Following Pride celebrations in London this weekend, I'm sure we’ve seen enough rainbows to last us a lifetime, and rightly so... It’s great to see everyone coming together to show support for the LGBTQ community, with at least 30,000 people in the parade and far more watching. But amongst all of the celebrations, questions are being raised, are all these big brands really showing their support for the community or simply slapping a rainbow on their branding for their own advantage?
The problem of ‘rainbow washing’ was first confronted on social media when Olly Alexander, lead singer of Years & Years, took to Instagram with a screenshot of an email sent to his manager asking him to do a post promoting an ‘amazing Pride collection’ from what seems to be, a rather large brand. In his post, he stated that this year's Pride collections seemed ‘especially icky’, and right he was, as singer Sam Smith stood in solidarity when he commented “*heart emoji* amen”, followed by another comment from singer Christine and the Queens “amen to that”. With comments flying in and over 27,000 likes on the photo, it appears that many people clearly felt the same about this year.
But, as Tom Stevens, director of marketing at Pride in London, rightly said, “sometimes it is icky but we can’t just say that all brand involvement in Pride is worrying or dangerous or bad news”. For example, Budweiser revealed it was sponsors of Pride in London this year when it released a range of glasses sporting LGBTQ flags to show its support. Despite obvious backlash for corporate rainbow washing, the brand announced it was donating all of its profits from Pride In London to its 9 charity partners. Good work, Budweiser.
On the other hand M&S came under fire for its LGBT sandwich. Although it stated that it had worked with LGBT employees on the creation of the sandwich and will be donating £10,000 to national charity Albert Kennedy Trust, is this donation really any match to the profit and recognition that M&S will acquire after the stunt?
Masses of other brands have also got on board this year, with Primark partnering with ILGA World to launch its “Feeling Proud” collection (which I must admit is a great step forward following last year’s Pride collection, which was made in countries where homosexuality is illegal*facepalm*). P&G also got involved by rebranding Fairy liquid as ‘Fair’ in the hopes to urge families to discuss LQBTQ issues, after its own research revealed that 32% of family members find it difficult to (although it did basically run the same campaign back in 2016 for International Women’s Day). Still, a good effort as it too is donating a lump sum of its profits to the Albert Kennedy Trust.
What about all of those shop window displays along London’s high streets? Are the brands even donating?
As much as I want to think that all these brands really do care, I still can’t help but think… what about the rest of the year? Is there genuine concern there? Or is this act merely for a good story? And it appears that Tom Stevens feels the same, following his aforementioned comments, he further expressed “visibility is great, but if ends the day after the Pride parade comes past, we cannot condone it”.
Amen to that.
Regardless, you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain, so maybe this might be the push that consumer giants need to start donating big.