It seems that every June we see more and more brands joining in on Pride Month fun and jumping in to bed with the LGBTQ+ community by adorning their products and ads with rainbow flags. There’s something be said for the symbolic value of such openness especially to a community marginalized for so long. But can you blame folks for being just a tad skeptical? Are all of these brands really down for the cause, or do they just see Pride as an easy marketing ploy? Are they only in it for the celebration, or do they recognize the distance the LGBTQ+ community still has to go to achieve true equality? Is there a more effective way to spend the money they’re using on Pride activations to create a greater impact?
To answer some of these questions, we asked members of our studio to share their favorite examples of brands doing right by Pride with thoughtful and meaningful interactions and experiences. What stood out were the brands that made inclusiveness a priority and developed ideas to help solve real issues facing the community.
Squarespace is an accessible platform for any and all to create websites — online portfolios, blogs, e-commerce stores and similar. In partnership with photographer Ryan Pfluger, they created a microsite amplifying the voices of five LGBTQIA+ community members who happen to be Squarespace customers. Most brands trample all over Pride month, plastering their temporarily rainbow-ized logo over the community’s experiences. Squarespace actually built something by-and-for the community. Exposure to different perspectives is vital for inclusivity.
-Wednesday Krus, Designer
MasterCard is probably the most successful and buzz-worthy example this year, allowing trans and nonbinary members to use their chosen names on their credit cards. They are calling this their True Name initiative. To promote this message, they partnered with the NYC Commission on Human Rights to transform the West Village’s iconic Gay Street sign into Acceptance Street.
Mastercard’s Gay Street signage is one example of an LGBTQ+ activation that goes beyond a rainbow logo — being mindful of the cultural and iconic value the small stretch of road in NYC’s West Village represents. By first understanding the ever-evolving LGBTQ+ culture and the need for broader identity recognition among the public, the symbolic nature of expanding Gay Street’s signage to make it more relevant to the current climate signals the brand’s willingness to listen, learn and use their global platform to take a risk on communities who still aren’t accepted by the mainstream.
-Matty Brownell, Designer
LinkNYC & Tinder
For Pride Month, New York-based creatives Isabel Castillo Guijarro and Ben Wagner collaborated to curate the works of 25 LGBTQIA+ designers, illustrators, & artists, which will take over the screens of LinkNYC’s Wi-Fi kiosks all over the city. Their self-initiated project not only amplifies NYC Pride but also unlocks the potential of public spaces as a platform for activist art — something we’re deeply interested in as a design studio. I’m looking forward to spotting them in the wild!
Tinder hosted a one-day-only event right by our office in the Flatiron District inviting people to go down its giant rainbow slide and “slide into their Senator’s DMs” asking for Equality Act support, simultaneously triggering a donation to the Human Rights Campaign. Pride Month has been incorporated into corporate logos galore, in what is basically rainbow-washing. But Tinder’s activation stands out because the brand encourages civic engagement by pushing people to contact their senators, driving meaningful change while doing what they do best (slide into DMs).
-Shivani Gorle, Strategist
Last week on World Refugee Day I attended an event and conversation panel presented by Rainbow Railroad, an organization committed to helping LGBT people “escape state-sponsored violence” and learned about the experiences of LGBT refugees. A sponsor for the event was the Gap, and I learned the real changes they have been implementing in their company. Not only do their advertisements feature LGBTQ+ people during Pride, but the Gap has made a real effort to hire LGBTQ+ people as employees. I appreciate that the company goes beyond the typical June celebration and makes a real effort of inclusivity.
-Katie Williams, Account Manager
Most know Levi’s as a brand deeply rooted in its values, history and heritage. As pretty much the only brand I trust in jeans, I was pleased to recently learn that its history includes being a long-standing ally to the LGBTQ community. In an article written about their more than 15-piece 2019 Pride collection, from which 100% of the profits will go to advocacy group OutRight Action International, I found out that in 1992 Levi’s became the first Fortune 500 company to provide same-sex partner benefits. Knowing that the fight for equality is far from over, I was both surprised and happy that such a big brand that I personally support stood up in solidarity at time when few other brands would, and they continue to do so year after year as some continue to take a seat.
-Dylan Stiga, Strategist
I love the Corona ads that have been running on LinkNYC kiosks around the city for the past few weeks. They get a little cheesy with the line of rainbow-hued lime wedges in front of a bottle of beer, but it’s the ad’s tagline that really gets me: Tops Off. Bottoms Up. The bar is low here, but there’s something vaguely subversive about it. The desexualization of queer people in mainstream media is well-documented: plenty of folks are happy to accept more LGBTQ representation so long as we’re presented as unthreatening and inoffensive. Directly or even obliquely dealing with actual sex is still largely taboo because it makes some people squeamish. So the pretty direct reference to the top/bottom labels caught me off guard, in a good way, when I saw the ad. Is it a big risk? Not really; it’s still coded language. But it’s farther than a lot of companies are willing to go.
-Brendan Crain, Director of Content
US Chamber of Commerce
Having worked with a lot of chambers of commerce and business organizations, I know how challenging it can be for them to represent their communities effectively while still trying to help drive progress. It’s a tough position to navigate. So I think it’s extremely encouraging to see the US Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest business advocacy groups in the country, finally taking a stand this year on LGBTQ+ rights and voicing its unequivocal support for the Equality Act. While some feel it’s long overdue, I’m with Equality Ohio director Alana Jochum, who told Bloomberg Businessweek “it may be game changing to help others to realize this really is an economic issue.”
— Jessie McGuire, Managing Director
Pride is an amazing time for members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies to celebrate, reflect and build. It’s also an opportunity for brands to do the same, as long as there is proper intent behind their actions. But more importantly, brands should see Pride as the kick-off to start conversations and create impact around issues facing the community. The issues affecting the daily lives of LGBTQ+ members aren’t confined to the month of June, and neither should a brand’s support and solidarity.