Pride month is finally here, and with each passing year the celebration becomes bigger and better. Pride month is celebrated internationally with events like Pride parades and festivals, as well as events featuring activists, artists, musicians, all representing, or in support of, the LGBTQ2+ community. 

We also see many of today’s biggest brands waiving their rainbow flag, either by launching multi-million dollar ad campaigns or releasing products targeted specifically at the Pride audience. Levi’s, H&M, and the Gap, for example, have all launched pride-themed clothing collections to honour the month and join the conversation.

Unfortunately many brands who participate in Pride are only scratching the surface. Launching limited edition products that have the colours of the rainbow on it is a superficial way of participating in Pride, which can come off as disingenuous to audiences and consumers. If your brand is looking to engage and support the LGBTQ2+ community, the way in is not to capitalize on their identity and the celebration of thereof, but to find ways to support the community on an ongoing basis. Launching limited edition products or campaigns is great, but if you’re not truly pushing forward as an ally, audiences will spot the difference. 

An example would be Listerine’s recent Pride campaign, which did not go well on Twitter. Many people commented on the lack of connection between a mouthwash bottle covered in the rainbow flag colours and the message of Pride. Despite the fact that proceeds go towards the Johnson & Johnson foundation, audiences couldn’t find a clear commitment to the LGBTQ2+ community outside of the month of June, and it left the brand open to criticism. As Fran Tirado, the deputy editor of Out Magazine commented, the hollowness of corporate Pride campaigns can fall short when brands are “using a rainbow in lieu of an actual idea”. Pride is not just a marketing opportunity, it’s a chance to look for ways to celebrate and include the LGBTQ2+ community in all areas of a brand; to integrate the purpose of the movement into your core values, to show audiences where you stand and who you are. And that’s something that matters to today’s consumers.  

In comparison, take for example TD Bank. Not only do they celebrate Pride Month, but they have also incorporated the inclusionary aspects of Pride into their company ideals. TD Bank has specific programming that lasts beyond the month of June, which includes supporting 160 LGBTQ2+ organizations and 83 pride festivals across North America. Additionally, TD Bank also ensures that they offer services catered to the inclusion and development of the LGBTQ2+ community, and were the first bank in Canada to cover gender affirmation surgery for employees and families.

Acne Studios, for their fall/winter campaign, is another great example of using purpose to prompt change. They launched a major fashion campaign featuring two dads and their children because, as creative director of Acne Studios Johnny Johannson noted, I therefore wanted to portray households of today, in all constellations”. Featuring members of the LGBTQ2+ community doesn’t – and perhaps more importantly shouldn’t – need to be limited to the month of June to make an impact. Brands that look for ways to showcase diversity all year round, and in more than just their marketing efforts, show a deeper commitment to the cause — and that authenticity is something that will resonate with audiences. 

So what can your brand do to not only engage in Pride but support the LGBTQ2+ community year round? Make diversity and inclusion part of the engagement strategy of your company. Engage with your employees, and the public, through purpose-focused engagement strategies that make your Pride message stronger — something that audiences can respect and admire. Make Pride your opportunity to take a stand and be an ally to the LGBTQ2+ community, not just for the month, but all year round. Brands that take stands on an ongoing basis – not just when it’s easy or expected for them to do so – will see a larger return from a more loyal audience. That’s what we call ‘Profit With Purpose’. 


– Muriam Fancy is an Engagement Intern with Public Inc. 

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