Social impact

It's Not All Rainbows | Inclusive Marketing to Gen Z During Pride Month

Written by
Published on
June 23, 2023
Last updated
May 9, 2024

What this article covers

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Every year, June marks Pride Month, a time when rainbows take over your social media feeds as brands scramble to showcase their solidarity. But, have you stopped to think about which brands actually support LGBTQ+ rights, and which ones are just reaping the benefits of the rainbow?

Young consumers want brands to go beyond their words and actually prove their values. Posting a rainbow for Pride Month is not enough: Gen Z consumers want more.

Now more than ever, it’s important that companies stay true to their established brand image and speak up when it matters.

Gen Z believes that the celebration of Pride is not just confined to the month of June and that it is time to move beyond the marketing technique of ‘rainbow washing’.

In fact, research from Mckinsey shows that 70% of Gen Z consumers try to purchase from brands that are ethical. Posting a mere graphic on Instagram is no longer enough, Gen Z wants information and actions to back these statements up.

The Pride Divide

LGBTQ+ rights and advocacy have become topics of conversation in many companies, but exactly how relevant are they? 

One Voxburner study found that about 19% of UK Gen Z individuals surveyed identify as LGBTQ+.

This number increases in the US with about 22% of respondents self-identifying as part of this community.  Additional Voxburner research found that 41% of Australian Gen Z respondents say that LGBTQ+ rights are the issue they’re most passionate about. 

And this impacts their shopping habits – Gen Z consumers are looking beyond the surface of a brand and are researching company policies. From this, 80% of US respondents say that they would stop being loyal to a brand because the company does not align with their morals/values.

LGBTQ+-related policies directly affect a large portion of Gen Z consumers, meaning that a brand’s Pride marketing will resonate with this group – for better or for worse.

Tinder's a winner!

This iconic dating app created an international campaign that preached inclusivity and diversity while effectively shedding the idea that Tinder is just a ‘hookup app’.

The ‘It Starts with a Swipe’ campaign can be seen on billboards and signs in major cities like London, New York, and Los Angeles. They highlight a variety of diverse couples partaking in typical relationship activities.

Tinder has a wide Gen Z audience, with about 43% of Gen Z users from the US and about 37% from the UK.

According to Paul Brunson, Tinder’s Expert in Relationship Insights, the company wanted to highlight success stories from their app and work to shift the idea that Tinder is not just a hookup app.

From this, Tinder was able to accomplish the goal of changing this perception while also supporting the LGBTQ+ community. Their Instagram and Twitter pages feature successful and encouraging stories from individuals that were faced with hardships due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identities, but ultimately end in a message of hope. These all have the tagline ‘It Starts with a Swipe’.

The company also started selling profile ‘stickers’ for June, where all proceeds go to various, credible organizations supporting LGBTQ+ rights in various at-risk communities.

The company has also encouraged voters to support pro-LGBTQ+ bills in the United States and started the hashtag #VotingIsHot for these occasions. Tinder has been effectively posting about and advocating for LGBTQ+ rights since its creation, which has resonated well with consumers. 

Their socials do not have a rainbow in sight and, instead, Tinder works to solve the deeper issues that the LGBTQ+ community faces and contributes to the inclusivity this group is seeking.

Others missed the Target...

In the United States, one brand’s Pride Month advertising campaign caused a large loss of sales and a sense of distrust between them and their consumers. How could Gen Z have such a reaction when this brand was trying to be inclusive? Well, as we know, this generation is the first to detect insincerity – and this campaign had it in abundance. 

Target, a popular retail store in the US, launched its Pride campaign at the beginning of June 2023, coupled with the release of various Pride-themed products in its stores.

There were rainbows everywhere, online and in-store, as the company preached its all-inclusive values. However, this campaign was easily unravelled by Gen Z consumers.

The products that Target released caused controversy, and according to the designer, Eric Carnell, the company pulled all of his products off the shelves and left him in the dark.

Some people claimed the products were inappropriate and that Target should not comment on social issues. Instead of standing up and protecting the LGBTQ+ community against these comments, Target decided to stop their campaign and remove all of Carnell’s products. Target tried to protect its reputation but ended up creating more division between the brand and its consumers.

This is an example of ‘rainbow capitalism’, where brands sell Pride-themed products during June to make a profit versus actually taking a stance in support of LGBTQ+ rights.

Why did Gen Z not resonate with Target’s marketing? 

Well, Gen Z claimed that Target didn’t actively support the LGBTQ+ community all year round and called the brand out for its overt support during Pride month. Target underestimated the priorities of their Gen Z audience and didn’t expect them to investigate further into their  LGBTQ+ policies and advocacy. Now, the company is facing severe consequences online.

Don't reap the rainbow

According to our 2021 Youth Trends Report, Gen Z is one of the most accepting generations, with about 74% of them describing themselves as activists (US).

So, it is important that these consumers feel that they are supporting their own morals and values when they choose to shop with a brand. This applies to Pride Month especially, and there are consequences for companies that go about LGBTQ+ marketing half-heartedly.  

Ultimately, it’s important that a company has evidence to back up its claims.

So, support causes that your brand believes in and stick with them! Support can be as simple as telling people to go out and vote or valuing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Gen Z will take notice of these efforts.

Final takeaways

So, what is the golden takeaway? Well, as with many things for Gen Z, it comes back to authenticity. You may underestimate Gen Z by thinking that they mindlessly buy products, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Gen Z is full of inquisitive, free thinkers that want to make a difference in the world, and buying products can help fulfil this urge for change. Therefore, it’s up to the brand to help this effort by using their profits and putting them towards the greater good. 

This month, remember to market with sincerity – openly advocate for causes that your brand cares about. Try being transparent with your consumers about the diversity and inclusion policies your company values. See how you can help local LGBTQ+ organizations within your community because, in the end, Pride shouldn’t be celebrated for just a month. 

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