5 mins

Pride 2022 is in full swing, bringing communities together through boogie-filled and affectionate events. However, whilst there’s certainly fun to be had, it’s also important to point out the absolute no-no’s from a marketing perspective – such as rainbow washing.

Today, we’re talking to all you advertisers who want to get educated and understand why rainbow washing is something you should absolutely avoid doing through your marketing efforts. Let’s get to it! 

What is Rainbow Washing? 

Rainbow washing is when businesses present themselves as allies for the LGBTQIA+ community through weak or empty gestures. Want an example? 

Have you been on social media recently? Are you scrolling through LinkedIn right now? You’ve probably noticed some companies’ logos have changed in the last few weeks to something more rainbowy. Even stranger, these logos seem to turn back to their classic colours when Pride comes to a close.

Of course, we’re not calling out all companies here, but many think changing brand imagery to Pride colours is enough to proudly state – “look at us, we’re an ally!”. 

Rainbow washing can be easy to fall into. Exploiting team members for content, pushing products through rainbow-filled imagery or marching in parades for your own publicity are just a few of the actions considered harmful. 

And when you do, the reaction from users can be brand-damaging, but more importantly, it misrepresents and takes away from Pride’s importance and its communities. Let’s look at this in greater detail.  

Why does rainbow washing matter? 

The LGBTQIA+ community has a gigantic stock in marketing. According to LGBT Capital, the global annual spending power of the pink pound across the communities is a whopping $1.4 trillion – yes, trillion!  

But with that comes caution in how you advertise or support these communities. Of course, you can’t please everyone – take M&S’ LGBT Sandwich, for example. But you can account for intention, value and respect. 

Unsurprisingly, people within the LGBTQIA+ community like to be represented and supported with consideration. Slapping a rainbow on your brand or overemphasising someone’s identity in your ad to be “inclusive” damages what Pride is continuously working against.

It’s even worse when you realise the financial gain from these watered-down actions is filling the fat pockets of large, uncaring corporations.

So, what can marketers do to ensure they’re contributing to genuine change? 

Pride – The full 365 

It’s fantastic that the LGBTQIA+ community get a month to celebrate in all its glory. However, once the party (and potential hangover) is gone – support must carry on. 

Support takes many forms; it can be the tiniest detail. Respecting people’s pronouns across social media and conversations creates fluid normality for identities. This means a great deal to audiences consistently interacting with your brand. 

Innocent drinks are a brilliant example of how brands can use a tone of voice to be respectfully inclusive. The company’s LinkedIn post highlights how the brand now attaches pronouns on Teams, email signatures and social media profiles. 

Innocent also invited speakers from the LGBTQIA+ community to share their experiences; so everyone across the business has a chance to hear what life is like for others. That’s how you do it! 

Call out crappy content! Highlighting brands doing it wrong within Pride is one thing. Being there for them throughout the year shows you honestly care about better expressions for the communities within advertising. 

Make your platform a pedestal. Do you have a large audience or influential presence online? Share the spotlight and highlight the creative work from LGBTQIA+ brands similar to your work – or things you think need preaching!

Rich Ferraro, chief communications officer at GLAAD, states – “If a brand doesn’t have a 365-day-a-year plan for LGBTQ inclusion, they really need to prioritise that over prioritising a one-off Pride campaign.” 

Measured Success 

So you made your socks for the month rainbow coloured. Well done. Now, what are you going to do? As mentioned earlier, empty gestures won’t help. You have to have a clear objective and outcome for community-supportive branding. 

Whether it’s in Pride or a personal campaign throughout the year, ask yourself – “why are we creating this campaign?” Are you supporting a specific cause or charity? Is the product targeted at a niche audience? 

These questions will lay the foundations for what social and creative assets need making. But make it unique – don’t dye your product’s colours just because; create a campaign that resonates with the audience. 

Check out D&AD’s award-winning LGBTQ+ campaigns celebrating diversity for some snazzy inspiration. 

Owning Up 

Sometimes, you can get it wrong. It may not be intentional, but slip-ups can happen. What’s necessary is taking responsibility and addressing the situation. 

Campaigns are reactionary, and changing with the times keeps you ahead of the game. Engaging with LGBTQIA+ communities and understanding why a campaign doesn’t vibe well with them shows dedication to improvement. 

Evaluate your values. If your ideologies are transparent, your mistakes are easier to identify. It also shows that even if you make mistakes, your goals are to improve and learn from them – everyone likes improvement. 

If you’d like to know more about supporting the Pride community throughout the month (and across the year) – check out our other blog here

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