By Devika Narayan
June is a meaningful time for the LGBTQ+ community. What started as a day to honor a significant catalyst for the gay rights movement — the 1969 Stonewall Riots — has expanded to a whole month of reflection, education and celebration. With rainbow-adorned cities around the world hosting a number of events and parades to celebrate the community, Pride Month is an important moment in time to recognize progress made and acknowledge work that still needs to be done. And, with nearly two-thirds of consumers wanting to see companies address LGBTQ+ rights, more brands are looking to Pride Month as a way to join in the conversation and demonstrate support for LGBTQ+ causes in a more visible way.
While it is encouraging to see more companies like Sam Adams, Disney and Madewell raising money for the community by releasing limited edition Pride-themed merchandise, brands that truly stand out as allies are making authentic commitments that have the power to enact meaningful change year-round. Here are a few takeaways from companies that are taking their support to the next level:
- Promote Inclusivity through Holistic Engagement: The online gaming community has a long-standing reputation for not being inclusive. Last year, Amazon’s gaming platform Twitch sought to combat this stereotype with the launch of #TwitchUnity. This year, the extensive campaign continued promoting unity and diversity by prominently highlighting members of the LGBTQ+ community on its website, raising money for LGBTQ+ causes and creating permanent emotes for its chat function inspired by the gay, bisexual, transgender and lesbian flags. Additionally, Twitch teamed up with the It Gets Better Project to empower employees to share their support and encouragement for LGBTQ+ youth all around the world. Twitch’s ongoing efforts— both inside and outside company walls — is a first step to authentically enacting meaningful change in the industry.
- Amplify Marginalized Voices: Companies seeking to empower LGBTQ+ employees and consumers during Pride Month need to remember that it is not about them. Being an ally is about listening and shining a spotlight on historically-marginalized voices — which is exactly what Spotify aims to do with its Pride Hub. Launched last year, the company uses the Hub to curate playlists featuring LGBTQ+ artists around the world and help listeners easily find examples of queer culture. In an effort to keep the conversation going this year, Spotify invited the cast of Netflix’s hit show Queer Eye to participate in a Pride Hub takeover to showcase the music that most inspires and empowers them to proudly live at full volume. Initiatives like these are important, as they demonstrate how brands can use their privilege and influence to elevate the experiences, narratives and messages of those who are not in the same position to do so.
- Put Your Dollars Where It Counts: Representation matters — and while many brands feature LGBTQ+-themed campaigns for Pride Month, more companies are now investing marketing dollars in celebrating diverse communities year-round. Acne Studios’ 2017 fall/winter campaign celebrated gay black dads by finding talent through a social media post that went viral. Dove unveiled a 2017 campaign to showcase “Real Moms,” featuring a transgender mom and her family. Companies who are true advocates should be adamant about factoring LBGTQ+ influencers into their budgets and campaigns throughout the year to help the community attain more visibility in mainstream media.
Pride Month offers a space in which everyone is welcome — including brands. Companies can and should take part in the celebration, but only if done so thoughtfully. By moving away from moment-in-time actions to sustained, year-long commitments and advocacy, companies can rise up and make meaningful impacts that bring us one step closer to realizing equality for all.
Devika Narayan is Account Supervisor, Cone Communications