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Ben Cooper
| 23RD JUN 2023

Zeno Thinks: Why Brands Need to Stand Up (Not Sit Back) During Pride Month

As I look back at this year’s Pride Month, the 2023 theme of 'Rage and Resilience’ couldn’t feel more reflective of the current social and political climate that we’re unfortunately experiencing right now…

Whilst Pride Month has historically been an opportunity for brands to show up and show support for the queer community – some more performatively than others (but that’s an entirely different blog post!), all it takes is a simple ‘Pride Month’ Google search to see a seismic shift in activity. Recent headlines and word association such as ‘backlash’, ‘brands staying silent’ ‘pulling back from Pride’ instantly give you a feel for how brands are reacting (or not reacting) to what is undoubtedly a very testing and triggering time for the entire LGBTQIA+ community.

Alarmingly, according to RILA Global Consulting, a company that studies consumers, brands and trends, this time last year there were fewer than 400 social media posts calling for boycotts of Pride collections. In May 2023, that number jumped to 15,000.

This recent backlash against brands is just the latest in a wave of far-right campaigning to undermine companies' efforts to support the LGBTQIA+ community. In light of this though, many brands are opting to sit back and remain quiet, amidst fears of backlash, brand boycotting and cancel culture.

So, how can brands truly stand their ground and show support for the LGBTQIA+ community during such a turbulent time?

  • Be Prepared – Sadly, there will always be bias and discrimination toward our community. Preparing for anti-LGBTQIA+ response is part and parcel of reaping the benefits of a Pride campaign. (And that’s what pre-prepared FAQ response docs are for!)
  • Risk Assess Your Campaign – Look at the pushback that other brands have received, and understand the good AND the bad of how they responded (spoiler alert: blanket silence and no response never ends well…)
  • Align Yourself With The Right Partners – consider investing media spend and targeting the right media that matches your brand values - rather than those that actively engage in and encourage hate speech and “spread disinformation”.
  • Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is – Money talks. A temporary rainbow logo just isn’t going to cut it anymore in 2023 people, it needs to be backed up with meaningful action!
  • Stay In It For The Long Term – Quick-fix campaigns and displays of solidarity that are blatantly seen as ‘pinkwashing’ are increasingly being called out. Demonstrate how your brand can show up for the community year-round, as that’s when true change and support happens
  • Talk To Your Queer Peers – Ensure your LGBTQIA+ staff, peers and network are not only supported but included in the decision making. There should be LGBTQIA+ input at every stage of campaign planning.
  • Put It Into Perspective – No matter how much hate a company gets for selling Pride merchandise, it will never compare to what the LGBTQIA+ community face on a daily basis

Speaking of putting things into perspective, after decades of slow progress, LGBTQIA+ people are increasingly under attack everywhere, and certainly not just across the pond, Stateside. It’s time to remember what Pride is for…

  • Homosexuality is still illegal in more than 60 countries around the world and, worse, more than 10 countries still carry capital punishment for homosexual activity
  • The UK government is considering its worst attack on trans rights yet - Tory Minister Kemi Badenoch wants to change the legal definition of ‘sex’, robbing the trans community of vital rights and protections
  • In 2022, hate crimes against transgender people saw the biggest rise, with 4,355 reports, up 56% from the previous year

This is a year not to forget that ‘Pride is STILL a Protest’ and to turn up the volume!