The business of Pride: Are firms truly flying the flag?
- Credit: Archant 2021
With June comes pride month - the high street awash with rainbows from flags to tote bags.
But actions speak louder than social media posts, say social activists, and their message is at risk of becoming a marketing ploy.
Robert George is the head of fundraising for Norwich Pride, and said: "The LGBQT+ community often talks about 'pinkwashing' which is this issue where businesses just fly a flag for a day without really addressing inclusivity and equality for their customers and staff.
"There is a portion of people who wear a pin or businesses which pay for adverts without thinking about what it really means.
"But at Norwich Pride we work with businesses to sign our Pride Pledge - particularly those which want to support our yearly Pride Guide - and I don't believe any of those businesses just take out an advert to bring in a new roster of customers for a month or so."
Professor Robert Jones, a branding expert at the University of East Anglia, said: “I think a lot of the time attaching yourself to Pride Month is an example of cause related marketing, it's essentially a marketing activity.
“I believe that companies are citizens, and they have duties and one of them is a duty to treat everyone as much as you can with the quality."
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“And I do worry sometimes when I see posters in supermarkets just for a month. You know, why has this popped up now? Are they not interested in this the rest of the year? It feels like virtue signalling. And that’s unfortunate because I think a lot of organisations are actually very serious about it.”
Professor Jones, who is a member of the LGBQT+-community, said that these short-lived messages could sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help.
He said: “I think a lot of consumers and probably some employees as well will treat it with some scepticism, if not cynicism.”
And at worst, he said, they could feel insulting.
In 2019 Marks & Spencer’s rebranded its BLT sandwich as an 'LGBT' sandwich — after including guacamole.
“I thought that was just kind of insulting, really,” he said. “As LGBQT+ myself that silly messing around with language made me feel like a joke was almost being played on me rather I was being included in their worldview.”
- To support Norwich Pride this month visit norwichpride.co.uk/getinvolved.