Each year in June, you can’t help but notice your social media timelines filled with rainbow logos, store shelves full of Pride merch, and your inbox flooded with Pride marketing campaigns. And every year without fail, there are mixed responses to how brands go about navigating Pride month. But in recent years, consumers are speaking up about the fine line between true, year-round Pride support and using it as a marketing ploy for the month of June. 

Rainbow Washing

Brands that swap their regular logo out for a rainbow one for Pride Month are being watched carefully by members and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community who maintain that rainbow logos aren’t enough. As much as rainbow graphics are flooding social media platforms, so are consumers warning others to be wary of “rainbow washing”.

Consumers are examining these brands to determine: are they supporting the LGBTQ+ community year-round? Do their marketing campaigns and ads consistently display and support diversity and acceptance? Do these companies offer resources and legislative support for the LGBTQ+ community? If not, the rainbow logo loses its meaning. 

Consumers are also looking deeper into companies with pride campaigns to see if they are putting their money where their mouth is. For example, many companies are being called out for running colorful Pride Campaigns yet donating large amounts of money to anti-LGBTQ politicians. 

Navigating Backlash 

Consumers are also paying attention to how brands respond in the face of backlash for pride campaigns. 

This article by New Republic reveals that “Starbucks has banned Pride decorations in its stores halfway through Pride Month, the company’s workers union claimed Tuesday, in a stunning cave to far-right anti-LGBTQ fury.”

While many consumers are disappointed, they are also not surprised – it’s not uncommon for companies that launch pride campaigns to backtrack due to backlash from anti-LBGTQ+ voices.

An article by David Wellisch CEO and Co-Founder of Collage Group, states “We recognize that brands are struggling to navigate an increasingly polarized cultural environment, where support for any one group can prompt devastating backlash from other groups. The list of companies in the headlines for their Pride Month campaigns continues to grow.”

The article goes on to encourage brands to encourage brands to “stand strong – to stand by our family members, friends, employees, and colleagues who identify as LGBTQ+ and the community as a whole.”

On top of sticking to your moral compass, brands benefit financially from supporting the LGBTQ+ community year-round. An article by glaad states, “Doubling down on your values is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business. Research shows that if a brand publicly supports and demonstrates a commitment to expanding and protecting LGBTQ+ rights, Americans are 2x more likely to buy or use the brand. Americans ages 18-34 are 5.5x more likely to want to work at a company if it publicly supports and demonstrates a commitment to expanding and protecting LGBTQ+ rights.”

Year-Round Support For the LGBTQ+ Community

If companies truly support the LGBTQ+ community, and especially since consumers are holding companies accountable for rainbow washing, they should have a long-term approach of how they are going to support and defend the community year-round and show their consumers their commitment to doing so. Showing authenticity is necessary. 

Let’s dive into some ways that companies can work LGBTQ+ support into the fabric of their organization and make it an integral part of their values and operations.

  • Fostering a safe environment through corporate policies:
    • Companies should establish comprehensive policies that explicitly prohibit discrimination, harassment, and any form of mistreatment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • These policies should provide clear guidelines for addressing complaints and enforcing consequences for any violations.
    • Regular training sessions should be conducted to educate employees about LGBTQ+ issues, promoting understanding, empathy, and inclusivity within the workplace.
  • Inclusive marketing campaigns and ads, year-round:
    • Companies should make a conscious effort to feature LGBTQ+ individuals and couples in their marketing campaigns throughout the year, rather than just during Pride Month.
    • These campaigns should authentically represent the LGBTQ+ community, showcasing diverse experiences and stories.
    • Collaborating with LGBTQ+ influencers, organizations, and artists can help ensure the authenticity and relevance of these campaigns.
  • Taking a stance on LGBTQ+ discrimination:
    • Companies should publicly and unequivocally express their support for the LGBTQ+ community and take a stance against discrimination.
    • This can be done through public statements, social media engagement, and participating in LGBTQ+ events, rallies, and initiatives.
    • Companies should actively work with advocacy groups and community organizations to address systemic discrimination, promote equality, and contribute to positive change.
  • Partnering with LGBTQ+ organizations and initiatives:
    • Companies can establish partnerships with local, national, or international LGBTQ+ organizations to provide financial support, volunteer opportunities, and resources.
    • Collaborating with these organizations can help companies better understand the needs and concerns of the community, and develop initiatives that directly contribute to their well-being and advancement.
    • Sponsoring or supporting LGBTQ+ events, conferences, or workshops can also demonstrate a long-term commitment to the community.
  • Employee resource groups and support networks:
    • Companies can establish employee resource groups (ERGs) specifically dedicated to LGBTQ+ employees.
    • ERGs can provide a platform for networking, support, and mentorship, fostering a sense of belonging within the company.
    • These groups can also serve as a valuable resource for educating colleagues and management about LGBTQ+ issues and promoting a more inclusive workplace culture.
  • Supporting LGBTQ+ rights and legislation:
    • Companies can actively engage in advocating for LGBTQ+ rights by supporting legislation that promotes equality and non-discrimination.
    • This can involve participating in lobbying efforts, signing on to amicus briefs in relevant court cases, and using their influence to promote positive change at local, national, and international levels.
    • By publicly supporting LGBTQ+ rights, companies can demonstrate their commitment to creating a more inclusive society beyond their own organizational boundaries.

At Fuel Cycle, we’ll be working on these initiatives year-round. “Pride month serves as a reminder of the progress we’ve made and the work that still lies ahead. At Fuel Cycle, we strive to be true allies by actively listening, amplifying LGBTQIA+ voices, and using our platform to advocate for change. Together, let’s build a world where love, acceptance, and diversity are embraced in all aspects of our lives.” – Lyndzi Phan, Head of People, Fuel Cycle

While incorporating rainbow colors into your brand for Pride month can be a great way to show support, just make sure it’s not a surface-level act – consumers are expecting more!