Ahead of Bristol Pride this weekend, we were discussing how we as a brand can show our support for the LGBTQ+ community, each and every one of us here at Six believes in full, social equality for everyone. No matter what gender, race, or sexual orientation. Supporting Pride and the LBGTQ community with all of our hearts goes without saying.
How we show that support, however, led us to some very interesting discussions. Especially when it comes to the popular show of support that a lot of brands adopt, of updating our logo from its usual colours to those of the rainbow.
In this blog, I explore those brands that have succeeded in showing their genuine and authentic support for the LGBTQ+ community as well as those who have fallen short.
The very fact that more brands than ever are showing their support for the LBGTQ community, by changing their logos, does show the significant progress and acceptance that the community has achieved. But with these branded shows of support, questions are starting to be asked around the authenticity and motives behind the action.
When considering updating the logo, I did have a surprising reluctance to do so. We didn’t want to be seen as flippantly ‘going rainbow’ for the sake of it, to tick a box or to jump on the bandwagon. We have been asking ourselves does the rainbow rebrand alone really have a measurable impact on driving positive social change for the community that is so desperately needed? Does updating your logo and making rainbow cupcakes actually help?
The LGBTQ+ community is still fighting for obtaining human rights and equal treatment under the law. Raising awareness is fantastic, but what about genuine action and support? How can we actually make a difference?
In June, I attended the social media week event, ‘Social activism in the digital age’. I was fortunate enough to witness a panel of inspiring LGBTQ+ influencers who were joined by passionate social activists, Pussy Riot. They all offered an honest narrative to the global LGBTQ+ movement and shed light on their personal journeys to date. Since then, I have a different perception on how brands can support the community in a way that has purpose and longevity, rather than just a fleeting nod of support with a logo change.
In the transparent world of social media, unauthenticity can be easily spotted. Audiences are becoming increasingly sceptical and their trust for advertising is at an all-time low. From decades of over-targeting, a bombardment of multi-channel communications and the more recent privacy breaches, the consumer is suspicious and hard to engage with: “Public favourability towards advertising hit a record low of 25% in December 2018, according to Credos, which has previously found trust in advertising is in long-term decline”.
If a brand chooses to celebrate a moment in time, whether it’s Pride or something else, that’s great. However, I believe there is now a need to continue that narrative, connect with your consumers beyond that one moment in time and create impact for the cause.
Otherwise, the consumer and, more importantly, the cause, can see through a campaign as being simply an opportunity for commercial gain.
Bristol-based start-up Huggg, for example, is donating 100% of their earnings from each purchase of their ‘pride huggg’ real-life treat to the national LGBTQ+ homeless charity, akt. On top of making an actual contribution to the cause, the ‘pride huggg’ product option is live for 365 days, as per all other huggg offers – rather than a one-off. Finally, when the brand updated its logo to feature the rainbow, they publicly announced their rationale via a clear and simple blog post via LinkedIn. Huggg’s support was visibly honest, genuine, authentic, and stands the test of time. It’s safe to say that their support will have a positive impact as well as raise awareness of the cause.
Another noticeably proactive supporter is make-up brand MAC cosmetics. They are sponsoring more than 20 Pride events in the U.S. this month. They’re also going further than this four-week promotion by donating $500,000 to GLAAD over the next two years. Their contribution will go towards public awareness campaigns to fight LGBTQ+ stigma. MAC’s global general manager, Philippe Pinatel summarises, “Our LGBTQ efforts were never about a marketing campaign but have been inherently embedded into every facet of the brand.”
Similarly, Spotify has launched an interactive out-of-home campaign that has a double purpose for greater impact. Firstly, they will activate out-of-home digital billboards that simply feature the word ‘yes’ in front of the pride flag. A bold creative move that reflects their confidence in supporting the cause. Secondly, Spotify has also created an inclusive ‘Pride Classics’ playlist that can be accessed across 15 cities, including London, New York, Paris and Madrid for three months. Again, an example of a brand both raising awareness by going rainbow while also being proactive with their activity.
On the flip side, there are brands that have clearly made the transition to rainbow in a hope to gain popularity. The way in which this can be spotted is when the brand pride campaign is simply out of sync with the brand’s business as usual. A good example of this is Addidas and their 2018 ‘pride pack’. They released a special selection of rainbow merchandise in honour of pride month. However, Addidas was also a major sponsor of the World Cup that took place in Russia; a country with anti-LGBTQ+ laws that make it unsafe for fans and athletes. It is easy to see how a contradiction like this can cause speculation in the true motives behind their rainbow merchandise.
And this contradiction is certainly not going unnoticed in the LBGTQ+ community. Member of the LGBTQ+ community, Eleanor Margolis, when mentioning the M&S Lettuce, Guacamole, Bacon and Tomato sandwich wrote: “Personally, the glut of Pride products has me in a permanent toss-up between feeling patronised and jaded”. Fran Tirado, an editor at Out magazine, took to Twitter earlier this month with a reminder that: “You are about to capitalize on our identities/marginalization for corporate gain. It is therefore worth giving a second thought to your limited-edition rainbow product!” The tweet gained 8.8k retweets and 22k likes, so it’s certainly an opinion shared.
With views such as this in the community, brands need to seriously start to examine their motives behind ‘going rainbow’ because they are dangerously close to alienating the very people they are trying to support in the first place. Perhaps instead of brands ‘coming out’ for pride, they could turn their support into ongoing, consistent engagement with the LGBTQ+ community.