As June arrives, so does the vibrant celebration of diversity, the promotion of awareness, and the profound embrace of love. Tracing its origin back to the Stonewall riots in 1969, where passionate protesters fought for rights and equity, it has since then become a month-long celebration.
June will be full of parades, festivals, parties, and awareness campaigns, including ones from brands. From working with celebrities and influencers to making special editions and merchandise to donating money to LGBTQIA+ organizations, companies have found different ways to join in on the celebrations over the years.
As this trend took off, however, consumers have become increasingly critical of brands that jump on the Pride Month bandwagon only to abandon the community for the remainder of the year. We'll get back to "rainbow washing" and its implications later in this piece.
But first, let's take a look at some great Pride Month campaigns from the past few years and why they work.
LEGO is one of the biggest toy companies in the world, and their consumers cover a wide range of people that go beyond people with young kids. As a rule, their LEGO sets celebrate creativity and learning and are a fun way to explore different worlds and topics.
In 2021, they introduced their first LEGO set celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community with the campaign Everyone is Awesome. The colorful set in the colors of the Progress Pride flag was designed by Matthew Johnson, Vice President of Design at LEGO, to raise awareness for inclusivity and to celebrate, well, everyone.
According to Brandwatch Consumer Research, the campaign led to over 23k online mentions since its release in June 2021 on public social posts, blogs, forums, and news sites. The consumer sentiment in these online conversations was overwhelmingly positive. 87% of all sentiment-categorized mentions were positive compared to the 11% that were negative. Consumers say they love the set, highlighting the aesthetic and sharing photos of their edits of the set with the community.
The "Everyone is Awesome'' campaign works because it embodies the LEGO values, which makes it feel authentic to consumers. The Lego set covers all the elements of other sets, it's playfulness and creativity. The simple figures convey inclusivity without big words. The product was well received by the LGBTQIA+ community as well as consumers who aren't part of the community.
In 2022, Apple sold nearly 54 million Apple Watches, generating an estimated 14-18 billion dollars in revenue. Apple leads the smartwatch market with over 50% market share. Those are some mighty big numbers. So, it makes sense to add a few more colors to this popular wearable.
Since the first edition in 2018, Apple has released colorful bands and faces for their Apple Watches every year for Pride Month. The bands and faces come in colorful rainbow designs to celebrate diversity and equality.
Public interest in the Pride editions has grown online over the years. In May 2023, the announcement of the Pride bands and faces generated over 3.5k mentions before Pride Month even officially began. This was the highest peak of the online conversation around Apple Watch Pride bands and faces since their first edition launched in 2018. With over 80% of sentiment-categorized mentions being positive, it's safe to say that most consumers are loving the Pride versions.
What, specifically, do consumers love about the Apple Watch Pride editions? We took a closer look at the positive online conversations.
Consumers love the colors, the rainbow references, and the unique design. “Love,” “pretty,” and “cool” are some of the most mentioned words in those conversations. Also, they discuss the bands more often than the face editions.
The success of Apple's Pride campaign can be attributed to several key factors. Since 2018, Apple have been releasing their Pride bands and faces, establishing a tradition that their customers eagerly anticipate year after year. These designs are eye-catching and add a colorful twist to the regular Apple Watch bands and faces, infusing them with a burst of color. By incorporating these Pride-themed additions into a product that consumers use and wear daily, Apple has effectively integrated the celebration of Pride into their customers' everyday lives, extending the relevance of the campaign beyond the month of June.
Another cool thing about Apple's campaign is how accessible it is. Consumers can download their Pride watch faces for free, which means even if you're on a tight budget, you can still get the Pride vibes without worrying about the cost. It's all about inclusivity and thoughtfulness, which resonates with a lot of people.
Our analysis shows consumer response to the campaign has been very positive, not least because of the authenticity of Apple’s support for the LGBTQIA+ community, which aligns with Apple's corporate values, and is further exemplified by the company’s CEO, Tim Cook, who is openly gay.
As a result, Apple's approach works and is seen as authentic because it's not just a "Pride Month" campaign lacking depth and long-term commitment.
Skittles are known for their vibrant color scheme. But each year, during Pride Month, they remove the colors from their fruity treats, turning it into a monochromatic gray. Their campaign aims to raise awareness about the fact that only one rainbow matters during Pride, and that’s the rainbow of the Pride flag.
During last year's campaign, they partnered with artists from the LGBTQIA+ community. Their Pride Packs got a splash of color with the unique designs of six different artists.
The campaign generated a lot of buzz online. Over 18k people posted over 20k mentions around Skittles, Pride Month, and the LGBTQIA+ community. Using Brandwatch Benchmark, we can see that the average engagement per post on their official Instagram page increased by over 11% after the campaign was launched.
One of the campaign's post received the sixth-highest engagement over the last 365 days.
