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As brands look for ways to get around the rainbow while remaining attractive to LGBTQ consumers, one content strategy in particular can directly help counter the increasing censorship efforts in America.
Founded in 1994 by Missouri high school history teacher Rodney Wilson, Month of LGBTQ History is observed in the US every October and has helped usher in several other October-specific queer commemorations, such as National Coming Out Day and Spirit Day. But recent legislative efforts threaten to hinder our ability to educate the next generation about our history and progress, from book bans to school district censorship. Awareness of LGBTQ history and the queer experience reduces stigma, which is much needed in our current heightened political discourse.
Related: Here’s What LGBTQ Clients Actually Want To See During Pride Month
Meanwhile, brands have more influence than ever in modern politics. With large-scale budgets and a myriad of design talents, brands have an opportunity to step in and fill the education gap that threatens LGBTQ culture, and “we haven’t seen companies get up and running as much as we’d like,” says GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.
It’s a clear win-win situation: brands position themselves as topical and relevant, and LGBTQ people have shared resources that increase awareness and adoption at a time when we’re being reviled by a record-shattering amount of legislation. This is what brands should think about after October.
Blue ocean, red ocean
The blue ocean strategy — the idea of prioritizing new, untapped markets over the gory waters of existing fish ponds — can both help improve profits and support LGBTQ people under attack in times like these.
In the aptly named 2004 book Blue Ocean Strategy, authors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, professors at the global nonprofit business school Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires (INSEAD), note that a blue ocean doesn’t have to be a new market. The strategy also states that blue oceans can be created when a company engages consumer segments in a way that is current and relevant. When brands do this effectively, they have the potential to draw ‘new market boundaries’, a kind of earned gerrymandering, if you will, within their industries.
Example: When it comes to appealing to queer consumers, the month of June has become a brutally red ocean. Scarlet or, may I even say, crimson? Pride month is busy and consumers are tuning in.
We have hard data now that rainbow washing does more harm than good. 21.7% of Americans want to see less LGBTQ advertising during Pride month, according to a questionnaire of 9,360 respondents conducted by DISQO, a data intelligence company, in collaboration with Do the WeRQ, an organization for LGBTQ advertising professionals. Queer people also report that they find themselves wanting to protect their LGBTQ employees rather than worrying about performing; 49% want LGBTQIA+ people to be in leadership positions, and 46% want brands to actively condemn homophobia, compared to just 25% who want to see proud ads, according to LGBTQ respondents in a dataset from last year of Good Questionsa market research firm.
Related: 5 ways your business can support the LGBTQ+ community all year round
Brands can and should engage queer consumers outside of June, and if they do, they will have a much greater impact. Wow me with a campaign for transgender awareness week in November, or Harvey Milk Day in May, and you’re more likely to get my undivided attention. You also leave your industry peers in the dust.
How brands can walk the line between political and productive
A minority history tip can be a direct and elegant way to both show consumers where you stand and help the community you stand with. Help LGBTQ people fight erasure with any or all of the following strategies.
- Embrace ‘refrigerator journalism’. Factsheets and one-pagers that collect key information are a useful management strategy, and in our digital age, a well-designed infographic or Instagram carousel can give you some serious brand milestones.
- Be specific. “Love is love!” comes eerily close to the “live, laugh, love” household decor these days. It is general and therefore fades into the background. Who specifically needs your support and why? Be outspoken in your activism and your fans will drown out haters in the long run.
- Involve active voices. Influencers and opinion leaders already have the ear of LGBTQ consumers. Keeping these votes for campaigns and strategy ensures that your efforts are relevant and impactful.
Related: I came out as gay in the ’80s. It was the best thing I’ve ever done for my career.
The history of LGBTQ remains unchanged, but efforts to learn and learn about it are being re-examined. Help us share our stories, and you’ll get our loyalty to the market in return for years to come.