Rainbow-washing and other PR faux pas
Each year Pride Month rolls around in June, and it seems as though rainbow flags are popping up everywhere, from brands’ Instagram profile pictures to on-pack, and at face value it’s great to see the LGBTQ community receiving such visible and vocal support.
It is, however, worth looking a little harder to understand how many of these businesses are genuinely making meaningful and progressive strides for the LGBTQ community or even meeting the bare minimum of what would be expected in terms of queer-friendly HR policies. And for those working in marketing, it’s essential to understand this before wholeheartedly hitching our wagon to social cause events, whether that’s Pride, International Women’s Day or Black Lives Matter.
Rainbow washing, as defined by Urban Dictionary, “is the act of using or adding rainbow colours to advertising, apparel, accessories, landmarks… in order to indicate progressive support for LGBTQ equality and earn consumer credibility, but with a minimum of effort or pragmatic result”. Effectively, it’s paying rainbow clad lip service without a commitment to the issue.
It isn’t a new thing for consumers to be decidedly turned off by disingenuous brands, but in today’s world shoppers are ever more savvy about the brands they buy into and social media has meant it only takes one curious consumer with access to Google for an off-the-mark ad campaign to come under huge criticism.
One notable example of a Pride activation done well is from queer-owned Brighton Gin who release a limited-edition bottle every year working with a different artist from the LGBTQ+ community, donating £5 from every bottle sold to The Rainbow Fund, a hub based in Brighton and neighbouring Hove that gives grants to local LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS organisations.
So, whether you’re looking at celebrating International Women’s Day or backing Pride Month, its essential to look at your own business and brand practises first and consider if they truly reflect progressive thought around the issue in hand.
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