Your rainbow logo doesn’t make you an ally
It’s time for businesses to reconsider their approach to marketing and branding during Pride Month. Many members of the LGBTQ + community are tired of “rainbow capitalism”, “pink wash” and other forms of performative corporate alliances. In this article, author Lily Zheng suggests that companies consider removing their rainbow logos next year, in favor of more meaningful actions that can actually improve the lives of LGBTQ + communities. âThe bar for approval of LGBTQ + communities in 2021 has risen, and rainbow marketing is no longer enough. Instead, let your actions by Pride 2022 demonstrate your commitment to the LGBTQ + community, âZheng writes.
If I had to predict a word of the year for 2021, it would be âperformativeâ.
The word is used by everyone from diversity, equity and inclusion practitioners to conscious consumers, describing the social efforts undertaken by companies that feel hypocritical, insincere, or missing the mark.
As we continue through June, Pride Month in the United States, many of our social media feeds fill up with rainbow logos (especially the “Philly Pride” variant, with stripes black and brown) and “Love Is Love” messages. But that post, which might have sounded groundbreaking several years ago, appears to be losing people – even members of the LGBTQ + community, the very people with whom these branding efforts intend to show solidarity.
Many members of the LGBTQ + community are tired of ârainbow capitalism,â a term coined to describe how LGBTQ + symbolism is used to increase consumerism without leading to significant improvement for LGBTQ + communities. Others challenge âpinkwashingâ – the use of LGBTQ + symbolism to mask or distract from human rights violations and other injustices.
The heart of the debate is far more complex than “Does a rainbow logo do more good than harm?” The fundamental question that we should consider, as businesses and as consumers, is: “How should brands show what they stand for in an authentic, meaningful and responsible way?” “
This is precisely the question I was asked during a panel on branding and pride several years ago. I was the only non-company-affiliated panelist on the panel, and my talking points were similar to what they are today:
âPeople like Marsha P. Davis and Sylvia Rivera, queer, trans people of color (QTPOC), who put pride on the radar in the 60s and 70s, would be priced out of the corporate merchandise you sell today. ‘hui. QTPOC workers still do not earn a living wage in your companies and still face disproportionate and overwhelming rates of discrimination in your workplaces. Ultimately, businesses that are far from inclusive environments for LGBTQ + people do not have the right to sell themselves and their products to our community. Rainbow logos are fragile facades of inclusiveness hiding lingering inequalities – and the truth will become clear sooner or later. “
I expected to hear panelists championing their brand’s Pride logos. But a frame surprised me.
“This is why we are not turning our logo into a rainbow for June,” she explained. âWe do everything we can to make sure that our business has a reputation for inclusiveness and acceptance, and that consumers associate this with our Ordinary logo, all year round.
It’s a powerful proposition, especially at this time. Consumers who became accustomed to holding companies accountable during the Crucible of 2020 are doing the same now with their participation in Pride Month, especially LGBTQ + consumers, who typically joke, “We’re gay 365 days a year.” Consumers today want to see businesses really preach.
So what should you do if you are a well-meaning brand in 2021, hoping to market yourself to increasingly discerning customers? I urge you to seriously consider replacing your pride-themed marketing efforts with initiatives that genuinely focus on improving LGBTQ + communities, first and foremost. Before you make more White Bowling Pins or Rainbow Listerine Bottles or Merchandise Pride puns, think about what could actually have a long-term impact on our community. Here are some starting points.
- Support creators, users, partners, etc. queer and trans, who use your platform / product by showcasing their work, elevating their causes, and ensuring a non-discriminatory experience with your platform, products and community.
- Establish forward-thinking policies and processes to support your queer and trans employees, from trans health care benefits and gender transition guidelines to paid parental leave for same-sex couples. When designing these policies and processes, recognize current trends: Gay and transgender people increasingly question binary gender, find partnership without marriage, and live lifestyles beyond the white fence of homosexuals.
- Integrate LGBTQ + advocacy with other advocacy efforts based on social identity (e.g. race, gender, ability) for consistent and ongoing collaboration inside and outside of Pride Month .
- Invest in year-round contributions and partnerships to LGBTQ + communities and causes, especially those led by Black, Indigenous and POC (BIPOC) communities, rather than donations or time-limited partnerships during the month of pride.
- Use your power and influence as a business to stand up for LGBTQ + people throughout the 12 months of the year, whether that is by refusing to do business with homophobic and transphobic institutions or by lobbying for rights and human rights. LGBTQ + protections.
Many companies are now wrapping up their pride celebrations, putting their leftover rainbow merchandise back into storage cupboards. Business leaders may think their obligation to the LGBTQ + community is fulfilled for 2021 with their Pride floats, month-long donation run, or rainbow marketing. Not so.
Whether or not you follow my recommendations, understand this: The bar for approval of LGBTQ + communities in 2021 has risen, and rainbow marketing is no longer enough. Consider removing the rainbow logo next year. Instead, let your actions by Pride 2022 demonstrate your commitment to the LGBTQ + community.