Photo by Jiroe (Matia Rengel)

How Brands Should be Thinking About Pride This Year

Edelman's senior vice presidents for Brand Purpose explain that when marketing to LGBTQ+ communities - Allyship is Action and Culture is King

By Gerry Rodriguez and Tom Hubbard

In a world where being labelled "woke" triggers controversy, one thing remains clear: the power of LGBTQ+ inclusion is not just a trend—it's a necessity for brands aiming to engage with Gen Z now and in the years to come.

In 2023, many brands found themselves in the crossfire of backlash for their LGBTQ+ inclusivity efforts amid the Bud Light-induced storm of polarisation. However, a seismic shift is underway. With nearly 30 per cent of Gen Z adults in the U.K. proudly identifying as LGBTQ+, this generation is rewriting the rules of engagement today. And diversity is integral to Gen Z's values and brand inclusivity affects both their buying habits and career choices – which should be driving how brands are thinking about their future workforce and consumers.  

Pride month is quickly approaching. As is a general election widely viewed as a referendum on a period where increased anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and legislation has coincided with an increase in hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people. Brands must pay attention to this unique moment in time to embrace meaningful allyship or be forced to spend years rebuilding trust.

Edelman’s LGBTQ+ task force, Out Front, recently partnered with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to proactively offer brands guidance on how to navigate LGBTQ+ inclusion and Gen Z engagement for their pride planning this year.

Walk Your Talk, Action Drives Trust

Gen Z cares more about what you do than what you say, and they will come for your receipts. They reject superficial gestures and expect brands to go beyond symbolism, seeking genuine, ongoing support for equality. Gen Z is wary of "rainbow washing" – superficial support from brands – and token gestures won't cut it anymore. Recognising that having inclusive policies does not always translate to an inclusive culture, HRC has added a new Corporate Citizenship Report that outlines and evaluates six pillars of business operations where companies can advance the inclusion, safety and flourishing of LGBTQ+ people within and outside their organizations.

Follow the Data, Not the Rhetoric

Despite pressure against inclusion, overwhelming support for LGBTQ+ rights in the data presents a unique opportunity for brands to engage. In the past nine months, GLAAD found that 84 per cent of non-LGBTQ+ individuals support LGBTQ+ rights. A recent study by the ANA shows that while 82 per cent of marketers favour brands targeting LGBTQ+ consumers (up from 66 per cent three years ago), only 55 per cent of brands do so. Fear is not a marketing strategy and while it may seem safer to stay silent, inaction can be perceived as intentional and carries risks. Attempting to remain neutral often leads to increased backlash, satisfying neither side.

Pride is 365 Days a Year

Pride isn't a month or a parade— it's a year-round commitment to allyship and advocacy, particularly for Gen Z, who expect genuine action from brands regardless of convenience or profit. Brands can show up on days like Trans Day of Visibility or during LGBTQ+ History Month, even when the spotlight isn't as bright, showcasing unwavering support for equality and inclusivity every day of the year. LGBTQ+ consumers highly value ongoing brand support, not just during Pride Month. They're more inclined to engage with brands that genuinely represent and include them.

With a global consumer buying power of nearly £3 trillion, the LGBTQ+ community presents a significant market opportunity for brands to engage authentically. Let Pride 2024 mark not just a moment of celebration, but a turning point towards a future where inclusivity and equality are not just ideals, but everyday realities fuelled by actions that reflect unwavering support and genuine commitment.

Gerry Rodriguez and Tom Hubbard at senior vice presidents for Brand Purpose at Edelman


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