Jamie Love, founder of Monumental and Marketing Director of Pride Edinburgh, explains why brands need to look at their year-round LGBTQ+ strategy to get Pride Month right.

All throughout June, as we hope you’re fully aware by now, we celebrate Pride Month. The month celebrates the first march (it was officially a protest back then) that took place to fight for equal rights within the LGBTQ+ community in 1969. The Stonewall riots signified a turning point in history, paving the way for the progression of the community right up to the present day.

Whilst things have moved on massively in the 53 years since then, there are still some pitfalls that meet scrutiny every single year as June rolls around. In the marketing world, it’s something we like to refer to as ‘rainbow-washing’. But what exactly is it?

Rainbow washing is when a business or organisation typically slaps a rainbow flag onto their product, logo or across social media as an act of ‘allyship’ and support, but doesn’t recognise the significance or importance of that flag. For marketing, these companies see it as a way of reaching LGBTQ+ audiences by showing support.

Reality check: all it does is come across as performative and we can see straight through it, I’m afraid.

In a previous article, I mentioned how the ‘pink-pound’ – a phrase used to describe the buying power of the LGBTQ+ community – is estimated to be worth £6bn a year in the UK alone. If your so-called ‘support’ falls flat and doesn’t come across correctly, then you might be missing out on a massive proportion of your sales throughout June and beyond, each and every year.

The key to making sure it translates the right way? Being authentic and meaningful.

As you approach your marketing plan for Pride Month, you’ve got to think of the broader picture and establish how this fits in with the other 11 months – the “straight months” if you like. As soon as July 1st arrives, the logos change back to the default palette, email signatures are stripped of their rainbow colours and everything returns to “normal”.

But this shouldn’t be considered a default setting, as LGBTQ+ lives are not abnormal in any way and have a valid voice to be heard within everyday life.

What can you do to make sure you’re not performative?

For this, you’ve got to consider how diversity can be promoted on different channels in more meaningful ways. How does that logo on the float translate to how you work with influencers or the content you have all year round?

Let’s take a deeper look into the influencers example. If you’re a brand or agency engaging with influencers, then you are responsible for ensuring that a diverse group of voices are heard. Of course, they have to be in line with the campaign and its specific brief but it’s important to remember that all audiences should be represented.

And this needs to happen all year round. It shouldn’t just be a consideration during Pride Month – or similar periods such as Black History Month; it needs to be part of the everyday thought process. Influencers have become a huge part of marketing and will only continue to grow in the future, so it’s crucial to be working with the right ones.

Consumers can see right through something that isn’t genuine nowadays, so it’s even more important to allow those influencers and creators creative freedom with their content. This is especially true on platforms such as TikTok, which has become a sales machine for a lot of brands, where content needs to appear genuine to be effective.

Here are my three top-tips for marketing throughout Pride Month (and beyond):

  1. Consider how your content can translate throughout the rest of the year. If it’s something you’re only putting out during June, then you need to try harder.
  2. Stand by your actions. At first, you might experience some initial resistance from a non-LGBT audience, but it’s important to stand by what you do and say and back everything up.
  3. Put your money where your mouth is. It’s great that you’re championing diverse voices but how about those who aren’t so lucky to be heard. Trans groups are still severely undervalued, so you could give a donation to a charity that supports trans people.

At the end of the day, we’re all trying to advance commercially. But that sale shouldn’t come at the expense of a particular audience or group of people. Pride Month is built on happiness, so don’t try and take that away with any meaningless or performative marketing – it could well do more harm than good.