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The Rainbow Washing Dilemma – How to Do Marketing Correctly for Pride

The Rainbow Washing Dilemma – How to Do Marketing Correctly for Pride

Pride Month is here, and you probably noticed that by now. If not, look around you, all those rainbow flags that are suddenly everywhere are there because of Pride. It’s not a coincidence.

You see, companies such as Uber, Adidas, Nike, Apple, Microsoft, and many other brands have decided June is all about Pride. How could it not be? Queer people do buy stuff, so it’s better to create products for us. Or at least this is how the term Rainbow Washing was born. And this is something that you, as a Marketer, Business Owner or Manager need to be aware of.

Don’t do it. Don’t use rainbow colours or pledge anything to the LGBTQ+ community if you don’t feel this is your calling, or if you are not doing anything proactively to support LGBTQ+ rights inside and outside your company. 

Rainbow Washing Defined

Rainbow Washing is when a company seems supportive of the LGBTQ+ community by creating products specifically for them with the rainbow colours, and even changing their corporate image, for a month. But what these companies think we don’t see is their support of politicians who push for anti-gay legislation, or their support of institutions and companies that do not feel comfortable around LGBTQ+ individuals.

However, what these companies are not considering is that a more savvy group of people (who identify with and/or are allies of the LGBTQ+ community) are thoroughly looking into these companies’ marketing efforts and deciphering what causes these companies to stand for and support their money and actions. As a result, this has created a backlash for companies who seem hypocritical, or outright dishonest.

You are probably wondering what Rainbow Washing looks like. So, here are some examples for you:

  • Launch Pride Initiatives only during June.
  • Change logos temporarily (this can be a good thing if some of the recommendations for what to do are followed)
  • Don’t proactively donate nor initiate any effort whatsoever towards LGBTQ+ causes.
  • Run a Pride Campaign while clearly supporting those that are anti-LGBTQ+ in branches of government or lobby efforts.
  • Use the Rainbow to push products.
  • Have corporate groups marching in parades.
  • Taking advantage of LGBTQ+ members as props for content.

So, how do you do it correctly?

And trust me when I say this: probably this will apply to EVERY cause you decide to support, it doesn’t matter how sensitive the topic may be.

  • Show your support all year-round, not only when it’s fashionable.
  • Uplift your queer voices inside the company, granting them equal opportunities to showcase their talents.
  • Provide transparent, measurable, and easy-to-find support.
  • Stand up for LGBTQ+ members, eliminate bias towards them inside the workplace, and create a DEI policy inside the company.
  • Create marketing efforts that stand for Pride inside the company first, before going public.
  • Request feedback from LGBTQ+members inside your company and understand how to represent them better.

Lastly, what marketing efforts can you do for the community? Listen. If you are not part of the community or you don’t have any experience whatsoever, listen. Understand, then act.

Support those who are part of the community and just want to work and showcase their talent. Don’t cross their ideas off just because you don’t feel comfortable with their identity. It’s not about you. 

Show the world what you pledge. If you are going to launch a Pride campaign, change your company values (if applicable) to coincide with what you say you stand for. 

Help make LGBTQ+ members’ voices heard. Give them a safe space to express what they wish to do and how they wish to do it.

Finally, if you are creating an LGBTQ+ campaign, involve them. If you don’t have that experience or you are not part of the community, find somebody who can express your brand values and can help you navigate those waters. 

Marketing, in the end, is not only what you wish you were, it’s what you are. It should show what your company stands for, and what your values are.

Before I go, Happy Pride Month everyone! Enjoy it and always remember to be you. 

Your identity and uniqueness are what make us all special. Keep it up.