In commemoration of the Singaporean parliament repealing section 377A of the penal code, a controversial law that criminalises sex between consenting male adults (cite) on 29 November 2022, Google has updated its Singapore homepage with a pride flag doodle. Google doodle was started in honour of commemorating holidays, historical events and people, and has now turned into a popular phenomenon. The repeal of section 377a has been in a long time coming, after numerous parliamentary debates and activist movements in the form of ‘Ready4Repeal’ and Pinkdot, making this a historic event.
In a Linkedin post Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared that the move was a ‘major milestone’ for Singapore. Additionally, a constitutional change was made to protect the definition of marriage.
With Google expressing its support of the repeal via its doodle, it sets a precedent and encourages other local brands to be more vocal with their brand values. Being the world’s largest tech giant, standing in solidarity with the queer community sends a message to others to follow suit. The executive sponsor for PRIDE employee resource group at Google, Christine Chia, shared the thought process behind the doodle, stating “We respect our diverse community of Googlers and support employees on issues that matter to them. We recognise the significance of the repeal of 377A for our LGBTQ+ employees, families, and their community as a step toward greater acceptance, and we will continue to support them in several ways.”
Google aims to continue working on creating an inclusive space that allows for self-expression and ensures equal opportunity for all to “foster a greater sense of belonging”, she said.
Is the marketing community missing out?
Lars Voedisch, MD of PRecious Communications added that when deciding whether to show support now, it is all about authenticity and accessing what’s driving that support. “Let’s be honest: There are two main aspects driving brands’ engagement – those who are based on their organisations’ values, beliefs, and actions; and those chasing the pink dollar. Jumping on the bandwagon now would only mean that brands might get labelled as trend-jackers, and not in a good way,” he said.
Voedisch added that the community must “salute the brands who kept their faith and supported the LGBTQ community over the years”. “They were trendsetters when it was not opportune, when it caused intervention of the authorities, and when standing up for the cause needed guts and perseverance. That’s the difference between storytelling, and story-doing – or just jumping on a bandwagon that others helped to start moving,” he said.
When it comes to his own clients, Voedisch said it is necessary to advise them that times have changed and becoming part of a movement needs real change, commitment, and determination.
“It is not enough anymore to stick a label like CSR or nowadays ESG on random activities if they don’t look at holistic impact on society and the planet at a bigger level,” he added.
Nonetheless, the pink dollar segment is still a great one to focus on, Fiona Bartholomeusz, founder for ad agency Formul8 shared. She said:
If I was a marketer, I’d definitely engage them with specific CRM initiatives given many in the community also have high disposable incomes because they don’t have the traditional family outfit.
Brands across travel and lifestyle have an immense opportunity to market to this overlooked segment, she explained. Rather than relying on international companies who are known to be pro-LGBTQ, she shared that local companies could also benefit from being seen as more progressive in their product promotions and development. Local banks, for example, could create special investment products for the community who might not have children, but want financial stability for their later years.
She added that marketing opportunities aside, the government has done a great job in listening to Singaporeans and repealing Section 377A. “They’ve listened, they’ve acted and while it won’t please everyone, it does show that they are responsive and more importantly, progressive. Ultimately what anyone wants to feel is a sense of acceptance and belonging – something which has long been overdue for the LGBTQ community, and this is a win for all,” she added.
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