Pride month began after the Stonewall riots in 1969, and has become a celebration and commemoration of the LGBTQ+ community during the month of June. As with most things, brands have slowly become keen to be a part of this celebration. But with calls for more authenticity and accountability from brands in recent years, it’s getting harder for them – if they value their audiences – to simply hop on the Pride bandwagon every June and then hop off when it’s over. This has become even more apparent as we navigate politically polarising times, where the rights and safety of the LGBTQ+ community continue to come under threat.
“Currently there are two types of support for Pride by brands: authentic, unwavering support and performative activism,” says Diana Ellis-Hill, co-founder and director at creative agency Be The Fox, which has worked with Samsung, Huggies, Nissan and more. “The first is deep-rooted in what the brand does 365 days a year and the other is support that is performed, overtly, at ‘peak’ times of the year, to increase their social capital, rather than their resolute devotion to the cause. It is easy to spot the difference.”
Lucy McKillop, joint CEO of Outvertising (a non-profit that aims to make UK advertising and marketing completely LGBTQIA+ inclusive) and global brand director at Carat, believes that brands are at a crossroads. “With the increased hateful noise and anti-queer and particularly anti-trans violence being seen especially in the UK and US, brands have a decision to make,” she says. “On the one hand, they can go quiet, and backtrack, which proves that historical cosmetic ‘support’ for the queer community was indeed driven by commercial factors alone. Alternatively, they can double down, stand by their work, and ride out the storm.”