HOW BRANDS CAN SUPPORT LGBT+ PRIDE WITH SINCERITY
A MATTER OF PRIDE
Annnnnnnd... we're back with another WINGperspective for your vibrant, voracious and visual perusal!
Last month our team of globetrotters were in Sweden filming Monster Trucks for an upcoming series, and in Mallorca on some seriously scorching shoots! But looking a little closer to home, this weekend will mark London Pride and UK Black Pride, here to conclude LGBT+ Pride Month, with people from all over Britain (and overseas!) flocking to the capital for a weekend of fun, celebration and, most importantly, feeling safe.
Safety in numbers is critical to the history of Pride. Same-sex couples can (and often do) face slurs and assault when walking down the street holding hands; homophobes would be hard pressed to do much at all when a thousand queer folk gather around Nelson’s Column singing along to Gals Aloud (Saturday at 2:30pm by.the.way). Queer people have existed since the beginning of time but have only started to gain equality in the last fifty years; a huge contributing factor to this has been the annual and worldwide Pride celebrations. Compare Oxford Street on July 7th last year to the opening scene of the movie Pride. This is how far we’ve come.
Visibility has proven itself a critical tool in the LGBT+ movement (not just because this writer receives a £20 Wagamama’s voucher every Bisexual Visibility Day – thanks Mum), so it’s important for big brands with loud voices to get behind it. No doubt your Twitter feeds were littered with rainbow logos all June, and as The Drum states, “greater viewership to the flag undoubtedly strengthens the fight for liberation.” But the appropriateness of this pride-flag- erecting, logo-updating show of support from brands has been questioned by many. While some praised these corporations for showing support, others have accused them of pinkwashing; of insincerely jumping on the bandwagon with the goal of profit and not protest.
It was at my first trip to London Pride that I was handed a paper pride flag from a Tesco employee marching alongside the Tesco float. I happily sported the flag all morning: the Tesco logo surrounded by a rainbow array of fruit. It was not until I reached Piccadilly Circus that I saw piles of people precariously balanced atop the statue of Eros with a bedsheet and painted words protesting the corporate sponsorship of Pride. “PRIDE IS PROTEST,” it read, and I looked twice at the flag in my hand. I think I hid it in my rucksack.
Because after all, Pride was originally a protest; an anti-establishment cry out for human rights originating fifty years ago from the Stonewall Tavern, a safe space for LGBT+ people to come and be themselves. Police raided the tavern, arresting people for wearing gender-non-conforming clothes while also collecting a bribe from the pub’s Mafia owners. A riot began when black transgender woman Marsha P Johnson (pictured below) famously threw a “heavy item” at a cop car. The LGBT+ movement as we know it was born from the Stonewall Riots.
So it’s easy to see why some Pridegoers will be naturally anti-institutional, and hesitant to support a Pride that is sponsored to the max by big corporations. I went home and googled the Tesco at Pride thing and found a mix of views from employees, some of whom enjoyed partaking in the parade and were pleased to see their company showing support; others viewed it as disingenuous and pointed out that they weren’t allowed to wear Tesco’s own Pride shirts while they were at work.
Despite this, it can be argued that brands have their place in Pride. Buzzfeed found that 76% of their 800+ sample felt that corporate floats were welcome at Pride. According to the Pride in London website, “Without our dedicated and loyal partners, Pride in London simply would not exist.” And it seems that Pride in London is ensuring that the companies it partners with are making a genuine difference to LGBT+ people: “Being part of Pride is one of the many ways we are seeing workplaces transform for the better. Pride in London are proud to be working with our partners to ensure diversity is embedded in the core of each company we work with.” With this in mind, perhaps it isn’t useful to ask brands to leave Pride untouched and unfunded; but we can ask brands to DO BETTER.
How Top Earn Your Rainbow Stripes
Remember that Pride is not a time to sell to LGBT+ people, it’s a time to give to LGBT+ people. So how can your company do that? Answer: Donate money to charities and your local Pride which help to make the lives of LGBT+ people better. And make sure that your workplace is a good place for LGBT+ people to work. If it’s a big workplace, maybe you could organise a university-style LGBT+ society. If it’s a really big workplace, you could arrange for LGBT+ apprenticeship or management schemes, similar to “Women in Leadership” programmes. Attend an LGBT+ Awareness Training course, and bring the whole office. Ask yourself if there’s enough LGBT+ people in your corporation, and take action to attract more, especially in senior positions.
