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As the month of commemorating the Stonewall riots and honoring LGBTQ+ identities come to an end, people and brands revel in celebrating what Pride means to them. And today, more people are embracing the fluidity of their own identity beyond the binary. In fact, 54% of US adults agree, “I honestly believe I’m neither completely opposite-sex oriented nor completely same-sex oriented.” For younger adults 18-34, this figure jumps to 72%. In addition, 82% of US adults agree, “When it comes to LGBTQ+ people, I have a ‘live and let live’ attitude.”* Given this increasing spotlight on fairness, representation, acceptance, and social change, people are embracing their own unique MYdentities and expect brands to reflect an inclusive cultural zeitgeist.
Not all brands are getting it “right.” This year more than ever, people are scrutinizing the authenticity and impact of brand communications for Pride – including calling out rainbow washing, where brands use rainbow avatars to appear supportive while their actions undermine that claim. This month, theSkimm and other news outlets reported on several brands guilty of rainbow washing. Walmart, for example, launched a Pride-themed collection of products online, yet the company has donated nearly $30,000 since 2019 to politicians who have passed anti-trans legislation. At the same time, many brands are doing Pride in a way that is truly inclusive. We’ve selected a few standout players using their reach and influence to affirm LGBTQ+ identities, elevate Queer visibility, and advocate for systemic change.
Where some brands’ promises of solidarity fell short, others have taken measures to uplift and validate individual identity. Kellogg’s did just that with their Together With Pride cereal in partnership with GLAAD. While the partnership has been running since 2018, an earlier iteration of the cereal struggled to stand out. 2018’s online-only “All Together” box displayed some of the cereal giant’s iconic mascots (Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam, Cornelius Rooster) together on-pack, with the cereal contents a blend of the brands. This year, Kellogg’s is going bigger, distributing in stores nationally, with a focus on a declaration of individuality. New to 2021, the box includes berry-flavored rainbow hearts with dusted edible glitter to boldly stand out from other cereals at the supermarket. They embrace individuality through their self-affirming box, too. The box top includes a cardboard tear-out “Together Band” where people can write in their preferred pronouns. The tear-out can then be worn as a bracelet for people to declare their pronouns with pride. Kellogg’s backs up their words with money by committing to donate $3 to GLAAD for every purchased box. Purchases can be validated by uploading receipts to their site through November.
While identity affirmation on the personal level is important, brands are also celebrating identity through the voices and talents of the community. To promote LGBTQ+ visibility, Skittles launched their QueeR Codes program to spotlight queer creators like critically acclaimed activist, historian, and author Blair Imani. People can access the stories on SkittlesQueeRcodes.com, or by visiting one of four murals designed by queer artists across four states (NJ, TN, GA, and TX) and scanning the imprinted QR code. The brand rounded out their efforts with the re-launch of Pride Skittle Packs where the packaging and candies are gray to shift focus to the “only rainbow that matters” – the Pride rainbow. In addition, through July 5, $1 of every purchase is donated to GLAAD.
Beyond rainbows, Pride-themed messages, and purchase promotions with donation incentives, some brands are using their platforms to selflessly push for societal progress. To authentically advocate for systemic change, The Body Shop rallied for signatures in support of The Equality Act. To date, they have gained 2,164 signatures and have committed to donating $1 per signature collected through the end of August to the Equality Federation – no purchase required. They also encourage societal change through fostering a safe space on their website for people to learn about the issues affecting the community. On their landing page for Pride, allies can read up on nine descriptive ways to be a better ally while LGBTQ+ folks who may be struggling can explore mental health service MindOut.
Brands can (and should) show up authentically for the LGBTQ+ community beyond June, too. Since more people identify with a fluid sense of self, a fashion brand can support dynamic self-expression by creating and displaying genderless collections all year round. Dedicate a portion of every purchase from your genderless collection to ongoing financial support of trustworthy LGBTQ+ non-profit organizations like GLAAD or The Trevor Project. Spread the word of your brand’s commitment to an inclusive future via co-branded OOH billboards with your non-profit partner and across owned social channels.
Source: *Horizon Media Opinion Pulse, May 2021 N=852