Within the past few years, consumers are increasingly paying attention to a brand’s stance on topics concerning activism and social justice. Consumers and audiences not only want to follow your brand for what services and products it offers, but also for your company’s values and stances on important social issues.
To recognize the Stonewall Riots on June 28th, 1969 in New York City, the month of June is celebrated as LGBTQ+ Pride Month. The COVID-19 pandemic halted many of the traditional Pride Month festivities last summer. However, this year, many more people are looking to celebrate this historic month, including major retail brands.
While many retail brands come under fire during Pride month for practicing what is known as rainbow capitalism, when corporations and brands profit off the sale of multi-colored, Pride themed merchandise during the month of June, there are other brands whose efforts during Pride month help to increase the visibility and awareness of the LGBTQ+ community. We’ll take a look at three brands who are approaching Pride Month 2021 with the right intentions, and one example of how not to ‘celebrate’ Pride.
Candy brand, SKITTLES, ditched its iconic rainbow-colored candy in favor of gray candies for the second consecutive Pride season. In addition to the gray candies, the ‘SKITTLES Pride Packs’ feature gray packaging and a statement on the package that reads ‘Only one Rainbow matters during Pride.’ Additionally, $1 from the sale of each Pride Pack during the month of June, up to $100,000, will be donated to GLAAD, a media-monitoring organization that advocates for the LGBTQ+ community.
John McCourt, GLAAD Senior Director, said of the continuation of the Pride partnership with SKITTLES, “Visibility from beloved brands like SKITTLES has a powerful and unique opportunity to reach parents and young Americans with calls to stand with LGBTQ people during Pride month and beyond.”
Levi Strauss & Co.
The iconic denim retailer, Levi’s, released its “All Pronouns. All Love” Pride Collection to recognize respecting people’s preferred pronouns. Different pronouns are featured on gender-neutral shirts and jackets in addition to other Pride-themed clothing and accessories.
100% of the net proceeds from the collection will be donated to OutRight Action International, a non-profit working to advance human rights of LGBTQ+ people at the regional, national, and international levels.
Calvin Klein & TOMMY HILFIGER
Instead of offering a product or service to consumers to celebrate Pride Month, PVH Corp., the parent company behind Calvin Klein and TOMMY HILFIGER, is focusing on internal education and awareness through company-wide initiatives to create awareness and inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community.
The company will sponsor six Pride-focused events during the year including two in June, the Human Rights Conference and Black Queer Townhall. PVH Corp. is also launching initiatives to further educate its associates through virtual events and a community giving campaign. Calvin Klein will also provide its associates with education programming through a partnership with the Trevor Project, a non-profit that helps LGBTQ+ youth.
“Beyond the essential financial support, there’s also a direct benefit for the community when brands are loud about their support of Pride,” said Shira Kogan, Director of Corporate Development at the Trevor Project. “More than half of youth said brands who support the LGBTQ community positively impact how they feel about being LGBTQ.”
What Not To Do: The Oil Industry
In its attempt to recognize Pride Month, the American Petroleum Institute added a rainbow gradient to its logo across social media platforms. This action received backlash because many audiences saw it as adding little contribution to a community that has historically been discriminated against by the industry.
Reports of harassment of LGBTQ+ workers in the oil industry are sadly not new, and although companies have addressed and condemned this discrimination, there has not been much concrete action to prove they truly support the LGBTQ+ community.
This goes to show that by not being authentic and only capitalizing on the theme of Pride rather than taking a firm stance, companies can face serious backfire. If the actions of companies are not in tune with their words during Pride Month, audiences will see past the rainbow logos and choose not to support them.
Although launching special Pride-themed products and re-branding logos as a way to celebrate equality and inclusion is a popular and fun way for brands to recognize the month, authentic support of the LGBTQ+ community must extend beyond the symbolic rainbow.
Recent polls suggest that over 50% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands that take firm stances on societal and cultural issues. The best thing a brand can do during Pride Month is to make sure their merchandise and marketing match their actions and contributions to the cause. Rather than aiming to capitalize off of the sale of themed merchandise during Pride Month, companies should appeal to consumers and audiences through showing authentic, measurable support for the cause and the surrounding movement.
Victoria Evans is an Account Coordinator at Flackable, an award-winning public relations agency representing financial and professional services brands nationwide. To learn more about Flackable, please visit flackable.com.