Another June, another Pride Month comes to a close. Lots of progress to celebrate, and so much work still to be done. And in a year of unprecedented focus on diversity and inclusion, we saw an explosion of rainbow-adorned logos across our social feeds. This year, rainbow washing became a rainbow tsunami.
For many of us in the LGBTQ community, this sparks mixed feelings. It wasn’t long ago that when a company openly supported LGBTQ causes or marketed to the community, people wrote letters to CEOs thanking them for their support and commending them for their courage. After so many years of being shunned, it felt good to be embraced, regardless of the motivations. But today, the bar is much higher for brands to earn the respect and loyalty of LGBTQ consumers.
With so many competing priorities—across marketing and diversity and inclusion initiatives, it’s impossible for any brand to be everything to every community. As Pride Month comes to a close, it’s a good time to think about how your brand can demonstrate lasting allyship to the community in a way that goes beyond rainbow graphics.
Stay current with the community’s unique and wide-ranging needs
The LGBTQ community is as diverse as it gets, spanning across every race, gender, age, religion, and socioeconomic background. Many financial firms dialed back their focus on LGBTQ-tailored products and services once Marriage Equality became law in the US. But still, many specialized needs around financial planning, ESG investing, and banking remain underserved.
One standout in marketing products to address these unique needs is Mastercard’s True Name credit card. It’s pretty near impossible to create a differentiated credit card in today’s crowded marketplace. But how about one that could literally save lives? The True Name lets trans and non-binary people use their preferred name on credit and debit cards, rather than be forced to use a legal name they don’t identify with, and potentially avoiding harassment by those taking the payments. The card was just picked up by Citi, vastly improving its reach, and again, demonstrating both brands’ authentic commitment to the community.
A better customer experience requires better representation and training
As with women and people of color, LGBTQ people are still underrepresented in sectors like financial services and technology. While a gay person doesn’t necessarily need a gay financial advisor, having that shared experience can bring the relationship to a different level, and the dread of once again having to “come out” to someone is erased. Sometimes it simply comes down to diversity training. I recently had an experience with a Bay Area-based fintech company, where the salesperson kept asking me about my wife, even though I had listed my spouse’s name as Ian. A huge deal? Of course not. But it did alter my perception of the brand.
Make it clear that you’re in it for the long haul
Finally, the past decade has been transformational for LGBTQ rights, but the fight is far from over. While marriage equality and increased employment and housing protections have made a huge difference in LGBTQ financial security, there are still significant inequities, particularly for the trans community and LGBTQ people of color. The wage gaps and wealth gaps that exist in the general population are often amplified when someone is also LGBTQ.
This year, the CPG giant Unilever demonstrated its true commitment to driving change through its “United We Stand” campaign, designed to create systemic change by targeting five specific US municipalities with the worst records on LGBTQ rights.
Measures like these aren’t only tangible, but also lay important groundwork for companies striving to authentically support diverse communities of all kinds. We’re hopeful that many will continue to imbue these values into their work beyond their marketing platforms—and beyond Pride Month, too.