Do Brands Care About Gay Pride?

How we can evaluate companies' claims to support LGBTQ rights

August 6, 2017

This year in the UK marks the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Coincidentally, many of the worlds biggest consumer brands chose this year to incorporate Gay Pride into their marketing messages, employing adverts and media stunts to spread a message of LGBTQ love and unity.

Skittles humblebragged about giving up their rainbow, and many others produced billboards championing the cause to an equal degree, the tone of which could be considered at best mawkish, at worst unacceptably cynical.

Great that they've caught up anyway - but why should we be celebrating when they are so late to the parade?

Better late than never

Mainstream acceptance of LGBTQ is a good thing, and we should welcome them into the fold, particularly given the current alt-right backlash against perceived ‘liberal’ values. Just when we thought the world had moved forward, the open attack on transgender people serving in the armed forces is a sobering reminder of the daily struggle that many still face.

Nevertheless, it's hard to bestow anything beyond a warm welcome upon companies that we know to be desperate for exposure and relevancy.

A friendly reminder of what you already believe 💁🏻

Brands mirror society, not lead it

Big brands don’t usually fight battles, but they do like to turn up trumpeting when they have already been won. Therefore, a healthy cynicism is needed when evaluating any attempt to join a movement that began well over half a century ago.

They offer us what we really want in life - love, acceptance, simplicity - and deftly transpose their products into our hearts as a means of attaining it.

So, before we offer any congratulations, we ought to remember that they are society's looking-glass, not its leaders. They merely reflect to us what we wish to see.

By way of proof: how many Pride adverts are likely to be displayed countries like Qatar, where almost all of these brands certainly have activities, yet same-sex sexual activity is punishable by up to seven years imprisonment?

"Love has always been one of our Core Values™...in key territories where it resonates with target consumer groups."

Mirror, mirror on the wall: any chance of this happening in Qatar? 🤔

A quantum of sincerity

Consequently, the sincerity of any marketing stunt can be measured according to the marketer's record of material contribution to supporting organisations and initiatives.

If they are making money off our moral stance, it is criminal that they ignore people who are affected by the issue and in need of support.

Some undoubtedly good work has been done in this area, with companies including Nike, Levi's and American Apparel (are they still going?) donating significant amounts to LGBTQ causes.

As consumers though, it is our responsibility to hold these adverts up to the light - metaphorically speaking - and see whether they carry the watermarks of authenticity.

Converse will donate 100% of profits of it's Pride line to LBGTQ initiatives 👌🏿

Stop funding hate

We've said that brands don't fight battles, but one way in which they can influence society is to withhold funding from organisations that do not support inclusive, egalitarian values.

A recent example would be LEGO's termination of any promotional activity with the Daily Mail, a publication which routinely produces miasmic rhetoric against minority groups.

This was a prize scalp indeed for the burgeoning Stop Funding Hate campaign, but more can and must be done by other companies who purportedly champion LGBTQ values - and we must refuse our praises and custom until they do.

I guess you could say they've...let them go 😎

Will these colours run?

Keep watching the parade. If LGBTQ issues are ‘on-trend’, we should shortly see a return to business as usual.

For many, the rainbow dye will simply come out in the wash.

However, the war for equality is never out of season, so let’s reserve our congratulations for companies who make a brand out of advertising sincerely, taking material action to support their stance, and addressing the systemic pressures that permit inequality and intolerance to prevail around the world.

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