The ally marketer's guide to queer subculture on TikTok

Macaela VanderMost, executive creative director and founder, Newfangled Studios
Macaela VanderMost, executive creative director and founder, Newfangled Studios

A letter from the desk of a lesbian creative director.

It’s Pride Month, and while I’d love to just be out there, celebrating 31 not-so-straight days with my community, I know that an unlimited number of brands will show up too. 

So allow me to help all you marketing allies out there understand how to tap into every flavor of the LGBTQ+ multiverse, and why it’s important to avoid the now-standard corporate rainbow washing that makes queers everywhere roll our eyes.

Why is it important to get this right? Because it’s not 2001 anymore. That year, I had very recently come out. I read about a magical place: a cafe, just two trains and a bus away, where I might find people like me. The journey was more than worth it. I had never been around so many queers. The totally unfamiliar feeling of comfort and acceptance was intoxicating, it was so exotic. 

But 20 years later, a Gen Z queer can find that belonging anytime and anywhere by jumping on TikTok or Snapchat. Every vibrant stripe in the rainbow — the L’s, G’s, B’s, T’s and all of those delicious +’s — can find their unique home. 

In 2001, a one month prismatic logo change was enough to make me feel semi-seen. In 2021, color me unimpressed.

Lesson #1) Create bespoke content for the many ways we self-identify. 

Do you know who identifies as a “LGBTQ+ youth?” No… seriously, I’m wondering, because I’ve never met them. 

A person might be part of that group, but the individual would identify with just one or two of the following communities: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Ally and Pansexual. The good news is, hashtags have made it convenient to search for any of those keywords on TikTok or Snapchat and see the content and influencers who really speak to us. 

Queers may fly together, but we get a little ruffled when you assume we’re all birds of a feather. 

Lesson #2) Move past history. Help MAKE history.

We have come SO damn far in the past decade, and yet every June, we see the same tired Stonewall tributes and parade references. The thing about movements is…they move forward, and so have we. 

It’s cool to talk about history, but it’s way more relevant to talk about NOW. (And there is so much to talk about.) Unless your brand can credibly say you were “there” for the community back then, we don’t need to stroll down memory lane with you. But we’re always up for taking a step into a better future together.

Use TikTok and Snapchat to promote current, trending and authentic topics. Find people within the community who are doing interesting and important things, and then give them the reins. 

Lesson #3) You have to earn your invitation to our pride party.

If you’re making LGBTQ+ content just to pander, we’ll smell it in a second. Not only does the community expect to be represented throughout the year in your casting and advertising, but your company culture needs to back your Pride campaigns up. 

Do you offer gender affirming insurance and corporate policies for employees? Do you pull funding from organizations that back anti-trans laws? Show us that you’re a true ally by walking the walk all year long, and we’ll remember when it’s time to spend our money. 

Would I even be a marketer if I didn’t close with a strong CTA?  When in doubt, hire an LGBTQ+ owned and operated vendor or agency. You can find us in the DEI rolodex at your corporation, or check out the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. If you're in a hurry, you can always call Newfangled Studios...but regardless of who you choose, make the call. Because Pride isn't just a month. 

It's here, it's all year, get used to it.

Macaela VanderMost is executive creative director and founder of Newfangled Studios.


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