With it being Pride month, several companies have pulled out their redesigned logos with rainbow flags to showcase their support for the LGBTQIA+ community. Is it genuine allyship or a marketing tactic to generate revenue?
In too many cases, it is the latter. For years companies have come out with Pride branded merchandise to show their “support,” but there’s little action that follows. These companies aren’t making donations to Pride charities or providing a platform for a member of the LGBTQIA+ community to speak their truth. The companies are simply making a profit. And this doesn’t just happen during Pride month.
Let’s look at Walmart’s recent blunder when the retailer announced the release of their Juneteenth ice cream and holiday decorations. Not only were they incredibly insensitive, but Walmart completely missed the mark as to why Juneteenth is celebrated. The company instead managed to offend and capitalize off an entire group of people, based on societal stereotypes. The product announcement faced severe backlash on social media and made headlines for their insensitive product. Walmart later apologized with a statement to Fox news stating, “Juneteenth holiday marks a celebration of freedom and independence,” Walmart’s statement said. “However, we received feedback that a few items caused concern for some of our customers and we sincerely apologize.”
There is a fine line between showing support or making a statement on sensitive topics and selling themed products to “celebrate” certain groups of people. How many times have we heard apologies with no proactive steps being taken to do better? At this point in time, a simple apology equates to checking boxes. There is no meaning when there is no genuine remorse or action.
With the multitude of tragic events and issues occurring around the world, companies need to be hyper aware of the messaging they put out when pertaining to politically sensitive topics. Oftentimes companies leverage themed marketing tactics that do absolutely nothing aside from commodifying a group of people. It misrepresents and doesn’t make for a welcoming space for people to show up as their authentic selves. It also reinforces and perpetuates stereotypes that do more harm. Not only does it offend people, but it makes the organization look bad and in turn, causes damage to the organization.
If your company is looking to make a statement or celebrate certain cultural holidays with branded merchandise or advertisements, there are many things to consider when creating an appropriate message or campaign.
To start, is the messaging authentic? Don’t speak on something unless you have something positive or productive to say. A lot of companies will celebrate or show support during the cultural holiday season, but as soon as the holiday is over - so are the themed products and supporting statements.
This doesn’t show allyship, it shows your company wants to grow the bottom line. When creating campaigns or messaging for sensitive topics or cultural happenings, know the audience you are trying to deliver your message to and ensure the messaging is appropriate and not self-promotional. Not every holiday needs public statements, branded products and marketing tactics tied to it. Some holidays should be left to the celebrants of the respective holiday to enjoy the true nature of the celebration.
Brands will have a better understanding of these messages and awareness of what’s happening in the world around them if companies have a diverse team working for them. Many organizations boast their diversity and inclusion goals and initiatives, but often fail to have the diverse workforce to back up their claims. If your company is making a pledge towards a cause or a commitment to a certain group of people, follow it up with action. If your company says it is going to make a commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community during Pride, then take action by selling products that come from LGBTQIA+ businesses or provide mental health services for the LGBTQIA+ youth. Action is authenticity.
An even better show of support to ensure everyone’s voice is heard, companies need to take an internal account of who they have working for them and whether or not their staff is actually diverse. Nothing ignites more anger in the public than companies making statements on diversity with no diverse workforce to show for it. Diversity allows for everyone’s voice to be heard and allows for people to speak their truths on their experiences. Not only does it allow for everyone’s share of voice, but it also informs people of how this insincere messaging affects certain groups of people.
There is a lot that we can all learn from each other if we sit back with an open mind and listen. There are so many diverse voices around the world that all deserve to be heard and respected. So before your company pulls their Pride flags out, ask yourselves - how is our company taking action to support the LGBTQIA+ community?