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Starting on June 1, you'll see rainbows pop up all over the Internet. Those colors represent Pride Month, which not only celebrates the achievements of the LGBTQIA+ community but also recognizes the struggles that the community still faces.

Pride commemorates the Stonewall uprising, which took place in Greenwich Village in 1969 in response to police brutality toward LGBT people. The series of riots was held, led by Marsha P. Johnson and other trans women of color.

Today, Pride Month celebrates the bravery of those who stood up for LGBTQIA+ rights in 1969 as well as the ongoing achievements and impact the community has had on the cultural and political landscape. Pride also aims to highlight the inequalities LGBT people are still suffering and shows that the fight for equality is still going.

As Pride celebrations have grown across the globe, so too has the number of brands highlighting their support by changing to rainbow versions of their logo or promoting Pride-themed merchandise.

Demonstrating support through the addition of rainbow colors may seem like a great idea at first; however, if you try too hard to demonstrate your brand's support of equal rights for LGBT people, you could be doing more damage than good.

What Is Rainbow-Washing?

Rainbow-washing is a term for when brands market themselves so they appear to be an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community, but they don't take any extra steps to help.

That isn't to say you should avoid adding rainbow colors to your logo, website, or social media channels. But if you decide to do so, you need to demonstrate to customers that you are taking further action.

That step is crucial, because a brand's stance on global, political, and cultural issues has become an important factor for customers all over the world.

The Evolution of the Aware Customer

Today, the ethical side of your brand plays a significant role in customer acquisition and retention. Customers want to buy or work with brands that match their core values, and that alignment is of particular importance for Millennials and Gen Z.

A full 83% of Millennials said they choose to buy from brands that reflect their beliefs, a survey conducted by Small Business Trends found. And 62% of those Millennials surveyed also stated that it's important for them to purchase from brands that support their political and social beliefs.

Consumers want to know where you stand on global issues, and if you fail to align with their beliefs, or fail to speak up, then they may not consider you a trustworthy brand.

If consumers don't trust you, they won't buy from you. It's as simple as that.

How to Create a Successful Pride Marketing Campaign

Before you begin branding your company with rainbows, here are three steps you can follow to help you create successful Pride and LGBTQIA+ campaigns.

1. Conduct extensive research

Before you begin the creative part of any marketing campaign, it's a best-practice to conduct research into your target market. You need to apply such research to your LGBT-focused marketing.

It's important to take sufficient time to understand LGBTQIA+ history, global rights, and current issues. Do not take this part of the process lightly, especially if you are a global company operating in multiple countries, as different locales will be experiencing different forms of injustice or inequality.

For instance, today there are at least 70 countries that have national laws against the LGBT community. Moreover, 7% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, 13% of trans people, and 10% of asexual people have been offered conversion therapy, according to the UK Government's LGBT Survey conducted in 2021.

It may be tough to read such statistics, but you must be mindful of LGBTQIA+ rights and the difficulties the community still faces while creating your Pride marketing.

2. Avoid stereotyping

To say your brand supports LGBTQIA+ rights is meaningless if you don't include people from the community in your Pride campaigns. For your Pride marketing to make a true impact, the focus needs to be on LGBT people, their lives, and their experiences.

But don't stop there; include LGBT people in your advertisements all year round. It's especially important to not fall into the trap of stereotyping. Your marketing should normalize the community. Some brands have already successfully created campaigns that do just that!

The first was from HP. Its "Reinvest Mindsets" initiative aims to diversify and cultivate the talent pool by addressing the unconscious biases that are still a part of the hiring process. HP hires employees based on talent only. And to support that message, it launched four ad spots featuring African Americans, women, and candidates from the LGBT and Latin communities.

Another campaign came from Accenture. Its #InclusionStartsWithI campaign featured Accenture employees who shared stigmas and stereotypes they have faced in the workplace. The video showcases the bias that can happen to all types of people in unexpected ways.

3. Make your support a continuous commitment

In 2021, Reboot conducted a survey to find out how many companies that created Pride marketing campaigns donated profits to LGBTQIA+ organizations.

The results? A full one-third of those surveyed said they did not donate any of their Pride profits to LGBTQIA+ organizations.

Pride marketing should never be used as a tactic to earn more money. Demonstrating your support could start with a donation from your company to an LGBT charity, or you could feature local activists or organizations in your campaigns.

Last year, Adobe launched Create Change, a series of Pride-themed online episodes that brought together diverse creatives from a variety of professions to share how they were using their platform to make a true impact with their work. Made in partnership with GLAAD—the world's largest LGBTQIA+ media advocacy organization—the episodes include discussions around current issues facing LGBT people, the role of creativity in their lives, and what Pride truly means to them.

Giving LGBT voices a platform throughout your marketing can be both poignant and cost-effective. Plus, charitable donations will shine a positive light on your overall brand and show you're a trustworthy company to work with.

* * *

Pride is a celebration that means so much to people all over the world. It's a month when the LGBTQIA+ community and allies come together to highlight the beauty of LGBT accomplishments as well as the work that still needs to be done to achieve equality.

So, before you change the color of your logo to a rainbow and call it a day, get creative and allow your Pride marketing to become a platform for queer people and their voices.

More Resources on LGBTQ Campaigns and Cause Marketing

Say No to Pandering, Yes to Cause-Aligned Marketing: Katie Martell on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

LGBT Consumers: What Marketers Need to Know

Emerging Consumer Values: Why Brands Must Adjust

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image of Nick Livermore

Nick Livermore is the senior marketing manager at Adapt, a digital performance marketing agency.

LinkedIn: Nick Livermore