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How brands can use web3 to transcend ‘rainbow capitalism’

By Brandon Dixon | Director of Communications

January 19, 2023 | 6 min read

It’s time for marketers to rethink how they connect with the queer community. Blockchain-based virtual environments may hold the key, writes marketing firm Stagwell’s director of communications Brandon Dixon.

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Brands have long used the image of the rainbow when marketing to LGBTQ+ audeinces, with varying results. / Adobe Stock

You know the routine: Brand X rolls out a half-baked Pride Month campaign and the internet convulses in memes, critique, and calls for the end of “rainbow capitalism” – the corporatization and commodification of the LGBTQ+ movement. Web3 has the potential to break this cycle, by enabling brands to create genuinely meaningful marketing and experiences for the queer community. It all starts with authentic community engagement.

Web3 is in large part about community-building, which makes it an opportunity for brands to explore new modes of engagement with their queer audiences. They can fuse insights and integration to unleash vibrant digital content and experiential activations.

They can also act on the understanding that commerce isn’t the immediate game in the nascent web3 community, and focus instead on creating long-term fandom with LGBTQ+ consumers through meaningful brand activations, going beyond the rainbow capitalism that generates memes every Pride Month. (Mastercard’s “Pride Plaza” activation in Decentraland, launched during Pride Month last year, is an illustrative example of these principles being put into action.)

How web3 can help

There are, in my view, three pillars of enhancing queer experiences in web3 that brand marketers should be focusing on:    

Education

Imagine an immersive digital world in which the queer community is able to preserve and continually revitalize itself.

Brands can help to bring this vision into being by supporting new approaches to queer history and proliferating sexual education. The brands that can generate queer fandom via virtual education initiatives that help consumers authentically connect to their own and others’ experiences will be more likely to generate long-term queer fans and brand ambassadors. 

Community     

Queer spaces hold power. Bars, clubs, drag spaces and the like are the locus of a community that hails from all walks of life. And they’re often the places LGBTQ+ consumers first meet elders from the community and get role models for how to live their lives. Web3 promises a form of digital mobility that can help reach geographically or politically isolated LGBTQ+ consumers.

Brands that purposefully build virtual community spaces for queer consumers now can reap dividends for years to come.   

Joy

The rainbow symbol shouldn’t disappear entirely. It can still elicit joy, one of the most important emotions a brand can deliver to a queer consumer. In virtual environments, brands can go bigger than ever in how they fuse queer culture, representation and mainstream culture to deliver joy – whether that stems from launching a virtual prom for queer people or building a virtual meet-and-greet with some of history’s most famous LGBTQ+ trailblazers. (Those are hypothetical examples, but just about anything is possible in blockchain-based virtual environments.)

Whatever the approach, brands should always emphasize joy when they’re leveraging web3 to market to the queer community.

Looking toward the future

To be sure, web3 is likely to possess all the features of the internet that negatively impact queer consumers today, including shoddy representation, trolling and the possibility of involuntary outings. But as a technological framework through which brands can create more meaningful marketing and experiences for their LGBTQ+ audience members, web3 holds huge potential. And brands need to invest now.

Brandon Dixon is director of communications at marketing company Stagwell. For more on the latest happening in tech, sign up for The Drum’s Inside the Metaverse weekly newsletter here.

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