June marks Pride month, a time where the LGBTQIA+ community celebrates their identities and brands display their allyship. Rainbow packaging and advertising are steps toward visually supporting the community, but this is only the first step. It is important that brands meet the evolving consumer demands to be part of the long-term impact and change we wish to see. In order to do this, brands will need to ask themselves what it really means to be an ally.
Brands needs to come from a place of support and commitment. At Carat, understanding people means understanding that Pride is as much about celebrating how far we’ve come as it is about continuing the fight for inclusion and equality. This means that Pride celebrations are not for every brand. Pride is not a marketing moment; it is an opportunity to take an activist stance.
Here are steps and considerations brands can take to support the LGBTQIA+ community all year round.
Reflect On the Past, Understand the Future
Pride is a celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community, but it’s important to remember that it was born out of protests against police violence in New York City. Today, Stonewall is a historical event, but it did not mark the end of the fight for equality. Brands need to acknowledge that there's still much work to be done.
- Great campaigns have come from brands truly understanding a movement in order to add to the moment. This is done by pausing, learning, and listening.
- Provide a platform for LGBTQIA+ voices to tell their stories. Do not put community members on the spot, but instead elevate the authentic and genuine stories and experiences they are choosing to tell.
- Take care to ensure communications are inclusive and reflect the intersectionality of the communities you are celebrating.
From Tokenism to Activism
True allyship is about understanding the real, everyday experiences of that community—and then doing something about it. As we work to eliminate prejudices by amplifying voices of marginalized groups and elevating their voices in power positions, policies are made that meet the needs of diverse groups. This is not just about having "token" members but making sure that there are thriving communities within your company that contribute to companywide policies.
- To be a true ally for Pride, brands need to commit to ongoing support and constructive action. Change starts from within your own organization.
- Involve DE&I groups in benefits decisions to implement policies that benefit the community. For example, covering a fraction of the costs that are involved in fostering a baby, adoption, surrogacy, and fertility can help LGBTQIA+ families in their journey to parenthood.
Designing for Activism, Not Rainbow Capitalism
Incorporating the rainbow flag into branding should not be a one-and-done brand approach to Pride. The Pride flag is a powerful symbol of safety and acceptance, which is why it's so important for brands to understand the audience in which they are targeting. Using the Pride flag as an aesthetic choice in your advertising does not make your brand inclusive.
- If a brand is looking to include the Pride flag in advertising, it is important to consider whether the message they are trying to send is clear and supported in other elements of their marketing strategies throughout the year. Is the flag being incorporated in a way that is low-lift and does not make a high-visibility statement? Or is it being flown outside the office building to signify a safe space?
- As you consider whether or not to incorporate the Pride flag into your brand advertising, research the meaning behind each color and ask yourself: does my company's values truly represent what these colors stand for? If so, then flying the rainbow flag can be an act of activism—one that demonstrates your support for all members of your community.
From positive, intersectional celebrations of LGBTQIA+ people during the month of June to evergreen brand commitments, strides have been made to bring Pride celebrations and activism 365 days a year. But there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Pride is about human rights, identity, acceptance, physical and mental well-being. A brand will not be called out for doing nothing, but brands have been called out for celebrating Pride without being intentional with their messaging. By taking certain steps and considerations, brands can move past designing Pride campaigns for social media clout or to tick a box on a cultural calendar — brands can focus on designing their Pride campaigns for people.