A Brief Pride Guide For Your Brand

In a world increasingly driven by social media, the calendar creates pressure. Brands, publications, and organizations are almost expected to participate in the action for any historically significant events.

For Pride Month (June) and other holidays, Twitter rolls out customized emojis, facilitating the messages from both brands and consumers about what matters to them. To announce your brand’s solidarity with #Pride is to call possible consumers into your corner—but it’s very easy to do this incorrectly and watch it backfire.

Pride isn’t an innocuous holiday made up for marketing purposes like World Nerd Day (January 9), Chocolate Mint Day (February 19), and Free Comic Book Day (May 5). In 1999, President Bill Clinton proclaimed June as Gay & Lesbian Pride Month, honoring the Stonewall Uprising of 1969. President Barack Obama echoed this message, announcing that June was officially Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month each year he was in office.

It’s not just about glitter and rainbows, either (although those are both lovely). Pride marks the rebellion of queer New Yorkers who physically fought back against NYPD officers assaulting customers at the Stonewall Inn during a routine raid. So if your company plans to evoke Pride, it should be both cognizant of the historical significance and prepared to have savvy audiences assess its track record toward LGBT people.

The internet has a long memory

Although June recalls some troubling history, most Americans now consider Pride celebratory—there’s a reason most Pride events are decked out with rainbow glitter. Before you join the party, however, make absolutely sure that your brand hasn’t gotten itself into trouble with the queer community before.

Even great content can fall flat if it doesn’t line up with a brand’s previous messaging. Though Amazon’s Pride-themed update to Alexa looks good on paper, Twitter users who spotted the company’s fun “Ask Alexa for a Pride fact” initiative were quick to point out that Jeff Bezos’ empire has been plagued with accusations of mistreating workers.

Of course, the content strategists and product developers at Amazon who ideated the Alexa update may not be affiliated with the employees who abuse subordinates, but the internet tends to remember these stories when assessing a brand. Keep that in mind before you commit to getting involved.

What are your options?

Let’s imagine your brand either has a positive reputation or hasn’t been around long enough to do anything too damaging. The next step is to figure out what exactly you want to address.

Sometimes it’s as simple as changing your logo on social media platforms to include a rainbow filter through the end of June. In 2015, when the Supreme Court knocked down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), many brands responded to the news by incorporating rainbows into their images and introducing temporary hashtags.

Other companies made public donations to LGBT-friendly charities and non-profits or created limited edition products and pledged to donate the proceeds. This strategy, obviously, is most popular with beauty or apparel brands, and their social media channels are flooded for weeks with ads promoting the new products.

If your brand doesn’t deal in products that easily lend themselves to new rainbow versions, there are always event-based options. There has been some debate about brand visibility at Pride parades around the country and whether corporate messaging dilutes the central purpose of the month, but as marketers know, there are myriad ways for a brand to genuinely support a cause integral to its mission. It’s too late to send a branded float down Main St. alongside American Express, but supporting a group of employees who want to attend with company shirts is always welcome.

If your branded content includes a blog or print magazine, consider releasing an editorial package of Pride-minded stories. This year, Netflix simply repackaged films already available on its streaming platform for their Twitter followers, bringing awareness to existing work.

Whatever your brand elects to do, be prepared with a strategy for responding to (or ignoring) negative user comments. There’s been no shortage of brand boycotts since the 2016 election. As Contently’s director of strategy Joe Lazauskas wrote a few years ago:

Even if publicizing your beliefs may ostracize some potential customers, it also builds deep loyalty for those who share your values—particularly values like celebrating equality and inclusion, which many people support, regardless of political affiliation. The same goes for expressing concern and support for the diverse people who work for you.

You won’t be able to please everyone, but that’s a risk worth taking if you want your brand to stand for something.

Image by Peter Hershey / Unsplash
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