Tuesday, April 26, 2016 5:12:00 PM

Brands are not living entities with their own opinions; and yet, consumers often look to brands to weigh in on social topics and take a definite stance. Branding is the public face of a business, and it becomes an extension of the company's leadership, marketing and employment practices. With this in mind, companies that want to show their involvement in Pride Month have to do more than design rainbow-clad products.

The LGBT community shows deep, lasting support for companies that promote equality in their marketing messages, and the consumer love doesn't stop there. Approximately 47 percent of millennials between ages 18 and 24 say equality-themed ads make them more likely to support a brand. Consider the "Lucky to Be" campaign by General Mills' Lucky Charms cereal. The campaign "honors everything that makes each of us special and adds color to our world." It features a lesbian couple who describe their life as newlyweds, proclaiming that they are lucky to be married. A year after the ad ran,  #LuckyToBe is still trending on Twitter and keeping the brand at the top of consumer consciousness.  

Create Authentic Messages Without Stereotypes

Many brands falter and invite backlash instead of support when they try to develop LGBT-friendly marketing campaigns. So, what did Lucky Charms do right, and how can other marketers avoid common missteps?

Stay true to the equality theme. Like any other demographic, the LGBT community is filled with diverse people who have unique personalities and beliefs. Avoid running ads that represent LGBT people as stereotypical characters who live fringe lifestyles. The community responds most positively to campaigns that acknowledge what is universal about us all — the desire for love, acceptance and happiness. Lucky Charms showcased what two wives adore about one another, presenting their story as a normal expression of love, which anyone can relate to. Strong Pride advertising focuses on the beauty of different types of families while portraying LGBT people in familiar, uplifting roles, such as parents, spouses, innovators and mentors.

Make the connection to your brand. There isn't one way to show support. Just make sure marketing campaigns establish a genuine connection between brand identity and the message. Consumers can see through phony promotions that include LGBT messages purely for the sake of gaining attention. Brands like Tylenol and Honey Maid may not seem like the most obvious LGBT sponsors at first glance, but both companies leveraged the relatable theme of family and caregiving. In the "This Is Wholesome" campaign, Honey Maid celebrated inclusiveness by describing how the American family is a positive, wholesome force, even though our concept of family has changed over time.

Respond to negativity with empowerment. Accept that marketers can't please everyone. Brands that publicly support Pride Month have to be prepared for angry responses from segments of the consumer base. Yet, brands should not apologize for taking a positive stance or respond to negative comments with more negativity. When Honey Maid faced anti-equality sentiment for "This Is Wholesome," the company responded with another ad in which artists assembled the hateful comments into a mosaic forming the word "love." Pride Month is about honoring self-worth and empowerment, so choose marketing that unites the public and promotes mutual respect.

Promote equality within your business. The best way to support Pride Month is to embody the ideals it represents. Consumers are less likely to trust brands that support LGBT pride while using anti-equality practices on the homefront. Regularly incorporate stories of diversity in marketing and show consumers how the brand stands up for equal rights, whether it's supporting customers who were bullied or providing fair benefits to LGBT families.

As one of the top 10 LGBT metro areas in the country, LA is home to a diverse community of people who look to brands to bridge social gaps and champion the message of inclusiveness. If you need information on how to improve your outreach efforts, contact us to learn more about the LA Times LGBT Special Section.

Categories: Marketing Tips

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