Becoming a True Brand Ally to the LGBTQIA+ Community
Every June, we celebrate Pride for LGBTQIA+ people. The Stonewall Riots of 1969, a series of demonstrations in response to a police raid, marked the beginning of the LGBTQIA+ liberation movement. This movement was led by transgender BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) activists, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Without these pioneers demanding justice and equality, the LGBTQIA+ community couldn't enjoy the rights they do have today.
Today, BlPOC and LGBTQIA+ lives and rights are still under attack. Even during a global pandemic, Black lives are being taken from their loved ones too soon and transgender healthcare rights are being revoked. If history is any indicator of what will happen today and tomorrow, these communities will be resilient, they will fight for their human rights, and they will not be erased.
Brand involvement in social movements, especially Pride, has changed dramatically over the years. The reality is, it’s no longer ok to sit on the sidelines and watch. As a Queer Black man, I’ve personally seen brands show support in a superficial/performative way and fall short of connecting with/representing actual folks from LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities. I’m sharing exclusive insights from a recent Pandora Soundboard study to help brands do a better job of showing up for and connecting with/representing these communities.
Show Support...All Year Long
While sponsoring a flashy, rainbow-encrusted float may get a lot of attention, brands are missing out on the opportunity to support LGBTQIA+ people beyond the month of June. In fact, in a recent Soundboard study surveying BIPOC LGBTQIA+ Pandora listeners, 81% of respondents think it's important that brands support and show visible support for the LGBTQIA+ community throughout the year.
When brands successfully show support for the LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities, they:
- Take Action: plan and implement sustained and long-term initiatives providing monetary and other material resources to those in need.
- Partner and Promote: partner with and promote LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC owned businesses.
- Take a Stand: advocate against all anti-LGBTQIA+/BIPOC legislation.
- Invest in Futures: hire and retain diverse talent, pay them living wages, provide them access, and facilitate their career growth and development.
- Cultivate Cultures of Belonging: create an inclusive and accepting culture, forming true solidarity.
Build Authentic Connection and Representation
Brand's support cannot truly be achieved without having an authentic relationship with the communities. Despite recent gains in acceptance and media representation, only a mere 37% of BIPOC LGBTQIA+ respondents think media and advertising today do a good job at connecting with the LGBTQIA+ community. 67% of BIPOC LGBTQIA+ respondents believe brands would be more relevant to them if they made honest efforts to represent the LGBTQIA+ community in the right way.
When brands successfully and authentically connect with and represent the LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities, they:
- Know the Audience: first and foremost, deeply understand the wants, needs, feelings, hopes, dreams, and passions of the communities.
- Amplify Voices: integrate authentic LGBTQIA+ people, stories, and narratives, especially of BIPOC, transgender, and non-binary people.
- Choose the Right Talent: always select actual LGBTQIA+ people to be part of ad campaigns.
- Avoid Stereotypes: express individuality and avoid over-simplifying/offensive clichés.
- Do the Research: conduct ad/product/service concept tests with LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC folks prior to launch to optimize performance.
Play Your Part
When brands show up for these communities and authentically connect with and represent them, everybody wins. Personally, I will always research brands before making purchases and will prioritize supporting brands who support people like me.
Today, my communities are challenging the status quo, reimagining an inclusive world where we can live and thrive happily. The times are ripe for change, so be sure to play your part. Use this opportunity to assess how your brand can take an active role in the advancement of LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC people.
Source: Pandora Soundboard, LGBTQIA+ User Study, A18+ (N=286), May 2020.