As another Pride season gets underway, we see a variety of brands creating compelling LGBTQ-themed campaigns: Soul Cycle, Wells Fargo, Tiffany & Co, Doritos, Google, Hilton Hotels. Different sectors, different industries all reaching out to a community that has a collective spending power of $1.7 trillion. This makes LGBTQ Americans the tenth largest economy in the world.
Pride isn’t just one month, and savvy marketers know that we need to recommit a brand’s values of openness and inclusivity all year long.
One of my favorite campaigns this year is from American Eagle Outfitters. One hundred percent of their Pride Month products will be going directly to the It Gets Better Project, a nonprofit organization with a mission to uplift, empower and connect LGBTQ youth around the globe. It’s easy for brands to slap a rainbow flag on their social channels for the month of June, but those doing it right understand that it’s imperative to give back to organizations in the community that are helping those most at risk. Campaigns like American Eagle’s are effective because buyers know that their dollars are directly helping others. The draw is impact, not just aesthetic.
As more and more brands engage with LGBTQ consumers, the payoff extends beyond brand loyalty into workforce recruitment. Top talent is drawn to responsible companies who care about giving back. LGBTQ community members notice when brands market to them and often feel like they can contribute fully and more effectively in places that understand them. The Human Rights Commission has an index of the top Fortune 500 companies that not only give to the community but also have equal protections for their LGBTQ employees. And you better believe that people pay attention to it.
Lastly, the strategy to engage with the LGBTQ consumer should be a long-view approach. More critically, it needs to evolve and address an increasingly diverse fabric of the community. The cultural zeitgeist continues to evolve. The LGBTQ community doesn’t fit into one nice, neat box. We’re a snapshot of the larger mainstream society: people of color, immigrants, athletes, folks who live in red states and Gen Z influencers. We’re Janelle Monáe. We’re Patrick Starrr. We’re Janet Mock. We’re Gus Kenworthy. We’re Emma Gonzalez. We’re the cast of FX’s new show Pose.
So how do we shift our perception and representation of advertising to reflect these stories and ideas that challenge the status quo while aligning with a brand’s core values? It’s imperative that we as marketers continue to evolve and find the right consumer set in our highly cluttered, overloaded landscape. I’m a firm believer that if we find the right ways to engage different segments, we will see the results. Micro tactics for macro impact. And in our data-driven world, we still have to continue to push the envelope in the creative space and provide consumers with experiences that reflect the common threads of a truly diverse LGBTQ community.
As mentioned, true authenticity is afforded to brands that don’t just chime in when it’s ideal but all year round. Saving support for when it’s opportunistic is easier to spot than brands think. Invest in creative tactics and conversations that live beyond the month of June.
Experiences and installations are long-lasting
Create art and events specifically for the LGBTQ community, like Equinox’s Powered by Pride mural that enlisted celebs like Laverne Cox from Orange Is the New Black. The piece received massive support and resulted in over 170,000 likes on Instagram alone. Most importantly, it created a space for people to connect in real life, no matter the time of year.
Engage in other LGBTQ holidays, celebrations and heroes
For members of the LGBTQ community, Pride is a year-round effort. We don’t stop fighting after June 30 and neither should brands. In honor of Harvey Milk’s birthday, small businesses in San Francisco created neighborhood-wide installations in their storefronts. And Grey did a fantastic video series where LGBTQ employees shared their personal stories to celebrate National Coming out Day.
Give your influencer marketing dollars to a more diverse community
Representation matters, and financially supporting LGBTQ voices is one of the best ways to further the cause. Acne Studios shot a fall/winter 2017 campaign that celebrated gay black dads by finding talent through a social media post that went viral. There’s no shortage of LGBTQ influencers or everyday people willing to get involved, and brands should be adamant about factoring them into their budgets and campaigns.
At the end of the day, there’s a universal tissue that connects us all: the simple truth that love is love. Those values of courage, bravery, empathy and happiness are the ultimate pillars that can ladder up to an organization’s marketing goals, allowing them to resonate and showcase their commitment to authenticity.