This month, the topic on every marketer's lips seems to have been LGBTQ+ Pride and whether or not brands have a right to play in this space. Our Head of R&I Paul Greenwood explores the opportunities for brands during this time and, most importantly, what they should consider before jumping onto cause-led marketing activations, such as Pride.

It’s currently Pride month. What are the opportunities for brands to get involved?
The Pink Pound, powered by many DINK couples (Double Income, No Kids), has long been coveted by brands - especially the more premium ones. As a demographic, we’ve traditionally been seen as having more disposable income (and style!) than your ‘average Joe’. It makes sense for brands to target to the community.

How brands can be involved varies. Parades always need the big £££ sponsors to stage more fabulous and awesome events each year and that seems the most obvious way in. “Coming out” in support of Pride with rainbow flags (personally I’m not against this) on your socials or draped from head office raises the visibility of the cause, while creating products to celebrate queer culture (see Levis and M&S), might reasonate with the community - but always remember to give back, such as through support of LGBTQ+ charities.

The real opportunity for brands is to acknowledge and celebrate a culturally rich and diverse community that can be very loyal and help break trends into the wider mainstream. A note of caution - the community is happy to take the dollar of corporate sponsors, but we’ll read you to filth if you’re not backing up your words with actions.

Which brands have done Pride well to-date? And why was their content so successful?
To do well at Pride brands need to have a solid understanding and support the community beyond Pride month (both in their internal operations and external communications). Also remember that we, as a community, like to have fun and celebrate our different perspective.

For example, Absolut sells its Rainbow bottle all year-round and it was created with Gilbert Baker, who designed the original Rainbow Flag. The company came out in support of gay marriage in 2013 and it was a founding sponsor of the GLAAD Awards, which honours the media for their representations of the LGBTQ+ community. Beyond that, it has donated more than $40 million to gay and lesbian centres.

Similarly, Spotify gave the community a platform (quite literally) to get their voices heard through a series of short animations called Pride Stories. These remember important milestones in the LGBTQ+ movement and builds on the Pride playlists and Queer AF podcasts, highlighting the impact queer culture has within the music industry and wider world.

What is the general reaction of LGBTQ+ communities to Pride marketing campaigns online?
There are generally three types of reaction:

  1. The campaign in question is an example of representation that I don’t often see and that suits me just fine;
  2. The campaign in question is an example of rainbow capitalism / woke-washing and brands should leave well enough alone;
  3. I understand the campaign in question has elements of corporate appropriation and that is problematic, but I like it anyway and will buy/use that brand more as a result.

I’m guessing most of the community fall into the last bucket. When we carried out social listening around Pride, 2% of conversation was framed around rainbow capitalism - more on this in a social listening-focused post, coming soon.

This guy best sums up the feeling that most people have when he asks: “who would I rather buy from a) a company that has a corporate policy to support Pride; or b) one that doesn't?”

What should brands be considering before jumping onto cause-led marketing activations, such as around Pride?
There’s always a risk of accusations around “woke-washing” or corporate appropriation when activating around a certain cause and when marketing to marginalised communities.

My advice is that if you’re not treating or representing the people you’re marketing to in an equal and fair way (again, internally and in your outward communications) then stay away from it. You’ll be called out, causing more reputational damage than if you hadn’t done anything. Better still, rethink the way you work so you have a genuine reason to be in the conversation.

If you would like to get involved in certain causes - speak to the community, understand them and then activate. Be prepared for some kind of backlash (there’s always a few contrary souls in every community) and expect to support that community beyond the period you’re celebrating - ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ mentality. You’ll build trust and loyalty over time.

Where are LGBTQ+ communities most active online? Which platforms are they using and what are they using them for?
Just like IRL, the online LGBTQ+ community isn’t confined to specific areas of the internet; they’re pretty much everywhere. But that’s not to say there aren’t some uniquely LGBTQ+ spaces on social.

When looking at data on platforms used by the LGBTQ+ community vs the national average (Global Web Index June 2019), we over-index on Instagram and YouTube by 10pp (these platforms are also the most used along with Facebook), Twitter and Snapchat by 9pp and Tumblr by a massive 17pp. Interestingly the community over-indexes on Twitch by 4pp so there’s a chunk of gay-mers out there.

It’s safe to say that the LGBTQ+ community use social more. Personally, I mainly follow accounts or individuals that have a strong element of humour and social commentary - such as Saint Hoax and The LA Basics on Instagram. LGBT History is also a good follow to learn more about the movement.

My Twitter feed is more curated and goes beyond people I know - queer journalists and activists discussing the issues that affect the community. Conversations and debates crop up and it’s good to stay abreast of the different challenges affecting us, as a community. Brands may want to consider these behaviours - Instagram as the place queer culture and mainstream come together, Twitter as more of an internal place for debates. As with any community, there will be norms and nuances, so it's important to do your homework before wading in. 

So to those brands already looking ahead to Pride 2020, remember to acknowledge and celebrate the rich culture of the audience you’re trying to reach, to give something back to the community (and not just during Pride month), don’t just slap a rainbow on your logo, and ….