June is always a very strange month for me. It comes with my birthday, Father’s Day Pride, and of course, the Pride campaigns

Pride campaigns have become increasingly commonplace during the month of June. As a queer marketer, I’ve had a hard time articulating how I feel about the commercialization of Pride. It feels confusing, frustrating, and painful.

As a marketer, I understand how seasonal content is essential to cut through today’s noisy media landscape with relevant messages. I also respect that many marketers—of all experiences and identities—are seizing opportunities like Pride month and Juneteenth to use their platform for good.

As a queer person, I know how hard-earned pride is. I’ve felt the sting of rejection on the playground, walking around the block, and at my own wedding. I’ve been spat on, threatened at knifepoint, and had rainbow flags burned outside my apartment. And, along the way, I’ve found a profound sense of self, community, and pride.

Seeing a billboard about two men sharing a checking account does not, however, make me feel that same sense of pride. And every time a company rainbow washes their logo on LinkedIn, I find myself careening between anger and appreciation.

So, this year, I’m channeling my conflicted feelings into this quick resource for fellow well-intentioned marketers. Below, I’ll cover:

I can only offer one perspective, but I hope it proves helpful as you figure out the most responsible way for your brand to engage with Pride month.

Pride campaigns: dos and don’ts

Who should create Pride campaigns

Do: Let LGBTQ+ voices lead the way.

It’s natural that a corporate Pride campaign would begin with your marketing team. After all; who else can tell a story like a marketer can? Just because your marketers are good at content creation, though, doesn’t mean they are qualified to speak about LGBTQ+ topics. Make space for LGBTQ+ voices on your team to lead the way in campaign brainstorming, creative direction, and execution.

Some of you might have read that and immediately thought of a few folks you could invite into the process. If you did, great! Just keep in mind that most people don’t want to be singled out at work for being queer. (They certainly don’t want to get extra tasks for it, either.) If this person has not come out to you explicitly, you might also put yourself in the awkward position of making an inaccurate assumption or outing somebody at work. Instead of asking a queer person to help, put out a general call inviting all employees—particularly those who identify as belonging to the LGBTQ+ community—to partner with your marketing team on Pride content.

Don’t: Rely on assumptions, second-hand experiences, and what you’ve heard.

It’s unreasonable to expect people who are straight, cisgendered, and/or allies to profoundly understand LGBTQ+ experiences. If you don’t have people with real lived experiences guiding your Pride campaigns—or any DEI-related content—you run the risk of putting out content that does more harm than good.

If you can’t find any queer folks at your office to contribute to your Pride campaigns, it might be worthwhile to ask yourself why. Making your workplace more inclusive is probably a better use of your time than trodding over Pride month with your own agenda.

Using the Pride flag

Do: Use the Pride flag to create safe spaces.

The rainbow flag has gone mainstream as one of the most recognizable symbols of Pride month.

The Pride flag can be used by LGBTQ+ people as a sign of pride, community, and resistance. As a queer person, when I see the flag in public, it tells me that I will (A) find community there, or (B) be safe from physical assault—a reassurance I sorely need.

Allies who are flying the Pride flag should think about it in terms of creating a safe space. If you’re going to display it where it’s easy—like on your company’s LinkedIn profile—you should also display it where it’s difficult. What would happen if you used a rainbow-fied logo on your corporate invoices, or in presentations to your board of directors? Or, what would happen if you hung a Pride flag in the company office? Showing the flag where it is least welcome is an impactful way to transform unsafe spaces into safe ones.

Don’t: Co-opt the flag to signal diversity and inclusion.

I’ve seen a worrying trend of Pride campaigns using rainbow colors during Pride month to virtue signal diversity. The Pride flag does not represent diversity.

The colors of the original pride flag represented life, healing, the sun, nature, harmony, the soul, secuality, and art . The new pride flag includes black, brown, and pink/white/blue, representing the foundational contributions made by black, brown, and trans people to LGBTQ+ advancement.

When you use the rainbow colors to say “hey, we’re inclusive,” you’re co-opting an already meaningful symbol to advance your own interests.

Themes for Pride campaigns

Do: Acknowledge themes of personhood, community, resilience, and activism.

LGBTQ+ lives are about a lot more than dating and marriage. We have work lives, financial lives, and social lives, too.

Pride is a concept that goes beyond politics like equal marriage rights. Just take a look at the original Pride flag colors, and what they represented!

Pride campaigns that transcend surface-level topics and encourage a deeper conversation about self and solidarity are, in my eyes, the only ones worth producing.

Don’t: Make it about “loving who you love.”

I am married to somebody of the same sex. I grew up in a social environment where my right to marriage was debated openly in my classrooms, newspapers, on TV, and everywhere in between. As a result, I deeply appreciate the continuous activism necessary to defend marriage as a human right.

However, I’m tired of people and brands only speaking to me about who I love. It feels like a pinched-nose way of handling (and sanitizing) my life. I feel invisible as the other parts of my queer identity get shrunken by silence. It feels like I’m only worthy of dignity and respect if I fit my life into a heterosexual model of relationships, rather than being worthy of those things simply because I’m a human.

Creating content for Pride campaigns

Do: Support and amplify LGBTQ+ voices.

As with any seasonal campaigns, Pride month can sneak up on your average marketer. So, if you need to create content quickly, look to LGBTQ+ artists as a resource! While they are often underrepresented in professional circles, queer artists are abundantly available for hire to create authentic, meaningful, and impactful content on Pride themes.

