Pride Month Marketing: Avoid Performative Allyship

[Disclaimer: This message was not prompted by our marketing department’s research but inspired by our hearts].

HAPPY PRIDE MONTH! – From the Electriq team to yours.

Pride month is a joyous time for many of us; celebrating and embracing the LGBTQIA+ community is an emotional and exciting time. Throughout June, parties, parades, concerts, workshops, and a slew of events mark the celebration. We all get a taste of Pride; look around. Do you see rainbows, confetti, flags, and Lady Gaga stans? Welcome to Pride month. 

Christmas has pine trees, ornaments, and bows; Easter has bunnies and eggs; Pride has its own symbols. The symbolic elements of Pride are tell-tale signs to the LGBT+ community that Pride is here and it’s time to partake, but as of late, these symbols are being hijacked and used by those they don’t belong to. 

As with any other holiday or awareness month, there’s room for capitalism to sway business decisions. During Pride, it’s not a rare occurrence for companies and brands to run marketing campaigns surrounding the LGBT+ community. Sometimes these demonstrations are genuine, but other times, a lot of Pride marketing is performative.

What is Performative Pride Marketing?

We see performative marketing all the time; it’s when brands share certain values on the surface level of their campaigns, but a deeper dive will reveal they’re not who they say they are. 

Sometimes performative marketing is used to demonstrate that a brand is sustainable or supports marginalized groups, but during Pride month, it’s used to display allyship to LGBT+ people.

The facade of allyship and community support is typically described as “color washing”. The Sustainable Fashion Matterz blog has excellent information on all sides of color washing but let’s cover some of the basics here:

Greenwashing: When misleading claims are made on one's own sustainability standards.

Pinkwashing: Promoting female empowerment through brand communication while hiding one's own exploitative and/or unequal practices towards women.

Brown washing: ​​Trying to appear as being supportive of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and People of Color while not implementing anti-racist and/or BIPOC empowering circumstances into the own business.

Performative allyship during Pride month is known as Rainbow washing: Trying to appear supportive of the LGTBQIA+ movement while not empowering LGTBQIA+ individuals inside your own business.

What is Rainbow Washing?

Rainbow Washing Brands

It’s hard to know when a brand is being performative vs. when they’re a genuine Pride ally. Sometimes, we don’t even know where our own friends and family stand on an issue. What’s the solution to rainbow washing? Remember that actions always speak louder than words.

Effective allyship is about putting diversity, equity, and inclusion into effect. A company can say they’re diverse all they want, but there's an issue if their employee stats don’t show it. 

Image from sharing the logos of Unilever, UEFA, Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Volkswagen altered to display rainbow colors.

It’s easy to change your logo’s background to the rainbow flag or share a RuPaul quote to social media, but that’s not what we’re talking about when we say allyship. Even if your business has nothing to do with the LGBT+ community, there are still plenty of ways for you to be an effective ally this month.

How Businesses Can Be Effective Allies During Pride

Here are four simple ways to make sure you’re not being performative this month but actually taking action that matters.

#1 Stop Talking About Yourself

It’s great that you’re an ally, but allyship is not what Pride is about. Pride month exists so that the LGBT+ community’s voices and stories are heard. If you want to be effective, use your platform to amplify those voices.

Allow your employees, leaders, or customers to share their stories with your audience. Your brand likely has more followers across all of your platforms than each individual within your community does separately; let others use your reach to the movement’s advantage.

#2 Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Putting money towards supporting the LGBT+ community is one of the most genuine ways to display allyship. Most businesses try to spare every dime within their operating budget, so donations can say a lot.

There are tons of organizations that your business can donate to. Below, we’re listing some for you to consider, but you should also look into more local groups.

Another tip: Don’t go boasting about your donation and how good of a company you are for it. Try your best to share the names of organizations and put a spotlight on their actions.

#3 Display Allyship In The Workplace Year Round

Start internally; it’s what matters most. If your own team doesn’t feel accepted and supported, then any Pride-centered marketing you do is truly performative. Your employees speak on your behalf, and if they don’t feel you’re an ally, word will spread.

#4 Be Transparent About Your Business

Share your data with the public. It’s becoming normalized for companies to share their workforce diversity data. These records will tell you whether gender and sexuality diversity is prevalent within a company. Investors and regulators want transparency just as much as your current and potential customers do.

Sharing your stats will pressure other companies to follow suit. This kind of demonstration is genuine, action-based, effective allyship.

image of two people in front of a Rainbow flag

Why Is Allyship Important

Unlike Christmas or Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns, Pride is a much more important time for your business. Pride might not bring in the most profits, but it will foster some things much more valuable; trust, community, and support.

Showing that you care about the LGBTQIA+ community helps your customers, partners, and employees feel heard, understood, and appreciated. When your values are clear to the public, you can foster a community of people that support you in your growth.

Even when people notice your actions outside of your direct target audience, they’ll remember your brand when business deals, collaborations, or word-of-mouth references are ever on the table. When people think of your brand, you want them to think, oh, I remember them; they do good business and treat their people well.

The best brands don’t just talk the talk; they walk the walk. Make sure that your marketing messages this month are genuine and representative of who you are both internally and externally. And again, Happy Pride!

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