As the advocacy group asserts: ‘This is a time that calls for commitment and courage. Your action can be made in the sound knowledge that you have the majority behind you.'
Outvertising — a UK-based advocacy group for LGBTQ+ inclusion in marketing and advertising — has called on brands to continue with their Pride campaigns and year-round support for queer communities, despite the potential for backlash.
As the company says in a post:
“Outvertising remains resolute in continuing our pursuit to make marketing and advertising completely LGBTQIA+ inclusive. With Pride Month upon us, we invite the industry to join us in that pursuit. Anti-LGBTQIA+ groups are relentlessly attacking brands that demonstrate allyship with our community.
“As part of their efforts to halt and roll back LGBTQIA+ inclusion in society at large, these fringe groups are attempting to erase our community in the media, including in the ads people see. The Trans+ community are weathering the brunt of this targeted campaign of hate and they must be protected. But this hate is not limited to our Trans+ friends – the whole LGBTQIA+ community are feeling the effects.
“There’s no room for performative gestures or empty commitments in 2023: Love is love, but money talks.”
A rocky road
Brand support of the LGBTQIA+ community and other divisive social issues can create backlash because these issues have become so politicized — a phenomenon that is mostly unique to the US that seems to be becoming more extreme by the day. But, similar to the backlash against ESG strategies and legislation, it also doesn’t reflect the values and beliefs of the majority of the US public.
According to a February 2023 survey from gay-rights organization GLAAD, an overwhelming majority of US adults who don’t identify as LGBTQIA+ believes that companies should publicly support the queer community. Roughly 70 percent of the 2,500+ adults surveyed who don’t identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or other member of the community said support from companies should come through hiring practices, advertising and sponsorships.
Corporate Political Responsibility in an Environment of Distrust
As US politics become increasingly polarized, brands are left wondering whether and how to engage. How can they simultaneously challenge the status quo, align their influences with brand values and commitments, and avoid the risks of retribution? Join us for an interactive workshop to explore putting the Erb Principles for Corporate Political Responsibility into practice, review new research from Porter Novelli on stakeholder perceptions, and hear how practitioners are using non-partisan principles to connect in this challenging environment — Monday, Oct. 16 at SB'23 San Diego.
Still, the conservative uproar that a growing number of companies — including adidas, Bud Light, Disney, Kohl’s, Nike, The North Face, PetSmart and Target — are facing because of their support of the queer community this year alone understandably might have them and many other brands unsure as to how to proceed.
But part of being an advocacy brand is understanding that you will never be able to please everyone. And those that choose to use their voice to support potentially contentious and divisive issues going forward should feel firm enough in their brand values to not let the threat of a few, very loud naysayers keep them from continuing to demonstrate their brand purpose.
In his keynote presentation at SB’19 Detroit, Ben & Jerry’s then-CEO Matthew McCarthy spoke to the power of brand influence in advancing systemic social change: “Part of transparency is having the courage, the openness to share your message — that’s part of why consumers and people will trust you and pick your business over another. … We’re not here in business to please everybody or go to the lowest common denominator of acceptance — we’d much rather be loved by a few at Ben & Jerry’s than unoffensive to many.”
How to stand your ground this Pride Month — and every month:
For its part, Outvertising offers advice for brands on walking their talk:
Brands with Pride ads: Run them.
Brands working with LGBTQIA+ talent: Protect them.
Brands with Pride event plans: Keep them.
Brands with Pride products: Display them.
Brands with rainbow logos: Back up this declaration with meaningful actions.
Brands that come under attack: Brave the backlash.
Brands with media spend: Invest in media that match your values. Divest from media that spread disinformation.
“This is a time that calls for commitment and courage," Outvertising continues. “If your brand’s allyship comes under attack this Pride Month, we advise you not to waver in your resolve because of a hateful few. Your action can be made in the sound knowledge that you have the majority behind you. 2 in 3 people under 60 (66 percent) think it’s important to fight discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.”
Don't back down
Brands can find more advice on how to confidently stand their ground on divisive social issues in the Outvertising Guide, its Media Guide, its Employer Guidance guide and other resources on the Outvertising website.