In June, many brands show their support for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community with rainbow-colored merchandise, community partnerships, artist collaborations, proceeds donations, and more. Perhaps you have seen Lego’s Everyone is Awesome set or Skittles’ Pride Pack sitting on retailers’ shelves. However, while the intention to bring awareness to the LGBTQ+ community and celebrate Pride month may be genuine, these can quickly be perceived as ill-hearted marketing tactics known as “rainbow washing.”

What is rainbow washing?

Rainbow Washing

What is rainbow washing? It’s when a brand uses Pride colors to indicate their support of the LGBTQ+ community without taking any real action. Sentiment quickly falls flat for brands who simply swap out logos on social media during June and can backfire if consumers believe a retailer’s colorful products are released with the sole intention of boosting sales. 

Younger generations are quick to call out brands that aren’t practicing what they preach when promoting diversity, and Pride month is no exception. This shouldn’t come as much of a shock, with more than 20% of Gen Z adults self-identifying as LGBT in a survey done by Gallup, compared to the national average of 7.1%. Other common examples of rainbow washing include underpaying queer talents such as models or artists, fostering an unsafe work environment for LGBTQ+ employees, and donating to anti-LGBTQI+ organizations or public figures. 

How to avoid rainbow washing and show genuine support for LGBTQ+ brands 

There are many ways brands can avoid rainbow washing during Pride month, including year-round inclusivity efforts, building strong brand values from within, and developing marketing campaigns that truly support the LGBTQ+ community. Here are a few ways brands can effectively support LGBTQ+ brands 365 days a year.

1. Inclusive advertising

With an estimated 3.7 trillion dollars in purchasing power, LGBTQ+ consumers need to be taken more seriously. One way to do this is by making advertisements more LGBTQ-inclusive. Studies have shown that 64% of LGBT allies and 46% of all Americans believe LGBT-inclusive advertising would make them more likely to consider purchasing its products/services. According to Nielsen, LGBTQ+-inclusive ads are hard to find outside of June and there are significant opportunities for brands looking to expand their inclusive ad campaigns throughout the year. 

2. Embrace diversity and inclusion as a core value

The best place to start making an impact for the LGBTQ+ community is from within, by building an inclusive workplace culture for every employee. Retailers doing it right enhance corporate benefits, outwardly encourage employees to be themselves, offer transparent support as an ally, create LGBTQ+ friendly employee resource groups, and partner with leading community groups to learn and grow alongside their employees. They’re also not afraid to be outspoken and take a stance against anti-LGBTQIA+ policy and legislation. 

For brands who don’t know where to start when it comes to driving workforce inclusion, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) is the national benchmarking tool measuring policies, practices, and benefits surrounding LGBTQ+ employees. The CEI is a way to keep track of progress and gain feedback on community issues.

3. Partnering with LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations

Partnering with one of the many local, state, or national organizations advocating for LGBTQ+ people is a great way to ensure your brand is making real change in the community. Many of today’s most influential brands have teamed up with well-known organizations such as The Trevor Project; Human Rights Campaign; the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to ensure genuine marketing campaigns.

These partnerships go beyond financial support, offering visibility to valuable resources, encouragement to LGBTQ+ individuals still exploring their identities, and opportunities to LGBTQ+ suppliers and artists. While retailers may launch limited-edition rainbow products in honor of Pride month, many support LGBTQ organizations year-round. Notable partnerships include Apple and Encircle, Ugg and GLADD, Adidas and Athlete Ally, Target and GLSEN, Ralph Lauren and the Stonewall Community Foundation, PopSockets and the It Gets Better Project, plus many more.  

Pride Month Collaborations
Source: Retail Industry Leaders Association

Beyond Pride month

With rising consumer awareness, supplier diversity is an ongoing effort for many of today’s top retailers, making year-long inclusivity a new standard. Supporting LGBTQ+-owned businesses, entrepreneurs, employees, and members of the community should not be limited to one month or used as a profit-driving marketing tactic, but instead reflected in your brand’s core values and culture. 

Are you a buyer on RangeMe? Discover the best and brightest LGBTQ-owned brands and their innovative products by browsing our LGBTQ-Owned Businesses Collection.

Are you an LGBTQ+ supplier on RangeMe? Add it to your profile! You can also get your brand certified by NGLCC, a great resource for LGBTQ-owned businesses.