Pride month is around the corner, a time for queer celebration, parades, solidarity, vigils and tributes to those who have been lost due to hate and intolerance. It’s exciting, often playful, sometimes sad, and incredibly important to the queer community. Each year more and more brands are jumping on the Pride bandwagon, seeking to promote themselves as allies, with varying success. In 2018 (#20gayteen), branding during Pride month is about more than just sticking a rainbow on your limited edition T shirt, claiming integrity and a social consciousness. We live in an age of brand transparency and growing consumer interest in a brand’s authenticity, we are quick to notice opportunism. That’s not to say brands shouldn’t get involved with Pride, they absolutely should (for a multitude of reasons), but they should be careful exactly how they do.
Pride-related campaigns do well when they’re considered, unique and backed up by genuine benefits for the LGBT+ community. Here are some rules of thumb that have served brands well in recent years:
1. WALK THE WALK
In 2018, there’s almost no point in adding a rainbow to your swag unless there’s a not-for-profit partner that the sales of said swag are going to benefit. In recent years both Puma and Gucci released rainbow sneakers with no associated not-for-profit and it did not go unnoticed. There are plenty of not-for-profits to choose from, from helplines to charities to arts associations. A tie-in can be straightforward, like ASOS’s ‘Individuals, Unified’ T-shirts (benefitting GLAAD). However, you get extra points if you manage to incorporate the not-for-profit in a more unique way, such as American Eagle donating to It Gets Better campaign, but also providing a ‘New Voices Filmmaker Grant’ to an emerging LGBT+ filmmaker during NYC Pride’s OutCinema festival.
2. INCLUDE REAL LIFE QUEER PEOPLE!
Kenneth Cole’s 2017 ‘Pride’ offering was a fairly simple design, however the associated ‘Tied with Pride’ campaign stood out as it was shot by gay photographer Levi Jackman Foster, featuring real-life New York LGBT+ people. Meanwhile, the Urban Outfitters blog spent the month highlighting young queer creatives (mostly people of colour), such as gender-fluid artist Rayne Nadurata.
3. GO BEYOND THE RAINBOW
We get it, rainbow equals Pride, but there’s so much more to queer culture than that. Nike acknowledged this last year with their ‘Be True’ collection, featuring “other prominent symbols of Pride”, including the colour pink, the triangle, and the message “Run Fierce”. Levi’s’s “Fight Stigma” initiative and product line was inspired by ’80s HIV awareness efforts, with simple black and white t shirts, and denim shorts featuring “Remember Their Names” badges.
Big brands, from Heineken to AirBnB, are more and more using their voices to change perceptions and educate the masses on social, environmental and political issues. Pride is the perfect time for brands to educate people on LGBT+ issues, culture and misconceptions.
Last year Equinox gym’s partnership with the LGBTQIA+ Community Center produced “The LGBTQAlphabet,” a film goes down the list of not 4/6/8 letters but 26 – showing how in this day and age a handful of terms can’t possibly represent the full diversity of the people on the planet. More subtly, Converse’s 2017 Pride collection includes 37 different 70s-inspired designs honouring (and ultimately educating people on) the date of the first ever Pride Parade in New York City, 1970.
Above all, do your research, and remember what Pride is really about
What these campaigns have in common is a unique, considered approach and direct benefits for the queer community – from education to charities to community support. Prides around the world are only getting bigger, and more and more corporations are getting involved. This is well and good, but just so long as these newcomers to the cause remember the importance of Pride, and who, in the end, it’s for.
Becks Collins is a queer Cultural Analyst, Semiotician and Trends Researcher based in London.