Pride Month is here, and marketers are again navigating the increasingly blurry line between performative displays of allyship and using their power authentically to shape a more equitable future for the LGBTQIA+ community.
While industry talking heads may question whether brands should bother with such lofty goals, studies like Edelman’s Trust Barometer continue to prove that the answer to this is an unequivocal yes. In the month of June and throughout the year, campaigns on the right side of the line are less brand activation and more brand activism.
Here’s what we can learn from the brands doing Pride Month right by making a real difference.
Skittles Pride Packs: A statement that supports year-round impact
Turning “rainbow-washing” on its head, Skittles’ special edition Pride packs replace the brand’s signature technicolor aesthetic with colorless packaging and candy coating and an on-pack declaration: “Only One Rainbow Matters During Pride.”
To take the initiative beyond just a show of solidarity, $1 per Pride pack purchased is donated to GLAAD as part of a long-standing partnership with the leading LGBTQIA+ advocacy organization. As GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis shared with Candy Industry in 2020, the funds raised by Pride packs “support our news and campaigns program, which tells culture-changing stories LGBTQIA+ people and issues across the media year-round.”
While a few refinements would make the initiative even more meaningful (not capping donation dollars at $100K and boldly replacing all inventory with Pride Packs in the month of June, to name a couple), Skittles puts its money where its mouth is to transcend the performative.
Mastercard TrueName: Innovation that sets a new industry standard
What’s more authentic than a brand addressing the systemic inequities its products are directly responsible for? With TrueName, Mastercard does just that by allowing people to use their chosen names on debit and credit cards.
According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 32% of individuals that showed IDs with a name or gender that didn’t match their presentation reported negative experiences – such as being harassed, denied services or attacked. By taking action directly within Mastercard’s sphere of influence, TrueName protects the psychological and physical safety of Transgender and Nonbinary customers.
Even more inspiring, Mastercard continues to invest in expanding the offering, most recently launching creative that showcases the voices and stories of the intended beneficiaries of the work.
Absolut Out & Open: Storytelling that supports safe spaces
Known for its long history of LGBTQIA+ advocacy, Absolut leveled up its efforts this year with the “Out & Open” campaign. Headlined by SNL favorite Bowen Yang, the initiative “builds on Absolut’s 40+ years of being an ally to the LGBTQ community, and aims to help LGBTQIA+ bars thrive in the face of a steady decline.”
On a homepage supported by ads on social media, users are incentivized to listen to featured real-life stories to donate $1 to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce with every listen.
H&M Beyond The Rainbow: Celebrating By Educating & Passing The Mic
With the Beyond The Rainbow campaign, H&M curated a beautifully raw collection of real stories and candid perspectives from the LGBTQIA+ community in an attempt to decommoditize the rainbow flag by reinforcing its true substance and meaning. Coupled with a $100,000 donation to The United Nations Free & Equal Campaign to ensure long-term impact, Beyond The Rainbow also incorporates a nuanced self-criticism of the symbol’s over-commercialization, through a portal accessible through a smart-phone scan of the flag itself.
Oreo Pride Packs: Cultivating empathy with on-pack utility
While these might seem like a bit of an eye roll at first blush, this year’s Oreo Pride Packs focus on the emotional weight of coming out experiences with uncharacteristic solemnity.
Introduced with The Note, a soul-stirring yet restrained short-film by Alice Wu, the campaign encourages everyone to be a #LifelongAlly, alongside a giftable SKU with cookies featuring the word “PROUD” and a package with space to share a personal message. Per the company’s website: “This pack..has been designed to share loving words of support sourced from real allies with a writable space that gives the opportunity for everyone to add their own words of allyship.”
That said, one open question worth considering could lead to an even more inclusive approach: Does centering “allies” at the product level go too far in decentering the LGBTQIA+ community?
Savage X Fenty’s Pride Collection: Wide-ranging representation, real style
Last but never least, last year Savage X Fenty kept it real with its size-inclusive, high-design, 25 piece Savage X Pride collection designed for individuality. Featuring an incredibly diverse set of LGBTQIA+ all stars (we expect nothing less from Queen RiRi!), and coupled with a per-purchase donation to an inclusive list of LGBTQIA+ organizations (GLAAD, TransLatin@Coalition and The Caribbean Equality Project to name a few), Savage X Pride is the ultimate reminder to marketers looking to make a social impact: success starts with applying a service mindset to your sphere of influence.
Lola Bakare is an inclusive marketing strategist, creator of Maximize The Movement and founder of be/co, a boutique consultancy.