Their Instagram account is a mix of product announcements, funny memes, and content about the LGBTQIA+ community. An analysis of their posts spanning a full year shows that content around LGBTQIA+ is one of the main topics the company talks about, along with general product posts and promotions around holidays.
While there is criticism from consumers that the switch to gray candy doesn't sit right with them, others point out that Skittles' attempt is quite clever.
Skittles removing the color from its rainbow candy for Pride Month may seem like a contradictory choice. But the company's gray edition is meant to emphasize that only one rainbow matters and to draw attention to the rainbow pride flag. This simple campaign shows how gray our world would be without all the colors.
The campaign goes beyond creating awareness to support the LGBTQIA+ community. They invited artists from the community to design the packaging, giving them the opportunity to share their art with a wider audience. The company also donated a portion of the profits from the campaign to GLAAD, an LGBTQIA+ organization. For 2023, they are repeating the campaign in partnership with GLAAD.
NYX is committed to making makeup for everyone and has been running inclusive marketing campaigns for years. For Pride Month last year, they partnered with The Sandbox and People of Crypto Lab (POC) to host the first Pride Parade and Party in the Metaverse to celebrate diversity.
This year, they continue to navigate the gaming space with their Game Out Loud campaign, partnering with LGBTQIA+ gaming influencers. NYX wants to raise awareness about harassment in the gaming world for LGBTQIA+ people.
According to an ADL report, one in three LGBTQIA+ gamers has experienced harassment in multiplayer games. With this campaign, NYX aims to educate people about this issue and create a safe space in the gaming world and in real life.
The Game Out Loud campaign has been well received online so far. Nearly 90% of sentiment-categorized mentions in online conversations around NYX and Pride Month in May 2023 are positive. NYX is promoting the campaign through a variety of channels.
According to Benchmark, their Instagram posts around the campaign got an average of 2.3 total engagements so far.
A good start for an important campaign, and with Pride Month just around the corner, the campaign is likely to gain even more momentum.
Harassment in the gaming industry is a major issue, especially for communities like LGBTQIA+. NYX is addressing this issue by partnering with well-known LGBTQIA+ gamers and offering them a stage to talk about their experiences. NYX has been working with influencers for years and with great success. According to Influence, nearly 38k influencers on Instagram mention NYX in their content. By consistently giving gaming influencers a channel to speak up, the campaign becomes more relatable and, most importantly, authentic to consumers.
Controllers are an important tool for any gamer. In addition to the standard editions, gamers can get their hands on all kinds of colorful and limited editions. In 2022, Xbox released a special controller for Pride Month bursting with colors from 34 different flags of the LGBTQIA+ community. In addition to the rainbow flag, it also features flags for the trans, intersex, bisexual communities, and many more.
The online community had a lot to say about this controller. Nearly 25k unique authors talked about the Pride Controller Edition. Their online conversations were generally positive. Nearly 60% of the mentions expressed joy. And the initial announcement tweet from Xbox had a reach of over 594k. These are some impressive numbers.
As we covered in the NYX example above, LGBTQIA+ representation in the gaming industry still remains an issue. With this colorful controller, Xbox is raising awareness for the community and celebrating diversity. It also emphasizes that the LGBTQIA+ community is more than the well-known rainbow flag. By sending it to LGBTQIA+ members of the gaming community, Xbox is recognizing them as an important part of their customer base. The company also promoted video games popular with the LGBTQIA+ community and donated to non-profit organizations.
Pride Month is not just another marketing campaign for you to tick off once a year. Say it with me: Pride Month is not a marketing campaign.
Many brands have jumped on the rainbow-colored bandwagon over the years, only to abandon the LGBTQIA+ community as soon as June is over. In the rising climate of transphobia and violence against LGBTQIA+ people, it is more important than ever to support the community in an authentic and sensitive way.
Also because: The jig is up.
Consumers are well aware of "rainbow washing," and will call out brands for running marketing campaigns under the flag of pride with the primary goal of making money. Online conversations about rainbow washing have increased by over 40% from June 1, 2022 to May 31, 2023, and 38% more people are talking about it.
Not only are people talking more about the topic, but the conversation is more negative. In the year between June 1, 2022 to May 31, 2023, negative mentions increased by over 50% compared to the year before. Brands out for making money and not truly supporting the community are two of the main points of criticism in these conversations.
Pride Month serves as a reminder for brands to reflect on their commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and evaluate the authenticity of their actions. It's not just about incorporating rainbow colors into marketing campaigns; it's about embracing diversity, championing inclusivity, and making a genuine difference in people's lives.
By prioritizing DEI initiatives and supporting the LGBTQIA+ community throughout the year, brands can build strong and loyal customer relationships based on shared values and a collective drive for social progress – which might translate into impactful marketing campaigns too.
Let Pride Month be the catalyst for a lasting commitment to authenticity and inclusivity that extends far beyond a single campaign or a single month on the calendar.