Give creative control of your Pride marketing to queer people; they’re the target audience, it’s their story to tell, and their lived experience puts them in the best position to tell it. But don’t just hire a freelancer for June; hire them all year round. Make your marketing truly LGBT+ integrated.
If your corporation has offices in countries where LGBT+ rights are limited, ask yourself what you can do in the campaign for decriminalisation. Brands have powerful voices and can pressure the government while increasing LGBT+ visibility across your platform. Think of those 31 companies who advocated for LGBT+ spousal visa rights in Hong Kong. The 250 companies that called for trans equality. The near 400 that called for same-sex marriage in the US.
Remember to take Pride seriously. It’s not all rainbows, literally. Queer people still face violence, homelessness, and even death across the world. Pride is a critical tool for liberation, and brands can be a successful part of that if they are sincere and meaningful about it.
For more tips, check out Rob Mathie’s article in The Drum.
How To Really, Really, Not Do It
Take this example from Primark, who “were accused of piggybacking on the Pride movement, without giving anything back.” They donated 20% of their proceeds to Stonewall, a British LGBT+ charity named after the Tavern but a very separate organisation to Pride. Many asked “why cash-strapped local Pride organisers were getting none of the money,” bearing in mind that Northern Pride recently had to scale things back due to lack of funding. Local Prides often rely on their own merch sales to make ends meet and retail giant Primark presents a huge competition for them; plus it’s pretty illogical that Primark customers in Madrid will be supporting a UK charity.
Furthermore, Steve Taylor of the UK Pride Network and EuroPride criticised Primark for having the shirts made in Turkey and Bangladesh, where homosexuality is illegal. “It is unfair to ask people to do the messages in countries where LGBT rights are a pipe dream and we must not do it,” he said.
Or else look at Listerine, whose cool-mint mouthwash got a makeover for June this year. A seemingly cheap and low-effort attempt at solidarity – although they did donate to a couple of LGBT+ charities. The Drum wrote that “in large part, criticism is relevant to authenticity; customers will notice when brands apathetically try to flog Pride products by slapping on a rainbow in the hope of appearing aware and engaged.”
Naturally, product got ripped to shreds on Twitter. DON’T LET THIS BE YOU!
Finally, Chevy came out with a pretty tasteless ad. General Motors have previously been applauded for including same-sex parents in its The New Us TVC, and the message of “Happy Pride” is nice enough; but in this one they have really missed the mark, turning a moment of critical importance into, well, a bit of a joke.
Coming out of the closet might seem like a thing of the past, or else a lighthearted movie moment in which a kid holds his breath only to be met with love and acceptance. Sadly, that’s rarely the case. Often, parents are confused, disappointed, angry, or silent, and sometimes their reactions are much, much worse. When your parents’ acceptance of you wildly dictates your own acceptance of you, it’s no wonder that LGBT+ people are at a higher risk of developing mental health problems. Fear can keep people from coming out until well into their adulthood, spending years being less happy than they could be. It kind of looks like Chevy are taking the p*ss.
So there you have it! The Dos and Don’ts of Pride branding. Be sincere, make a real contribution, and just like the true spirit of Christmas, make it last all year. We’ll leave you with some truly cracking Pride films to get you in the spirit for this weekend.
We at WING wish you all a safe and happy Pride.
WINGers Top Three Pieces of Content.
Dublin Bus - The Long Road to Pride
Equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming - sad that it took so long for these older members of the LGBT+ community to make it to Pride, but absolutely blissful that they got there in the end. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
UK Black Pride - #WhenWeRise
A beautiful and powerful promo for UK Black Pride, Europe’s largest celebration for LGBTQ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent. Celebrations kick off in Haggerston Park on Sunday.
Munroe Bergdorf - A Qween's Speech
A piece that’s a little more Christmas and a little less Pride, but powerful all the same. Transgender model and activist Munroe Bergdorf presented an alternative Queen’s Speech campaigning for improved LGBT+ education and access to healthcare.