Beyond the Rainbow

In case you missed it:

“Beyond the Rainbow—Why Pride Isn’t a Party” 

By Jennifer Adach

Rana Reeves, founder and creative director of RanaVerse, joined AMADC for an exploration of Pride as a marketing moment during a recent AMADC webinar, “Beyond the Rainbow—Why Pride Isn’t a Party” He discussed what current situation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) rights and other intersections mean for brands and how they integrate with the community in a purposeful way. 

RanaVerse, Reeves’ agency, marries brands with popular and contemporary culture—you may have seen the agency’s recent work with the new “United We Stand” campaign from Unilever. Far too often, as Reeves pointed out during his talk, brands often think of Pride as something to mark during the month of June, often with a rainbow, and then move onto the next marketing moment in the following month.

It’s important, first, to understand the current landscape for LGTBQ+ people in the United States. In 2021, there are already more than 100 anti-transgender bills--more than any other year. LGBTQ+ proportionally experience high rates of homelessness, poverty, food insecurity, and suicide attempts. While there have been advances, Reeves noted, there are still many challenges facing the community in its entirety--and “this is the lens that I look at Pride through.”

When looking at where brands are with Pride now, Reeves pointed out that in many instances Pride has been “de-queerized” in that many brands don’t even mention the LGBTQ+ community in their marketing. In other instances, brands engage in “performative brand activity” with large donations but nothing deeper in the relationship. Too many brands dehumanize Pride by using the rainbow rather than showing members of the LGBTQ+ community in their advertising or other images--and others try to make Pride about everyone, which “negates the struggles that the community’s been through and what it is going through.”

Reeves took a step back to define Pride and to define allyship. Gay pride is the promotion for the self-affirmation, dignity, equality and increased visibility of LGBTQ+ people as a social group, and that an ally acknowledges that LGBTQ+ people face discrimination and are thus disadvantaged. Allies aim to use their position and privilege as heterosexual and cisgender people to step up to protect and create equity throughout the year—a 365 24/7 mindset, as Reeves described. “What are the actions you are taking,” said Reeves.

For brands, this means taking a step out of their comfort zones and not just “check book.” They should explore their values or their product offering to create a “do,” which Reeves defined as “the action that you are going to take that has an effect to support the LGBTQ+ community.” They should look at relevant community needs—both on the frontline and systemic. Reeves pointed to Unilever's “United We Stand” campaign which is aiming to work in four cities and a region of Missouri to support on-the-ground organizations to create systemic and frontline change.

Brands should look to “360° Full Equity.” Specifically, this would involve integrating with the LGBTQ+ community throughout the year by recognizing key moments and the equity process--identifying all the steps when creating a campaign to make sure LGBTQ+ voices and perspectives are involved in every step of the process, from inception to execution. Brands should work with LGBTQ+ vendors. Marketing should affirm, inform, and educate---and it should start from the top down, starting with the CEO, the brand itself, talent, and staff. Brands should show people to highlight members of the LGBTQ+ community and to demonstrate them thriving and in intimacy.

He touched on several issues and concerns facing the LGBTQ+ community—trans rights, conversion therapy, employment rights, and homophobic hate—as well as broader intersections such as racism, sex work, HIV decriminalization, opioid addiction, and bullying. 

What are the common barriers that Reeves faces when working with clients? Thinking that Pride is for everyone or that this is a political issue and “we aren’t political.” Or leaving Pride to the last moment—sometimes even thinking that queer people should work for a lower fee during Pride month.
“Pride is for LGBTQ people. It’s not about us making our lives or culture palatable or respectable for cisgender or straight people,” said Reeves. 
Reeves provided a number of resources for brands and marketers, including accounts to follow and documentaries to watch. 

Learn more about Rana and the work that he does at RanaVerse.