Pride celebrations kick off this month. There are (and will be) parades, events and rainbows galore as the LGBTI+ community and their allies present their pride to the world through activism, colour, debate and discussion, dance and a whole lot of fun. Over the last number of years, these celebrations have tempted 1,000's of brands and organisations to get involved - some more successfully than others. Nonetheless, the coming together of brands and organisations with Pride and the LGBTI+ community has become a hot topic.
CAUSE MARKETING’S PROBLEM
To begin, we’re going to step back from Pride for a moment and address marketing with ‘purpose.’ Trends show that young people are gravitating toward brands and organisations with purpose. Almost two-thirds of millennials and Gen Z want “brands that have a point of view and stand for something.”
From a brand perspective, according to Kantar’s Purpose 2020 report, brands that fall into a ‘purpose-led strategy’, stand to grow at twice the rate of those without any higher-order societal aim. Seems like a no-brainer, right?
But there’s a disconnect. ‘Cause marketing’ is not working for everyone. For some marketeers, it’s too deep or risky. ‘Purpose,’ isn’t always an objectively clear term, and many find it difficult to put into practise, or even to combine the idea of ‘CSR’ activity with traditional growth KPIs. On the other hand, young people are skeptical or even cynical of some of these purpose efforts from brands.
As a result, in order to have an impact, new research is telling us that having a purpose must extend beyond one campaign. For example, take Nike’s campaign around Colin Kaepernick, which highlighted his protest against racism and social injustice. According to this survey, “Nike still only secured a 60% aided awareness of an association with any cause at all and only 27% with racial justice.” The work didn’t hit the mark of associating Nike with ‘the cause.’
Having a point of view (or producing rainbow merchandise) alone doesn’t cut it. Brands need to embody the cause or purpose deeply, not just use it as a one-off campaign.
PRIDE: GETTING INVOLVED
From the perspective of Pride and LGBTI+ youth, there are a myriad of reasons as to why your brand or organisations should fly the rainbow flag and put an effort behind supporting these communities. In recent days, conversation has been driven behind an incident in the UK, where two young women were beaten up on a London bus. 24 year old pop star Halsey spoke out about the attack:
“It’s Pride month right now. Which is a really exciting thing… But the sad reality is that after the Pride parade is over and the bars closed, and the glitter is being swept out of the streets a lot of people get on those trains and they get on those buses, and they wash the rainbows off their skin and peel the stickers off their clothes. Because when Pride is over, it’s not safe to be gay anymore. There is a worry that someone is going to viciously assault them or attack them.”
While there is a brilliantly positive energy behind the LGBTI+ equality movement (many countries have legalised marriage equality), the reality is that there’s still a social divide - and a long way to go to establish LGBTI+ rights around the world.
HOW TO DO IT RIGHT
With all the hype, fun, positivity and pride it can be remarkably easy to forget that you’re speaking to a marginalized community when it comes to Pride. And, because the occasion is so popular, it can be tempting to fall into ‘disruption’ mode, to get your name to stand out. Remember, at the end of the day, this month is fundamentally not about disruption or hijacking - this is about human rights issues that young people are facing daily in every corner of the world. Ensure you constantly remind yourself of this fact and involve young members of the community in your planning (whether that’s a sense check or more in-depth collaboration) or collaborate with an organisation or individual with credible experience in the space. Youth are hyper-sensitive to bandwagon jumping, and need to see that those getting involved in the conversation are putting their money where their mouth is:
“I'm happier to buy from a company that is targeting LGBT people if they donate even a small percentage of my money to an LGBT organisation. To me, this shows their support for the LGBT community and that they're not just jumping on the bandwagon.” Dylan, 17
As Sonia Thompson puts it: “before your company gets caught up in the euphoria of Pride fever, make sure you're not committing the cardinal rule of engaging with a marginalized community: showing up only during a celebration for such a community, in this case Pride Month, with a superficial show of support.” Yes, Pride is all about the expression of positive energy, so a brand or organisations involvement doesn’t have to be too serious. But, we’re living in a time where young people are doing their research, calling out those getting it right (and wrong). Involvement should be considered in both short and long-term contexts - inside and outside of Pride month.
Active at Pride? Take some time this month to remind yourself of the reasons you are doing it. Remember to involve youth and experts along the way. What comes next?
Considering participating in Pride? Before you get involved in Pride, educate yourself on the pertinent modern challenges - and opportunities - for LGBTI+ youth. What could your value-add be? Add depth and meaning to what you say by staying on the pulse of what’s important to the community and by showing your support for relevant causes.