Editor’s Note: The Audience Impact and Intelligence team at Paramount Advertising consists of researchers, strategists, and analysts charged with work that allows the company and their advertisers to be audience-forward and grow their cultural fluency. Output from their efforts can take many forms, including thought leadership studies, white papers and trend reports.
The following article offers insights from one of their recent initiatives, “LGBTQ+ in America”, which itself is a continuation of the team’s “In America” series. Please note that data shared in this article is pulled directly from this “LGBTQ+ In America” study, unless noted otherwise.
If you’re interested in learning more, please check out their editorial companion piece. And, if you would like the author(s) to present the full presentation to your team, please reach out via email: Insights&Cultural[email protected]
Cancel culture is becoming more and more pertinent in the current marketing landscape, impacting the ways brands are executing inclusivity-centric campaigns. Recent examples of this have occurred with LGBTQ+ focused advertisements, partnerships and products … and companies. As a result, some brands have and will deprioritize the community from future initiatives or pull their existing LGBTQ+ marketing campaigns altogether. Other brands, however, understand that standing by as true allies means more than just making a profit.
As a result of our “LGBTQ+ in America” research initiative, we identified five key principles for brands to become true allies to the LGBTQ+ community based on both our work and our LGBTQ+ team members’ lived experiences.
1. Go Beyond Pride & Rainbow-Washing
On June 1st, a sea of rainbows washes over storefronts, corporate logos and marketing campaigns in an attempt to show allyship. While Pride is one of the few heritage months that is celebrated, 59% say it has become too commercialized. This has led to cross-country Reclaim Pride events to rebuke the ongoing corporatization of pride and redirect the focus to activism and advancement for the community.
There is, however, a generational divide when it comes to corporate sponsorship. Older generations feel that any form of recognition is a step towards acceptance and progress, while younger generations expect more than just a rainbow-turned company logo. Our study found that 44% of LGBTQ+ Boomers looked at these sponsorships positively compared to just 14% of Gen Z.
Depending on where you live in the country, Pride celebrations don’t only happen in June. In Palm Springs, it’s in November, August in Austin, July in San Diego and April in Miami. The majority of Americans want more representation outside of June, too, with over half of Americans believing brands should support the LGBTQ+ community all year, not just during Pride1.
Stand with the community and understand who we are, past the rainbows and glitter. We are LGBTQ+ year-round and brands shouldn’t just connect with us for 30 days out the year.
2. Support The Issues That Matter To The Community
As you think of the ways to connect with us throughout the year, start with issues that matter most to the community. From our “LGBTQ+ in America” study, the top five issues are:
1. Mental health
2. Transgender rights
4. LGBTQ+ rights abroad
5. Healthcare access
With over 540 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ bills2 introduced this year, our mental health has taken a devastating toll, the livelihood of transgender people is at a constant threat and overall discrimination against queer people has grown. All of this political discourse has led to us fearing for our survival, with 72% of queer people in this country worried for the community’s future. Some Republicans we interviewed think the amount of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is excessive. Only 33% of Republicans say, “This is the right amount of legislation. Politicians are dealing with a real danger that needs to be addressed.”3
The bills being introduced endanger our most vulnerable – mainly LGBTQ+ youth and the transgender community. From banning LGBTQ+ education to restricting gender-affirming care, it’s no surprise that nearly half of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered suicide in the past year.4
Supporting the LGBTQ+ community benefits your brand’s bottomline. 59% of consumers are more likely to buy from companies that support the LGBTQ+ community5 and over half believe that companies should support the LGBTQ+ community.6 Corporate support increases our visibility but ensures our safety especially for the marginalized. It is vital for brands to help the community go from surviving to thriving.
3. Advocate for Us
Being an ally means fighting for our equality, especially during this time of political and ideological conflict. Over half of LGBTQ+ people say “real change begins with the law,” so ensure that your corporate donations are for us and not against us. There are currently 29 states in the U.S. that do not guarantee basic rights for LGBTQ+ Americans, from workplace protections, healthcare access and marriage equality. In our survey, we asked “what’s the worst thing a brand can do to hurt the community?” Donating to LGBTQ+ government officials ranked number one. Unfortunately, the worst is the reality. In the past two years, 25 corporations with Pride campaigns donated more than $10M to anti-gay politicians.7 The best way to support the community? The #1 answer is to support LGBTQ+ legislation. In response to the anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, the Human Rights Campaign partnered with more than 300 major companies who voiced their opposition to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being proposed, and magnified their support for the community.
By putting your money towards pro-LGBTQ+ legislation, you are ensuring the advancement, and survival, of the community.
4. Celebrate Us
While LGBTQ+ representation has increased, the stories portrayed aren’t necessarily true to our realities. Our study found that 57% of queer people agree that current media isn’t authentic to their experience. Often, we’re thrown into monolithic storylines, represented by high income, white, cisgender gay men, erasing all of the other identities within the community. Champion the diversity in our community that is as colorful as the rainbow. LGBTQ+ may be a short moniker, but the narratives and identities, beyond the “+” mean our joys, our hopes and our stories are more than meets the eye. We are made up of different generations, ethnicities, religions, income levels, as well as gender identities and sexual orientations. We want stories that show us in our complexities and nuances, and the full range of what it means to be queer and to be human.
Celebrate our joys rather than our sadness. 82% wish they had more positive stories about themselves when they were growing up and 69% believe it’s more meaningful to celebrate our wins rather than our setbacks.
We need more queer stories that show queer joy. We need to show LGBTQ+ youth that it indeed does get better.
5. Support Us Despite Pushback
Finally, stay unwavering in your support, despite the pushback. Unfortunately in today’s climate, brand backlashes are an unfortunate reality that include transgender people in their advertising, rainbow-colored products or even the type of shoes that a brand mascot wears. LGBTQ+ marketing not only connects with the 7% of queer Americans, it also resonates with the 70% of Americans that say they have someone they care about that is part of the community.
Now is the perfect time to reflect on the ways your brand can be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. It’s not only the right thing to do but there’s also a growing demand from those outside of the community. 68% of non-LGBTQ+ individuals feel better about buying products from companies that have LGBTQ+ people in their ads.8 And with 78% of non-LGBTQ+ Gen Z saying their generation is more open than previous generations, the business case for allyship will only get stronger.
Happy Pride Month!
1. MRI Simmons, 2022
2. HRC, 2023
3. Data for Progress, 2023
4. Trevor Project, 2022
5. Collage Group: Essentials of LGBTQ+ Consumers, Spring 2022
6. MRI, 2022
7. Popular Info, 2021