With Pride Month less than two months away, brands planning their 2021 campaigns need to pause and think about the many ways LGBTQ+ consumers have evolved in recent years.
The rise of Gen Z and its constant awareness of culture have only amplified the need for brands to keep their fingers on the pulse of change. Plus, brands need to put their efforts behind genuine, thoughtful messaging that speaks to a wide spectrum of people: an audience of highly varying identities and needs that spread across the map.
If brands want to gain and maintain trust from today’s LGBTQ+ consumers, here are seven things to keep in mind while mounting their Pride efforts.
LGBTQ+ consumers demand year-round equity
First and most importantly, consumers who identify as LGBTQ+ expect brands to see and hear them every day of the year—not just during June. If you have a rainbow-themed campaign in the works, make sure it’s adaptable for long-term engagement. Brands can no longer sit on the fence, and those that appear during Pride and disappear the rest of the year will not be viewed favorably. Brands that want to celebrate Pride need to be year-round advocates for systemic change.
LGBTQ+ communities are intersectional
More than ever, LGBTQ+ consumers are not one-size-fits-all. People of color, trans and non-binary people, people with disabilities, and people of varying religions, ages, body types, and income levels are all part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Forgo blanketed, catch-all campaigns and opt for multi-pronged approaches that give space to a range of voices and experiences.
Non-coastal areas have very different pride experiences
Brands have long flocked to coastal commercial hubs such as New York and L.A. to tap into the biggest Pride events and queer markets. But Pride is celebrated nationwide, and there are currently 27 states that lack LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination laws, including Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. There’s a geographic privilege to queer marketing that needs to change, and it starts with brands looking inside the coasts to communities that could truly benefit from big brand support.
Queer people suffer from universal hardships at disproportionate rates
If your brand wants to give back this Pride, don’t limit your actions to simply making donations to LGBTQ+ causes. Instead, make an effort to incorporate LGBTQ+ people into actions that you are working on in other areas. When you support food banks, homeless shelters or mental health organizations, think about how LGBTQ+ people can benefit from this, too—especially since they experience these hardships at disproportionate rates. Do on-the-ground research to find out where you can help most.
Black pride and LatinX pride are equally important
The major Pride festivals that have historically been dominated by CIS white males aren’t the only Pride celebrations that roll out in June. Black Pride events and LatinX Pride events happen concurrently; however, virtually none of them receive brand support. Turn your attention to these festivals this year, especially where they’re most prominent: in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Equity is needed in front of, and behind, the scenes
Pride is not just a party; Pride is about human rights, and LGBTQ+ consumers want to see and feel that brands’ Pride initiatives are both by queer people and for queer people. If the team behind your campaigns largely consists of straight and CIS folks, chances are your audience will sense an inauthentic disconnect. Don’t just hire LGBTQ+ talent to front your Pride initiatives; populate your workforce with people of similar life experiences.
A modern “do no harm” philosophy is essential
Today’s social climate demands that brands ensure their work is sensitive, culturally conscious and current. If young people are always up to speed with the latest sociopolitical trends, your team should be in lockstep with them. Understand the modern lexicon of LGBTQ+ experience. Refrain from reinforcing stereotypical queer trauma and focus on celebrating the beauty of queer communities. Remember that, for safety reasons, many LGBTQ+ people in varying areas aren’t even out. Think before you activate and consider who could be helped—or hurt—by what you produce.
The bottom line: Be a purposeful brand that helps set the standard that modern LGBTQ+ consumers are essential, diverse and thriving every day and everywhere.