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Pride month: A lesson for marketers

Posted by Shaan Sidhu on 21st June 2019

This month is pride month, and for the LGBT demographic, it’s one where we’re going to spend some serious money. 2019 is particularly significant because it’s the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall protests, which means that turning looks, serving face, and living your best life are all high on the agenda this June.

As millions of people congregate to celebrate their identities worldwide, brands will do anything they can to tap into this unicorn-coloured currency. However, despite a worldwide buying power — estimated at a casual £4 trillionForbes recently discovered that 66% of LGBT individuals don’t see their lifestyles represented in advertising. This figure will keep increasing as young, proud, and open LGBT millennials enter their earning years and start reaching their spending potential.

This poses a fundamental question to marketers. According to Advocate, 75% of LGBT consumers would switch to brands they know to be LGBT friendly. So, how can brands resonate with LGBT people in a genuine way?

We’ve all seen a certain £4 ‘LGBT’ sandwich, and the majority of us weren’t impressed. Superficial advertising incentives aren’t going to attract the pink pound. Brands that consistently endorse and empower LGBT people, not just during the checkbox of pride month, will do a much better job overall.

Campaigns that portray an understanding about the wider experiences of LGBT individuals are essential to effect change that the community will invest into. Millennials in particular are bringing multi-dimensional conversations about their sexuality and genders into light. They’re therefore looking for advertising campaigns that reflect and respect this. Through capturing this changing narrative, brands can not only elevate the LGBT demographic but also ensure personal successes too.

Netflix, Coca-Cola, H&M, Calvin Klein, Pantene and Dove are just a few examples of brands that know the value of the pink pound.

As well as being one of the first US companies to support the non-discrimination employment act, Coca-Cola’s ‘The Wonder of Us’ 2018 Super Bowl ad proved the brand understands the power of strategic marketing. Celebrating diversity through a platform that reaches a whopping 100 million strong audience, the campaign was part of the wider ‘A Coke For Everyone’ campaign which pushes inclusivity.

The ad significantly made use of “them”; a genderless description favoured by many non-binary people. Coca-Cola also signed on to support same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, proving itself to be a global ally to LGBT consumers. Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive at GLAAD has referred to Coca Cola’s campaigns as ‘a step forward for the advertising industry.’

Another positive marketing example is Pantene Thailand’s ‘See Beauty Not Gender’ campaign, which aimed to remove gender bias directed towards transgender women and strip away stereotypes. The campaign used the #SeeBeautyNotGender hashtag via interactive Facebook and Instagram stories, helping transgender people to share their everyday stories, leading to wider discussion and placing acceptance firmly on the agenda. The campaign has been hugely successful in Thailand — and has even reached us here in the UK!

Netflix, which owns the rights to Rupaul’s Drag Race in the UK, has a strategic stance on LGBT rights. In January, the company moved production of its show OBX away from North Carolina due to an introduction of an anti-LGBT law. Inclusion of LGBT characters and roles across such a wide breadth of programmes has proven the brand invests in the representation of its consumers.

My advice to big brands? Take away those ‘limited edition’ rainbow-flag-emblazoned products — it’s tacky. Think boldly about the bigger picture and be a vocal (and above all) consistent ally all year round for better results that actually resonate with the LGBT community. By taking a stand on the issues that affect a community, the loyalty and advocacy it can create is a win for consumers and brands simultaneously.

Shaan Sidhu

Shaan combines his ability to build relationships with his creative flair to bring every PR campaign to life with the influencers that matter. It’s not all about tech for Shaan, though, as he also pursues a passion for fashion, modelling and politics. He’s also worked on the set of Netflix’s The Crown.