As a gay man, summer is one of my favourite times of the year; not just because of the weather, but because it’s the time of year when the LGBT+ community and their allies celebrate Pride all around the world. Rainbow regalia springs up absolutely everywhere you look.
It’s worth just interjecting here. For those who don’t know, Wikipedia explains LGBT+ as “a loosely defined grouping of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, LGBT organisations, and subcultures, united by a common culture and social movements. These communities generally celebrate pride, diversity, individuality, and sexuality.”
Us members of the LGBT community are accustomed to seeing a rainbow symbol on a regular, - sometimes daily - basis. We see it in the gay-friendly bars we frequent, we see it in the LGBT media we consume and we see it in the digital marketing which is targeted to us all year round.
Summer is an interesting time of year though, because we suddenly see the rainbow sprout elsewhere, in a slew of unfamiliar environments.
Not just in the gay-friendly bars we frequent, but also the local Wetherspoons we hit on a Friday after work.
Not just the niche media we consume, but also mainstream media, where brands suddenly dress up their logo in a rainbow outfit for all to see.
And not just the digital marketing which is purposefully targeted to us as an LGBT audience, but the huge run-of-site takeovers on YouTube and the like.
Summer is the season of the rainbow; it’s everywhere.
It’s amusing though, because sometimes the rainbow appears in a brand’s campaign, in a blatant attempt to get us to cough up our cash, when the campaign clearly has absolutely no substance behind it. “Oh,” I often hear myself think, “there’s another brand slapping a rainbow on their logo, expecting me to think it’s genuine, and give them my money.” Eye-rolling ensues.
There’s a fine line between jumping on the bandwagon to exploit a cultural event for monetary gain, and executing a meaningful marketing campaign which is genuine and impactful.
Lindsay Lohan once said “I've pissed off a lot of people in my time. Never gays. I'm smart like that”.
And she’s right. A relevant survey has shown LGBT consumers pay close attention to brands who make an effort, with 70% of them saying a brand’s reputation as LGBT friendly, or not, has directly influenced a purchase they’ve made. What’s more, the community are prone to have more disposable income as they’re less likely to have kids. And there’s more of us than you think; it’s estimated that the global LGBT community would have the 4th-largest GDP in the world if it were a country.
Play to your strengths
I was recently listening to Gaydio, a national radio station for the LGBT community, and I heard a United Airlines ad declaring their support for London Pride week.
They’ve also been running special segments on the station, where United flies radio presenters to LGBT friendly destinations like Chicago to check out the sights.
Their website complements this with content around gay-friendly destinations in their roster, with custom information on popular attractions which are relevant to the LGBT community and our culture.
Every brand, no matter what you do or sell, can play to a strength and offer the community something useful. Find your strength, own it and mean it. Put your money where your mouth is This is your time to do something which benefits the LGBT community.
Promote discussion about the issues we face, offer local peer support to minority groups, donate to LGBT charities, anything! If you simply slap a rainbow flag on your logo and hope for the best, the community is going to see right through you.
One awesome, quite literal example of this in practice, is Paddy Power’s Fifa World Cup campaign.
The World Cup is hosted in Russia, which has an appalling attitude towards LGBT people and their rights. Since February 2017, it’s been reported that more than 100 gay men in Chechnya have been abducted, transported to concentration camps, tortured and killed, while authorities turn a blind eye.
Paddy Power, with their usual brazen and cheeky swagger, have pledged to donate £10,000 to LGBT causes for every goal the Russian team score, inadvertently turning them into LGBT activists!
They’ve gained a lot of brand attention, while championing the rights of the community in a meaningful way.
Pride is an amazing time, because it’s a period where the LGBT community sees so much support from outside our regular haunts and tribes, and it reminds us of how far we have come with acceptance.
Don't get complacent
But it’s also a time we must remind ourselves there’s still so much to be done. A brief Googling of LGBT rights on the whole, globally, makes for upsetting reading.
There’s still work to be done even in the UK, which has fairly progressive attitudes. This week, a year-long government inquiry reported that LGBT people are less satisfied with their lives, rating satisfaction 6.5 on average out of 10 compared with 7.7 from non-LGBT people. It also found at least 2 in 5 respondents have experienced verbal harassment or physical violence, simply because they’re LGBT.
So this Pride season, grab your rainbow flag. Smush that glitter on your face and in your hair. Join the party. Hell, even rainbow-ify your brand logo. Just make sure you play to your brand’s strengths, and demonstrate what you genuinely have to offer the LGBT community. We’re a savvy bunch, and what Lindsay Lo’ said was 100% correct.
Tom Taylor who is a senior account manager at iCrossing