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How brands can avoid rainbow capitalising this Pride month

How brands can avoid rainbow capitalising this Pride month

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Come June every year, it is customary for brands to release colourful, special edition products to show their support for the LGBTQ community in honour of pride month.

From celebrated campaigns to ones that have caused quite an upset such as when PayPal adopted a rainbow logo on its social media channels in 2021 while simultaneously drawing flak for not allowing those in the transgender community to change their birth name and gender on their accounts. 

Don't miss: Yay or nay? Pride campaigns the internet has loved and hated in 2023

These kinds of pride month campaign fails are typically called 'Rainbow Capitalism', a term used when corporations are accused of profiting socially and financially by selling LGBTQ-themed products with no tangible support going to the community.

With ‘cancel culture’ being a strong force, how exactly can brands support the LGBTQ community this month without coming off as capitalising on the occasion and community?

The answer appears to lie in remembering who a brand’s target audience is and putting their needs at the forefront.

Avoiding generalised campaigns

"Getting LGBTQ marketing right is a veritable minefield for marketers and human resources professionals. No matter what you do, someone will have an adverse reaction to organisational policies or marketing campaigns," said Kevin Kan, CEO at Break Out Consulting Asia.

Kan proposes avoiding generalised campaigns as a solution. “I think brands can be more specific.  Be direct to the segment you are servicing.  Broad general campaigns run the risk of alienating or offending mainstream segments which still account of a large pie of revenue,” he said.

By being specific in product development and marketing campaigns, the targeted segment will be more inclined to be engaged and will remain loyal because the brand did something specifically for them and made them feel special, Kan noted, adding that these are the hallmarks of developing strong brand loyalty.

“For brands who may be more conservative, they may want to consider taking a uni-sex approach to their product development or marketing campaigns.  The mass approach to product design or marketing campaign allows these conservative organisations to still remain inclusive” but just not be direct or in your face in their communication and outlook,” he suggested.

Actively consult the community

Besides avoiding generalised content, it is also critical that brands consult the community they are marketing to in order to avoid blunders or to come across as performative.

This year, fintech company Revolut decided to get in on Pride with a collaboration with local non-profit LGBTQ organisation Oogachaga which provides those in the LGBTQ community with emotional support services and counselling. The companies came together to launch a special-edition pride themed card called the Diversity Card.

In discussing the well-received collaboration, Leow Yangfa, executive director of Oogachaga said, "We attribute this successful collaboration to a variety of factors, including a conscientious effort by the global brand, in this case Revolut, to proactively reach out to and closely consult with a local community partner, in this case Oogachaga, in their implementation plans."

“As a local non-profit that has been continuously supporting Singapore’s LGBTQ community since our founding in 1999, we are very much in tune with the needs and perspectives of our clients and community members, and as such we are able to advise our business partners whenever they approach us with ideas for collaboration that potentially benefit us,” he said.

Sometimes, he added, LGBTQ advertising campaigns can go wrong during execution when there is insufficient effort put into proactively consulting the community it is supposed to benefit, or researching the specific issue it is supposed to highlight.

“A good campaign should centre the people and issues in the community, or the work of the organisations, instead of focussing on celebrities or the product,” he said, nothing that for brands and businesses, it is not only about celebrating Pride in June but rather nothing that one’s staff, suppliers, consumers and stakeholders remain queer throughout the year.

It would seem indeed that authenticity is really the key here with connecting with an audience and being viewed positively for doing so.

Be authentic 

Authenticity is a massive attribute as we look into what campaigns do well in this day and age and what elements consumers are looking for. In 2022, it was found by Partipost, an influencer marketing platform, that more users are seeking truth and authenticity over ultra-polished, high-shine, near-perfect content. It found that 66% of users found authenticity to be more valuable than quality when it comes to decision making.

With consumers becoming more accustomed to sponsored content with every scroll, as well as pay-per-click campaigns continuously being hindered by ad blocks, these new developments aren’t really very surprising. So as brands continuously navigate and explore various content types to find what works, one of the keys to building and sustaining connections that really matter is by leveraging on two things: relevance and authenticity.

Agreeing, Timothy Chan, executive creative director, and partner of GOVT, noted that it should go without saying that one should be authentic. “But even then, the most sincere of intentions can still go wrong. So I’d say that if I was working on a campaign celebrating pride month, I would test it as thoroughly as we can before it goes live,” he said.

Related articles:
Pink Dot SG questions traditional definitions of family in new campaign video
Swatch sees brand sentiments dip following LGBTQ watch seizure: Were they to blame?
Why did Burberry's LGBTQ focused Valentine's Day ad cause such a ruckus?

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