Don’t: Rip off queer artists.

As with any artist or content creator you engage; be sure to pay them fairly for their work and/or intellectual property. It is inappropriate to offer mentions and exposure alone, unless the creator suggests it themselves.

It can be tempting—particularly on social channels—to find existing content you can re-share and repurpose. Directly asking the creators for permission to re-share the post on your social channels is a good practice to follow. When you do share content, make sure you re-share the post from the original creator rather than uploading it as a new post.

Even when you are creating content yourself, it’s important to think critically about where your ideas came from. LGBTQ+ people have been ripped off for decades, for everything from fashion to music palettes. Instead, try to remember where you’re pulling inspiration, and offer credit and payment where possible.

Ideas for Pride campaigns

Pride All Year

If you’re still scrambling to come up with ideas for your Pride campaign, consider celebrating Pride year-round.

Invite your teammates—of all identities—to share stories related to LGBTQ+ Pride, and slowly develop content around those stories. You can release a series of videos, graphics, and even podcasts throughout the year at your own pace. And, you can emphasize the point that queer people should be celebrated year-round.

Support LGBTQ+ nonprofits

If you have a large budget for seasonal campaigns, consider redirecting those resources toward nonprofits that serve LGBTQ+ communities. Don’t fuss about publicizing your gift—just give. Prioritize organizations that provide direct aid to LGBTQ+ communities that sit at intersections of injustice (racial, economic, legal, etc.):

  • SAGE: a national advocacy and services organization that’s been looking out for LGBTQ+ elders since 1978
  • The Okra Project: a collective that seeks to address the global crisis faced by Black Trans people by bringing home cooked, healthy, and culturally specific meals and resources
  • For the Gworls: a Black, trans-led collective that curates parties to fundraise money to help Black transgender people pay for their rent, gender-affirming surgeries, smaller co-pays for medicines/doctor’s visits, and travel assistance
  • Marsha P. Johnson Institute: protects and defends the human rights of BLACK transgender people
  • The Trevor Project: the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people
  • LGBTQ Freedom Fund: pays bail to secure the safety and liberty of individuals in jail and immigration detention
  • National Center for Transgender Equality: advocates to change policies and society to increase understanding and acceptance of transgender people

An employee donation drive is another great way to honor Pride month by supporting non-profits. Get the word out with engaging videos, like the one below!

 

If you’re a Vyond customer, you can customize this video template in Vyond Studio.

Customize this video template

Do the Work

Certainly, Pride campaigns are hard to get right. After reading this far in the guide, you might be feeling worried about not having the right ideas, the right creative, or the right people behind your Pride campaign.

That is okay. And, that might be a sign to rethink your approach. Instead of creating a public-facing Pride campaign, consider an internally-focused one.

Think critically about what resources and perspectives are missing to make it so your brand can speak to LGBTQ+ topics. Is it a matter of resistance from executive management? Are you having trouble finding LGBTQ+ voices who can contribute to your campaign? Do you find yourself stammering over your words, unsure of the right language to use?

Unpack those challenges and greet them as opportunities to make your organization even more inclusive and diverse. An easy way to start is to create training resources like the video below to help educate your employees on LGBTQ+ topics. You can also partner with HR on internal marketing campaigns and employer branding to foster inclusion, diversity, and belonging.

 

The gender pronouns training video above can be customized by any Vyond customer.

Customize this training video

Examples of Pride campaigns

Levi’s: Respect All Pronouns (2021)

Creative from Levi's Respect All Pronouns ads as an example of effective Pride campaigns.

A San Francisco-born company, Levi’s is a leader when it comes to Pride campaigns. They haven’t waited for messages to be popular before amplifying them in major activations and advertisements.

For example, Levi’s met popular debate about gender and pronouns head-on last year. Their Respect All Pronouns campaign advocated for people who are gender non-conforming. The campaign features paid models who represent LGBTQ+ communities, highlighting how marketers can amplify and support queer folks.

Compared to other clothing brands, Levi’s does a great job of creating Pride apparel that centers the wearer, and creating apparel in collaboration with queer artists.

ADP: Pride training resources

My all-time favorite Pride campaign isn’t a campaign at all. ADP has, for quite some time now, committed to honoring Pride year-round.

Instead of creating splashy ads, ADP puts in the work to meaningfully advance LGBTQ+ topics at work. By creating a series of training videos with Vyond, they can educate employees on topics like gender pronouns to foster a more inclusive workplace for all.

Skittles: Give the Rainbow (2021)

 "Give the rainbow" Skittles packaging as an example of effective Pride campaigns.

In June 2021—just as rainbow products began hitting shelves—a particularly memorable rainbow disappeared. In honor of Pride, Skittles actually replaced its iconic multicolored packaging with a grayscale version, making the call that “only one color matters during Pride month.”

While the move felt a little silly and trivial, it stands out as a remarkable example of resisting the impulse to center Pride around your product. This noticeable tactic called into question the commercialization of Pride. Rather than co-opting the Pride flag, Skittles honored that it belongs to the LGBTQ+ community.

Get ready for Pride month

Pride campaigns can feel like an important moment for your brand to raise its voice. It can also feel particularly daunting to well-intentioned marketers who want to get it right. The best way to get started is to share personal experiences, much like I’ve attempted to do in this guide. Invite your team to share stories about LGBTQ+ pride using tools like Vyond Studio.

Are you a non-profit organization dedicated to LGBTQ+ communities? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out to [email protected] to connect with our team about amplifying your work year-round.

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