A trusted brand openly running a Pride campaign not only makes the LGBTQ+ community accepted, but it also helps raise awareness amongst non-LGBTQ+ general consumers who tend to see this community as ‘others’.
By Terence Dsouza
Every year on the 1st of June, rainbows are suddenly seen on brand social media pages, campaigns talking about the LGBTQ+ community dominate the ad space and brand endorsements saying “Love is Love” in rainbow hues become the talk of the town.
When the Stonewall Riots took place in 1969, no one thought that one day big corporations and brands which are household names will one day stand up for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Acceptance and visibility is something that the LGBTQ+ community has always fought for. And when brands come up with messages of ‘We see you’, it creates a larger discourse as well as a discussion on the existence of the community, especially in countries where legal and social recognition don’t always go together.
Change begins with one step in the right direction. And the right marketing has the power to transform the way society views the non-heterosexual or non-cis identities. A trusted brand openly running a Pride campaign not only makes the LGBTQ+ community accepted, but it also helps raise awareness amongst non-LGBTQ+ general consumers who tend to see this community as ‘others’. A sensitive and well-executed campaign that advocates messages about diversity and equality has a far-reaching impact, which can sometimes be quantitative but more often than not are qualitative as can be seen in social media conversations which happens around it.
As more attention is focussed on the rights of the LGBTQ+ community; decriminalization, marriage, adoption, workplace diversity, consumers are also becoming more conscious about choosing brands which are more equality oriented. The community is well aware about ‘rainbow capitalism’, a term used to describe companies pretending to support the LGBT community or specifically marketing merchandise to make a profit. There are many a brand who have made Pride month into a marketing gimmick that does not extend beyond symbolic pandering while simultaneously contributing to the continued discrimination of the community by funding homophobic governments and political parties.
In India, ad campaigns and communication regarding financial planning has stereotypically targeted cis-heterosexual, married families. The predominant TG has been the earning father, the homemaker mother and two children, while sometimes in urban areas it includes a working mother. But most brands, apart from a token of a social media post steer away from recognizing the acceptance of diverse families, same-sex living partners, trans men and women and people whose definition of gender identity falls on a different spectrum.
While visibility is important, before adopting queer languages and making t-shirts out of it, brands need to understand that this language stems from a sense of alienation that the community has faced for a long time. Rather than just marketing to the community, brands have a moral responsibility to acknowledge that Pride is not a party, it is a movement for social justice. Without the proper groundwork, a Pride themed ad campaign can actually downplay the importance the rainbow flag holds for many. This Pride needs to extend to their own workplace environment as well, where LGBTQ+ employees are provided a safe space, same sex couples are given the same recognition as heterosexual counterparts and the rainbow keeps flying even after June ends.
Products and services are built around customer demographics and yet, most marketing strategies generalize the demographic type, while ignoring individual needs of certain communities. While this might not seem very relevant for consumer brand, it is crucial in the world of financial products and services that deal with life goals and personal wealth. Inclusion is the need of the hour and the BFSI industry can take the lead in not just using Pride month as a social media opportunity but going the distance with its offerings as well. Encouraging representation from the community as Financial Planners or even driving financial literacy initiatives for transgender communities is a small step forward.
It’s time to move beyond just jumping on the bandwagon of what’s trending and actually be committed to the cause. Only then the LGBTQ+ community will truly believe when a brand says ‘Gay rights’.
The author is Creative Director of Hotstuff. Views expressed are personal.