At dentsu X, we believe that brand loyalty is built from valuable experiences. We are surrounded by continuous marketing messages, and in order to connect with consumers we must generate impactful experiences that go beyond a simple exposure. It is this approach that defies convention and builds greater meaning for our consumers.
When we think of this through the lens of Pride we challenge brands to commit to offering an inclusive experience, and that goes beyond rainbow packaging and advertising. It's about celebrating all experiences and elevating voices that are diverse and inclusive, whether they're part of the LGBTQIA+ community or not. Brand allyship is about elevating the authentic stories of those who represent diverse groups within the community to kickstart awareness, acceptance, and change.
Brands have the power to support the community, but the support must be genuine. Pride is not a marketing moment; it is an opportunity to understand how to take an activist stance. Here are steps and considerations brands can take to make sure they are supporting the LGBTQIA+ community and elevating diverse experiences during Pride month—and all year round.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Pride started as a protest of police violence against the LGBTQIA+ community in New York City. Stonewall is a historical event, but it did not mark the end of the fight for equality. In many ways it was just the beginning. The LGBTQIA+ community continues to face human rights violations and for brands to tout how far we have come can deflect from how far we have yet to go.
As marketers and brands, we must be willing to look past what others in our field are deeming acceptable and work to defy convention — not only to take an activist stance, but to push the status quo forward and be active agents in influencing change.
- Pause, learn, and listen. Elevate LGBTQIA+ voices and let members of the community lead the way in telling their stories. Do not put community members on the spot, but instead elevate the stories and experiences they are choosing to tell.
From Tokenism to Activism
True brand allyship is about more than just vocally supporting a community—it's about understanding the real, everyday experiences of that community. How can you do this? By hiring members of the LGBTQIA+ community and elevating their voices in power positions to make decisions that affect the company as a whole. This is not just about having "token" members but making sure that there are thriving communities within your company that contribute to companywide policies.
- Have strong brand values and intentional brand messaging that reflect those values. It is up to brands to create an inclusive experience for their employees by involving DE&I groups in decisions that benefit the community. For example, sometimes even covering a fraction of the costs that are involved in fostering a baby, adoption, surrogacy, and fertility can help LGBTQIA+ families in their journey to parenthood.
- As with the dentsu X BRG groups, ensure all agency partners have diversity within their workforce, alongside the structure and process that allows those individuals/ groups to impact the work
Over the Rainbow Capitalism
Before brands embrace the Pride flag into their advertising, stop and consider what the Pride flag means to the community. Incorporating the Pride flag needs to provide an experience in itself, beyond simple exposure, and brands must do the work to understand the differences between using the Pride flag to create a safe place and co-opting the flag to signal diversity and inclusion. For example, a religious institution that only hangs a Pride flag during the month of June does not signal inclusion the same way as institutions that hang it all year long.
- Consider if including the Pride flag in brand advertising is adding to the conversation or an onlooker's experience of the company. Is the flag being incorporated in a way that is low lift and does not make a high visibility statement or is it being flown outside the office building to signify a safe space?
- To further build credibility, and defy conventions within the market, June should be a month to talk about all the great Pride activations and community support approaches that occurred throughout the year.
- Research the meaning behind the colors and ask yourself: does my company's values truly represent what these colors stand for?
From positive, intersectional celebrations of LGBTQIA+ people during the month of June to brand commitments throughout the year, strides have been made in representation over the past few years to bring the Pride celebration 365 days a year. But there's still room for improvement.
We're proud to work with brands who want to dig deeper and move past “rainbow capitalism” to support and be activists for LGBTQIA+ issues—we believe that brand marketing should create an experience where LGBTQIA+ voices are elevated, not exploited. We believe in defying convention and through actionable steps, we aim to help brands better understand their role in creating an inclusive environment for all.