so many companies and brands stepping up to support Pride this year." Well, it is true that brands have the power and platform to influence others. These brands can tell stories to empower the LGBTQ+ community through marketing campaigns or a separate product line. Together they can create a world where the LGBTQ+ community is championed, celebrated and protected.
The result is that consumers of Pride gear are becoming more aware and are making an effort to shop where proceeds will make the most significant impact, including shopping at small, queer-owned businesses. For example, consumers are taking note when companies only feature underrepresented groups during their respective history or heritage months, says Ali Fazal, Vice President of Marketing at influencer marketing platform GRIN. "(If) the only time they see LGBT people represented is during Pride Month, it's clear that what you're doing is not a long-term evolution for your company and your marketing." says Fazal."You're just trying to capitalize upon the seasonality of that month."
Now let's be honest: Most major brands have not maintained a consistent enough relationship with LGBTQ+ communities to survive Pride month without some level of scrutiny. More often than not, ‘rainbow washing’ — that is, the act of deploying Pride-themed versions of their products and marketing it without substantially engaging queer communities — tends to be the minimal-effort route that multiple brands take and majority of consumers recognise these attempts as inauthentic almost immediately.
But it's never too late to start developing real bonds with LGBTQ+ consumers. One of the most effective ways to show support is through charitable efforts, and Pride offers brands ample opportunities to turn their specialised products into the support that resonates beyond June.
According to a recent analysis, queer consumers who tend to maintain higher median household incomes, are more likely than other marginalised groups to actively seek and patronise the companies that engage with their collective community in a sustained fashion.
Fortunately, some brands understand the lasting power of giving back. It is important to remember the message one leaves out there can help lay the foundation of change. We need to understand that equality is not a once-a-month fight, but year-round support is necessary — not just for Pride month, but all the social causes we rise for. Together we can create a world, which is fairer for everyone.
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