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The Do’s and Don’t’s of Pride Marketing

How brands and agencies can avoid Pridewashing

Eva Norrington

Senior Creative Lead at Born Social

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When LGBTQ+ audiences are only on the marketing agenda once a year (and often discussed without any insight from queer people), brands fall into the trap of reducing people’s sexual and gender identity to a four week campaign, often focused on profits over purpose.

Every June without fail we see an influx of rainbow logos, ‘love is love’ plastered on every product imaginable, and numerous instances of Pride washing across business sectors. 

Because of its power and ubiquity, no advertising is socially or culturally neutral

Eva Norrington, Senior Creative Lead, and Juanjo Vega, Creative, Born Social

In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, Pride washing is a brand reaping the benefits of selling diversity without actually doing the legwork to better the lives of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Advertising, arguably more than any sector, has a responsibility to embrace and represent all of society and make work that doesn’t consciously or unconsciously alienate any of it. Because of its power and ubiquity, no advertising is socially or culturally neutral. 

Whether you’re an agency or an in-house marketing team, we are in a powerful position to guide brands into doing the right thing. And when it comes to doing the right thing, it’s not a matter of “should” but “must”. 

This Pride month our Born Social D&R team members pulled together a practical list of ‘Dos and Don’ts’ for brands creating Pride, or any LGBTQ+ related, marketing campaigns. 

Do 

  • Hire diverse queer creators and professionals to help you develop your campaign and products (they know best!); whether they’re creating directly with you or featuring in your campaign and ensure that they are fairly paid for their work. 
  • We've moved beyond discussing visibility and “normalising” the community. Now, it’s time to take action. Donate to charities, make real structural change and add value to the communities that are spending money with you. Be transparent about who and how you’re helping. It will not only help to associate your brand with the LGBTQ+ community but it’s also the right thing to do.
  • Call it like it is, if your brand does not feel comfortable saying Lesbian, Gay, Queer or Transgender in your message, think whom are you helping? Abstract or vague messaging does not help the community, and does not help representations. 
  • Queer people don’t just exist during Pride and then hide away for the rest of the year. Form long-term relationships with creators and LGBTQ+ organisations, be inclusive throughout the year and be aware of the news and legislation that might be affecting them. And make sure to represent the whole community, not just the LG community. Intersectionality is not a new concept and is expected. 
  • Challenge your colleagues on any Pride campaigns that do not follow any of the above. Use your voice and speak up if something doesn’t sit right. Your voice is important. 

Don’t 

  • Don't just slap a rainbow on everything and preach ’love is love’. It confines the LGBTQ+ community to just romantic love and sex, which is especially problematic given how hypersexualised queerness is in our cisheterosexist society. Instead, tap into the wider queer experience and culture. 
  • It goes without saying that you should not be profiting directly from any Pride-related merchandise that your brand or company is producing, donate accordingly. It is morally wrong to profit on part of someone’s identity, especially when that identity is still criminalised in certain countries and attacked to a disproportionate extent. 
  • Don’t occupy this space if your brand supports or donates to organisations that directly harm the LGBTQ+ community or lacks inclusive internal structures and policies. Audiences, especially on social, are quick to uncover the truth - if you can’t fully commit your brand and be 100% transparent, then it’s best to sit this one out and listen instead! 

Not sure where to start? These questions might help steer conversations and make valuable changes: 

Is this activity only for June, what do you have planned for the rest of the year? 

Does your brand have internal structures that help support and reflect the lives of LGBTQ+ people e.g. equal allowance for LGBTQ+ people needing to take time off when starting a family? 

Who else do you donate to or sponsor? Do their views match those of the Pride movement? 

Written by Senior Creative Lead, Eva Norrington, and Creative, Juanjo Vega Born Social

Guest Author

Eva Norrington

Senior Creative Lead at Born Social

About

Eva Norrington is a Senior Creative Lead at Born Social, concepting and orchestrating the delivery of social-first content for brands like Nando’s, Warner Brothers Studio Tour London and Uber at Born Social.

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