Are brands getting it right with the LGBT community?

July marks Pride celebrations across the world, and year on year more brands are jumping to be part of the action. Rainbowed logos, lattes, bottles and even buses are covering streets and shopping aisles up and down the country.

This fresh explosion of interest in LGBT Pride from brands has led to many efforts being labelled as “pinkwashing”, as corporations’ motives and the validity of their support has been put into question. So is there ever a right way for brands to partake in Pride?

One of the brands that have come under fire from the LGBTQ community for their efforts most this year is Nike, with their 2018 update on their BeTrue collection that features pairs of trainers sporting a pink triangle originally used to identify LGBTQ individuals during WWII.

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Nike’s BeTrue collection trainers. Source: Nike.com

Despite Nike acknowledging the advocacy group ACT UP as being responsible for reclaiming the symbol for the community, after the release of the collection the group called NIKE out on twitter for their lack of financial support or genuine engagement with the charity. Nike have shown how important it is to be seen to champion a community, rather than being seen to appropriate it.

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Source: Penguin’s Pride Bookmarks. Source: Penguin

Penguin Books’ efforts have been met much more favourably, with the publishing house making sure to keep LGBTQ voices at the heart of their moves this Pride. Now in its second year, Penguin Pride provides a space and a stage for a line-up of LGBTQ writers, poets, musicians and activists – showcasing published authors alongside writers and performers on the rise – giving a marginalised community a real space to present their work.

Whilst Penguin made efforts to give a platform to public members of the LGBTQ community, Sephora cosmetics looked inwards when it came to the individuals they chose to showcase. This year the brand cast its own transgender identifying employees as presenters for a series of in-store and online programming aimed at the trans and nonbinary community.

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Source: Sephora Pride

Although only a small portion of Sephora’s LGBTQ employees will have appeared on screen, the action speaks to a wider public demand for brands to echo their external facing views internally.

Increasingly we are seeing that for a brand to engage in Pride in a way that feel genuine and authentic, they need to be ready to stand proud of their support for the LGBTQ community all year round. This support should go beyond a rainbow window display –  through internal policies that reflect their outward stance, or by standing up to support a community that is too often dismissed and marginalised.


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