Show some pride, all year

Rainbows are a powerful marketing tool, it seems

We’re into June - Pride month - and promoting inclusivity means that we see colourful LGBT brand campaigns and slogans everywhere. Which is fantastic, of course. But how many of these commitments will continue all year round?

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As with opportunistic environmental campaigns that are seen through as mere greenwash, there’s a danger that business can seize the LGBT banner but fail to truly address the issues and challenges the community faces. Pinkwashing can be just as damaging!

There’s growing evidence that brands which reach the heart of the LGBT community with their messaging and support are likely to see a financial return on investment (ROI). But that messaging has to get it right: Merely sapping a rainbow across your logo to avoid seeming tone-deaf no longer cuts it. you’ve got to mean it - Rainbows for June are not enough - equality has to be embedded in your business purpose.

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Many brands jump on the Pride Month bandwagon, to make a quick buck. However, with a global purchasing power estimated at $3.7 trillion, there are clearly rewards when the LGBT community flocks to brands that properly acknowledge its concerns and values.

So, how can business go further, building and sustaining a relationship with the LGBT community? A recent advertisement by Gillette, in which a father teaches his transgender son to shave, is an example of normalisation. Normalisation, not stereotyping, is key. It requires brands to take a risk and incorporate the LGBT community into regular, everyday depictions of life

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Of course, it’s not simple and the diversity of the LGBT community means that its members face a variety of challenges. Visibility and progress differ. For example, a transgender woman of colour sees more day-to-day challenges to her lifestyle and existence than a white gay man, who by contrast has likely to have been out and visible for years.

It’s obviously important to know the issues. Some businesses may use rainbow branding because they’re not sure what the LGBT landscape looks like and don’t want to offend anyone. But they shouldn't worry - be bold, speak up! A brand that chooses even one touchpoint of the gay or trans experience can create a degree of specificity and understanding that lifts it above other brands.

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For example, as legal gay marriage continues to expand across the globe, LGBT couples and families have newfound needs (and newly available consumer spending) around retirement and financial planning.

If your business doesn’t have a huge marketing budget or time to research and deliver multiple campaigns, then one way forward is to Invest in influencer marketing, working in partnership with voices from the LGBT community, to help spread their message and encourage engagement.

Pride celebrations and parades have become more commercialised in recent years. This has led to concerns within the LGBT population that the essence of a pride parade - highlighting local activists and grassroots organisations - is getting lost, drowned out by corporate participation.

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Find the organisations that operate in your town or city, contact local groups and help amplify their cause. Spotlights on local organisations can be an inexpensive-yet-effective marketing strategy, and charitable giving helps to raise brand loyalty with young people.

Engage and support, 12 months of the year. After all, why simply compete for attention during the rainbow tsunami that is June when you can be winning the LGBT community over all year-round?

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A recent UK survey showed that 33% of Generation Z individuals polled identified as LGBT. So, the sealer lesson for business is that if you resolve to capture the attention and trust of LGBT young people now, you'll more likely see snowballing consumer loyalty in the future.