Pride season was back in June and we’re still talking about this? Yes, we are. Why? Well, because LGBTQQIP2SAA (Which stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Pansexual, 2-spirited, Asexual, and Allies. For the sake of brevity, we’ll refer to LGBTQQIP2SAA as LGBTQ+ for the remainder of this article) people are proudly LGBTQ+ all year long, and your support as a company or brand, if you are aiming to be an ally of the community, should be too. Let’s put it this way, you don’t expect your friends to only talk to you on your birthday. The same thing goes for the LGBTQ+ community. They want allies, or friends, with whom they can feel represented, heard, and supported at any time of the year, instead of only on Pride month.
I know there’s a lot to unpack here, but I’ll just start by saying that we as brands and marketers should recognize how big of an impact advertising has on the social landscape and how we have the means and platforms to influence society in a positive manner.
Are you with me on that? Alright, then let’s get down to business. Pink business if you will.
First up, I’ll dive into one of the reasons brands are marketing to the LGBTQ+ community now, more than ever: their immense buying power. It’s so big that if it were a country, it would be the 4th largest economy in the world with a GDP of $4.6 trillion! This fact has become so well known in the global market; they even gave us our own name: The Pink Economy. I, personally, find the name flattering.
According to a 2016 report of the U.S. Treasury Department, same-sex male couples have an average household income of $176,000, roughly $63,000 more than opposite-sex couples. Same-sex female couples also earn $11,000 more than opposite-sex couples.
Now, you can probably understand why you might have almost had a rainbow overdose this past June, with the influx of unexpected brands showing their support. From a marketing standpoint, those numbers mentioned above shed plenty of light on the rising inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters and imagery in advertising and media in recent years.
While all that support counts for much-appreciated visibility and representation, it does raise a question about authenticity vs. tokenism. Are brands embracing the rainbow just for the sake of seasonal sales? Or, are they really standing up for what they believe and seeking social change on a bigger scale?
Are brands embracing the rainbow just for the sake of seasonal sales?
Assuming you got to this point because you really are interested in stepping up your LGBTQ+ support and inclusion, let me guide you through some points to keep in mind. These will help align your actions with your brand’s purpose, so you justly represent the values of a community that will definitely cherish your effort. They are your consumers, and it’s not too late to begin (or nurture) a thriving, transparent, and passionate relationship.
Staying true to your brand’s purpose and identity is key to avoid raising authenticity questions among the LGBTQ+ community. People will know right away if you’re pulling an empty marketing stunt and doing it just for the dollars. So, if within your company’s values you embrace attributes like diversity, tolerance, and equality, and you’re working toward a more inclusive environment both inside and out, you are well on your way to delivering an honest and engaging message.
Remember, assuming never helps anyone’s decision-making process. There’s so much diversity within the LGBTQ+ community, and one person can’t represent them all. So, go ahead and do some quality research, and you’ll find that there are many positive, unrepresented personalities that could inspire you and your message. People will be thankful for your effort in looking past the safe/obvious, and you’ll avoid propagating stereotypes.
You probably know you’re going to get backlash no matter what, especially when dealing with “touchy” subjects, but if you applied points 1 and 2, your armor is already set up. Doing inclusive advertising is about taking risks and believing in what you’re doing so that you can stand your ground when challenges arise. Showing good faith and defending those you’re portraying speaks volumes to your commitment and value as a brand. Trust me, millions of people will have your back.
Yes, when you think of LGBTQ+, you may think colorful, fun, huge personalities, and all kinds of extravaganza, but there’s way more to it. Mind you, that doesn’t mean you have to give your brand an extreme makeover so you can be appealing to the community. The more natural the inclusion, the better. Again, steer away from the stereotypes and include LGBTQ+ characters like you would straight characters–accordingly to your message and identity. Remember to integrate, not alienate. That’s true inclusion.
I mean, sure the rainbow looks nice. It makes your Instagram profile pic pop, your shopfront stops traffic, and your merchandise will fly off the shelves. But, always remember why you’re doing it. It’s about your beliefs and the change you want to accelerate through your advertising and marketing. That’s the bar you’re going to be measured with.
Give some of those pink dollars you’re getting right back to the community. Wear the shirt proudly to support one of the many causes and foundations that help raise awareness. Fight for LGBTQ+ rights and protect the youth.
What you’ll get back from looking beyond the rainbow will be extremely rewarding for your brand, your consumers, and of course, our society. That’s the kind of income you want, not just for Pride month, but for all 12 months of the year. Now, can I get an “amen” up in here? (Oh, that rhymed! But it’s also a reference. Google it.)