Pride Month Marketing: From Riot to Retail

Filed Under: Best Practices, Market Research, LGBTQ+


Derek Bertelsen

Senior Project Manager, Field Services

Throughout June, rainbows are showing up everywhere – from online retailers to big box brands, and restaurant menus – as brands show their support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Some brands acknowledge the birth of Pride, starting as a riot/uprising at the Stonewall Inn in 1969, a bar located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York, that served as a safe haven for the city’s gay, lesbian and transgender community.  Over half a century later, Pride has evolved enormously, so much so that, at times, it seems more retail than riot. As little as ten years ago, many stores and brands were reluctant to show their support. Now, these same companies are clamoring for a piece of the rainbow pie.

One major brand that positioned itself as a fierce advocate early on is Absolut. Since the 1980s, Absolut has been advertising to and supporting the LGBTQ community, starting at a time when many retailers would have been worried about estranging other purchasers.  The brand has had a steady presence in gay media, including being the first major sponsor of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which started as a niche TV show and has gone mainstream in the last few years.

It’s important to remember that while Pride is a genuine celebration of and for the LGBTQ+ community, it’s also about fighting for acceptance and change around the world, including the 70+ countries across the globe where identifying as a member of the LGBTQ+ community is illegal. 

Other important questions to keep in mind:

  • Is your brand or company showing genuine support for the LGBTQ+ community, or are they showing support because others are during this month?
  • Are your other marketing campaigns inclusive?
  • Does your brand or company create an inclusive and safe working environment? 
  • Does your company actively support LGBTQ+ groups, charities, and/or movements?

Developing marketing for Pride month can be tricky. Retailers and brands are likely to get two thumbs up from the LGBTQ+ community and their allies with campaigns that feel authentic, but be aware that you can’t please everyone. Brands should be ready to address questions that might otherwise be uncomfortable, especially in the social media world. As with anything political, if you pick a stance, stick with it. Failing to do so will prove to be unsupportive and disingenuous.

So – how do you successfully market Pride? Because not all brands may have the resources for a major global campaign. Or they may not be able to donate a portion of their proceeds to charities. At the end of the day, it’s about being an advocate for a community that wants and needs your support. And remember, the power of Pride can be celebrated year-round and not just in June when other brands are celebrating, and it’s convenient to do so. For example, rather than creating a rainbow logo once a year, make sure that all campaigns are representative and supportive. Simple steps like showing someone who looks like them in an ad, having brands that say “Mrs. and Mrs.” or allowing gender-neutral options can go a long way. Happy Pride!

To hear first-hand what’s in the hearts and minds of the dynamic LGBTQ+ Community, check out Part 1 of our 3-Part Consumer Connections Series, Amplifying the Voice of the LGBTQ+ Community.

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