Pride Month has gained immense popularity in recent years and become a focal point for large companies worldwide. Initially celebrated on June 28th, 1980, to honour the pivotal Stonewall riots that marked the genesis of the Gay Rights Movement, it has evolved into an opportunity for businesses to boost their sales revenues by targeting the LGBTQIA+ community. Let’s dig deep into this problem and try to understand the marketing tactics that corporate giants use in the pursuit of profit from this cause.
Every year, Pride Month’s celebrations attract millions of people worldwide. Some of these corporate giants, being opportunistic, capitalise events that are held around the theme of Pride. From special edition drops to targeted advertisements, they do it all. This leads to commercialisation of the basic essence of pride. On broader terms, this tactic is popularly known as Pinkwashing.
Brands are able to generate large amounts of revenue with this technique by charging a premium just for the ‘pride’ theme. They earn profits by selling goods and services to the LGBTQIA+ community, which serves as their target market. These products include rainbow-themed clothing, accessories, and beauty products and are often priced higher and generate high profit margins for the companies. A recent Morning Consult survey found that only 15% of respondents believed that businesses predominantly had good intentions while almost a third of respondents attributed this behaviour to marketing tactics rather than a true reflection of good intentions.
Not just that, they even do corporate sponsorships and sell false promises and support. These companies often make commitments to support the cause but in turn their actions are opposite of what they preach. They use Pride Month as an opportunity to present themselves as allies and supporters of the LGBTQIA+ community. But in reality, their efforts might end up being false actions and result in token representation in their media content. According to statistics, consumer intent was 40 per cent higher if a product was marketed with LGBT-inclusive advertising. In revenue terms, we can ascertain how much money these corporate giants must be making through pinkwashing.
Due to no legal regulations over usage of pride-theme marketing campaigns, companies are able to exploit these events very well without facing any legal consequences. These tactics have a negative impact on communities since companies' participation in Pride Month celebration and events without any genuine intention, can severely weaken the significance of this month, turning it into another money making opportunity.
There have been several instances in the past in which these companies were being opportunistic. This list includes corporate giants like Adidas, Google, Starbucks etc. Adidas launched a limited edition ‘Love Unites’ collection which had Do-it-yourself (DIY) spirit and aesthetic, stating that the collection is inspired from LGBTQIA+ communities who had sought to create their own spaces for self-expression. In backlash, people accused and argued about their lack of commitment towards fighting homophobia that prevails in the sports sector.
Google presented their rainbow-coloured logo to show their gratitude and support towards the LGBTQIA+ community. People applauded Google for this move but critics pointed out and questioned removal of LGBTQIA+ videos on Youtube like coming-out stories and videos by queer creators back in 2021.
Talking about Starbucks, they launched limited-edition drinkware, including tumbler, water bottle, and Rainbow Martina Glass mug just to show their support towards LGBTQIA+ community but in turn charged a price premium over the products to make profits off the campaign.
These companies faced a lot of criticism and backlash against their products and motives. General public that participates in these campaigns think that this corporate involvement in Pride is done in order to exploit the community, with little benefit to the community itself. Public even questions the company’s true intention, that is whether these corporate giants are genuine supporters of the community or if they are just trying to create goodwill, target a new set of audience and eventually rip them off to make profits.
Using Pride month as a marketing tool can have both positive and negative effects over the LGBTQIA+ community. A positive impact could be created since companies use this opportunity to raise awareness around issues that communities face and donate towards their development and welfare. On the other hand, a negative impact could be seen since commercialisation can reduce the significance and importance of Pride Month to nothing but just another marketing tactic to make profits. A balance between capitalism and social cause should be ensured during Pride Month in order to become a driving force for visibility and acceptance of LGBTQIA+ while also ensuring healthy and ethical revenue for sustenance of the business.