5 Best Pride Marketing Campaigns (and Why They’re Awesome)
June is Pride Month. It’s a time of celebration, recognition and learning. With Pride Month gaining increased visibility over the decades, any company would be remiss to miss out on the opportunity to get involved.
Sure, at the end of the day, companies are for profit, and selling their goods or services is the bottom line.
But how they go about acknowledging and taking action for Pride – in a way that’s inclusive and positive – is something that some companies are thinking long and hard about.
Thankfully, brands are catching on to what is not just “expected” of them when it comes to social activism, but what’s responsible.
It’s more than switching out a rainbow logo for the month.
It’s about telling stories that align with who they are as a brand, as well as helping to amplify voices, recognize intersectionality, and share authentic messages that advocate for inclusivity.
Here are our top five Pride marketing campaigns, in no particular order.
1. Skittles All-Gray Pride Packs
When we think of Skittles, we think of the rainbow. It’s embedded right into their product. But the marketing team at Skittles acknowledged the space that Pride symbolism occupies, and decided it was time to step aside one month of the year.
The result? The all-gray Pride Packs.
Why it Works
Despite being siphoned of all colour, the message is in the subtext. It says that the rainbow rightfully belongs to Pride.
The history of Pride is deeply interconnected with silencing and erasure.
And while holding back the food colouring from their signature candy may not impact their bottom line so much, it’s the message behind it: recognition and solidarity.
This is also an effective campaign because Skittles has backed it up in partnership with GLAAD by supporting LGBTQ2S+ artists in the “splash of color” design.
2. Gillette “First Shave” Campaign
Gillette is no stranger to ad campaigns that ignite conversation. Remember their 2019 ad that called out the elephant in the room by taking their slogan, “the best a man can get” and saying “we believe men can do better”? (It even has its own Wikipedia page.)
In the past, Gillette catered mostly to cis-male audiences using hyper-masculine messaging. In these masculine-centered narratives, the “first shave” is like a right of passage. It’s one of those moments that mark boys symbolically transitioning to men.
This time around, Gillette asks, why can’t any transition to manhood be just as remarkable? This is the story that Gillette tells with their “First Shave” campaign, which is about a young trans man and his first shaving moment with his father.
We’ll give you a second to watch…
Okay, deep breath. That was moving, right? But why does it work so well?
Why it Works
This campaign works on a number of levels. It uses Gillette’s massive platform to tell a real intimate story of a young man who, with the support of his father, reaches the proud shaving milestone. But that it’s a story about a young trans man is what gives it power. And it’s in his voice telling his own story about his first shave, not the brand’s.
This aligns with not just Gillette’s brand, but how other brands can help normalize these experiences and therefore, support trans folks.
At the end of the ad, Gillette reminds us of their ages-old slogan: “The best a man can get.” Only now, those words have so much more weight than they did before. It’s the best that every man can get, trans included.
3. H&M Beyond the Rainbow
H&M has almost 40 million Instagram followers. Forty million. That is, to say the least, a massive platform. You’d think with a platform like that, they’re going to use it to… you know… sell you something.
But there’s nothing in this ad that actually is trying to sell you something at all. This ad campaign is about using the H&M platform to amplify the story and meaning behind the Pride Flag, and by extension, the folks connected to Pride.
Why it Works
An integral part of corporate activism and social responsibility is backing up their claims with the support that’s needed most: funds. Along with amplifying stories and educating the public, H&M pledged a $100,000 USD donation to the United Nations Free & Equal Campaign.
This is a campaign that celebrates Pride, educates, amplifies stories, and supports the LGBTQ2S+ community with a monetary donation.
4. Procter & Gamble + iHeartRadio: Can’t Cancel Pride
Many vulnerable folks were significantly impacted by the pandemic. Jobs were lost, isolation increased, and for a community that often relies on togetherness and support, LGBTQ2SIA+ folks were impacted even further.
In 2020, P&G partnered with iHeartRadio to host a virtual fundraising event, Can’t Cancel Pride. The fundraiser supported awareness of pandemic-related issues LGBTQ2S+ folks faced, while identifying that P&G as a corporation had a responsibility to use their resources and platform to support those affected.
Why it Works
This ad campaign works because it creates a narrative around the tangible issues that a lot of LGBTQ2S+ folks face which were exacerbated by the pandemic.
It’s also an ad campaign about the Can’t Cancel Pride event and not about either of the brands particularly, and uses the platform to educate and amplify.
5. Fossil Pride Collection
Like a lot of brands, Fossil has a dedicated collection that celebrates Pride and LGBTQ2S+ folks. Their ad campaign around this collection and Pride Month focuses on supporting LGBTQ2S+ youth in crisis.
Why it Works
Fossil’s Pride campaign works for a very simple reason: funding.
While the ad campaign isn’t really much to write home about, it’s the corporate responsibility messaging that is key here.
For the entire month of June, 100% of the proceeds earned through Fossil’s Pride Collection went to The Trevor Project, “the world’s largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBTQ youth.”
How to Run an Effective Pride Marketing Campaign
It’s easy to slap a rainbow on a logo and call it a (Pride) day. But that actually may be doing more harm than good.
There are a few key points to keep in mind when running a Pride marketing campaign.
1. Make it Story-Centered
Is there a narrative behind your campaign? Or is it just a symbol in place for the month of June? Or, worse yet, are you trying to sell something, even if it is just your brand, by using Pride messaging?
Focus your ad campaign around a story that is meaningful, individual, and most importantly, one that is told by LGBTQ2S+ folks. If your messaging is on point, emotion-driven and effective, people will remember your brand anyways.
2. Align Your Campaign with Who You Are as a Brand
Remember, your audience can smell inauthenticity coming from a mile away. If you’re trying to wedge your brand into messaging that really doesn’t align, your ad campaign will suffer.
Look at Gillette’s “First Shave” campaign. This is a message that is story-centered and aligned with who Gillette is as a brand. They aren’t trying to encroach into a wheelhouse where they’re not experts, but rather, the focus is on the stories that have been told about moments in growth and transition that are usually not inclusive of trans folks.
This is who Gillette is as a brand and they’re telling a story.
3. Focus on Sustainable Support (Avoid Rainbow-Washing)
Rainbow-washing is when corporations make gestures towards inclusivity and support of LGBTQ2S+ folks, but fail to either back those gestures up with financial support or fully stop support after Pride month is over.
This signals to audiences (and LGBTQ2S+ folks) that these brands are willing to promote a rainbow, but only as a token gesture and not much else.
This is where sustainable support is important in every digital marketing campaign that is inclusivity-focused. Ad campaigns that extend beyond Pride month and/or include financial backing (such as fundraisers or donations) avoids rainbow-washing and shows sustainable corporate responsibility.
4. Look to Your Own People
This may seem like a no-brainer, but look to your people first. What stories are embedded in your corporate culture? How diverse is your company? This is integral to all your digital marketing campaigns because it can help flesh out your messaging and how your company can sustainably support all demographics.
In a nutshell, focus on:
- A campaign that represents the breadth of the community, which cuts across gender and race.
- Pride, not your brand, and the messaging behind that.
- Demonstrating understanding.
- Working towards inclusivity in a way that speaks to your audience.
- Providing a platform for folks with lived experience to tell their story.
- Backing up your campaign with sustainable support.