Don’t co-opt Pride with­out au­then­tic­ity, ex­perts sug­gest

Campaign UK - - NEWS - By Ni­cola Kemp

In­dus­try sources have warned brands not to rush in and add to the “rain­bow logo soup” of Pride with­out a long-term and au­then­tic in­clu­siv­ity strat­egy.

Co-opt­ing years of hard-won gay rights to do lit­tle more than raise brand aware­ness or sell a prod­uct is a dan­ger­ous mar­ket­ing strat­egy, ex­perts sug­gest.

Matt Cain, ed­i­tor-in-chief of At­ti­tude, said: “As most LGBT+ peo­ple grow up hav­ing to hide who they are be­fore de­cid­ing to come out and cel­e­brate their sex­u­al­ity or iden­tity, what we value more than any­thing else is au­then­tic­ity.”

He added: “We can see through brands who just want to ap­pear to be gay-friendly in or­der to reap the eco­nomic ben­e­fits.”

Brands that jump in too quickly lack au­then­tic­ity, ac­cord­ing to Alex Rück­heim, be­havioural an­a­lyst at in­sights agency Can­vas8. He said the dif­fi­culty is that chang­ing dy­nam­ics in con­sumer cul­ture are mak­ing it al­most im­pos­si­ble for brands not to get in­volved, but there’s a risk of be­ing too quick. Rück­heim ex­plained: “Think of it as be­ing good as op­posed to do­ing good for the sake of ap­pear­ing good. Yes, peo­ple ex­pect brands to be vo­cal about so­cial is­sues and we’ve seen that they are will­ing to spend more on a brand they know is so­cially con­scious.

“But po­lit­i­cal and so­ci­etal is­sues have tra­di­tion­ally been the arena of the com­mu­nity, not brands. So if brands are in­tend­ing to talk to peo­ple in these spa­ces, then the con­ver­sa­tions they are hold­ing have to be au­then­tic and truly gen­uine. If not, peo­ple think a brand is just jump­ing on the band­wagon.”

Adam Spaw­ton-rice, con­tent mar­ket­ing man­ager at Havas Me­dia who leads Havas’ own Pride event, thinks brands should be­ware of “sim­ply adding to the rain­bow logo soup”.

But he said there is op­por­tu­nity for brands to bet­ter mix to­gether the com­mu­nity and com­mer­cial as­pects of Pride: “It’s crass when the mar­ket­ing is not aligned to the cause. Not only could [these brands] be ad­vo­cates but they could be con­tribut­ing to change in parts of the world where rights are lag­ging be­hind.” Spaw­ton-rice cited Heineken as an ex­am­ple of a brand will­ing to have dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions with the re­cent “Worlds apart” spot. It fea­tured dif­fer­ent kinds of peo­ple, in­clud­ing a trans­gen­der woman, shar­ing their views.

This week, Ab­so­lut launched “Equal love”, by Bar­tle Bogle He­garty, that

pro­motes LGBT+ rights. Gaia Gi­lar­dini, Ab­so­lut’s global com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor, be­lieves more brands join­ing in the con­ver­sa­tion is a good thing be­cause it in­volves more peo­ple in the dis­cus­sion.

Gi­lar­dini ar­gued that while “some of them might not have the right ex­e­cu­tion”, brands do not need to have cam­paign­ing her­itage to join in: “You should do it be­cause you re­ally be­lieve in it and, as a brand, you have some com­mit­ment to try and make a dif­fer­ence. Brands to­day have a lot of power to drive change.”

Pride in Lon­don, which ends on 9 July, has ben­e­fited from a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in com­mer­cial in­vest­ment and, in the past two years, it has dou­bled in spon­sor­ship in­come. The event is sup­ported through a mix­ture of fi­nan­cial part­ner­ships and probono spon­sor­ship agree­ments.

Polly Shute, de­vel­op­ment and part­ner­ships di­rec­tor at Pride in Lon­don, said that far from be­ing a mar­ket­ing “badg­ing” ex­er­cise, most brands that en­gage with the event do so through LGBT+ staff within their or­gan­i­sa­tions.

These in­di­vid­ual em­ploy­ees then act as ad­vo­cates for Pride within their busi­nesses. Shute pointed to the ex­am­ple of An­heuser-busch In­bev: “They do it to show their work­force that you can be your­self and be com­fort­able.”

For head­line spon­sor Bar­clays, its in­vest­ment is just “one small part of a large story of di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion which they in­vest in all year round”, Shute added. She ex­plained that this year-round ap­proach is key not just to mar­ket­ing suc­cess but to cre­at­ing an in­ter­nal busi­ness cul­ture that em­braces all kinds of peo­ple.

“I don’t be­lieve these com­pa­nies are ‘pinkwash­ing’,” Shute said. “I didn’t come out un­til I was 41 – if there was more sup­port, I might have felt free to be my­self ear­lier.”

Ab­so­lut: ‘Equal love’ by BBH pro­motes LGBT+ rights

Heineken: ‘Worlds apart’ sparked de­bate

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