We have come across plenty of companies and brands standing in support of the LGBTQ+ community, and they have indeed successfully created a positive image of themselves in our eyes.
And if the symbols, especially the pride flag, are seen outside of the month of June, with June being “pride month”, even better. It brings us all joy and leads us to appreciate the efforts of the said brand or company.
In order to stand in solidarity with an inclusive and supportive workplace, businesses displaying the flag are all roses. Perhaps, “all rainbows” would be a better fit.
Are All Brands Faking It?
Not to undermine the efforts and initiatives of the brands, but for a skeptic like me, something seemed odd every time a brand went on displaying pride symbols and the flag. Especially when they did this only during the times of “pride month” or the “pride walk”.
Many companies have seemed to take up the trend of using the LGBTQ community’s love of rainbows for their personal benefit. That is to say, they are by no means interested in rainbows and pride, and all they are interested in is monetizing off of it.
I agree that the aim of any company should be to focus on its marketing and devise good strategies. But to use a community’s sentiments to fulfill personal agendas is not the way to go. Not by a long term.
Pink Dollar And Rainbow Washing
That being said, I introduce you to the term “Rainbow Washing”. In order to understand the term, you’ll first have to get familiar with another term, that is, “Pink Dollar”.
“Pink Dollar” is the purchasing power of LGBTQ consumers and is the most crucial aspect of marketing to the said community. As for “Rainbow Washing”, it is the deliberate use of symbols and especially the rainbow for the sole purpose of profiting off of the community.
“Rainbow Washing” has absolutely nothing to do with support and inclusivity. Rather, it’s all superficial and indeed disgusting.
“The act of using or adding rainbow colors and/or imagery to the advertising, apparel, accessories, landmarks… in order to indicate progressive support for LGBTQ equality (and earn consumer credibility) — but with a minimum of effort or pragmatic result,” is what the Urban Dictionary defines the term as.
I talked to a friend belonging to the LGBTQ community who told me about the growing awareness of “Rainbow Washing” among the members and how they all beware each other about brands and companies indulging in the said practice.
This brought me to realize how the outside world remains largely unaware of “Rainbow Washing” and supports brands that manipulate and trick them.
A simple cash grab remains at the core of this marketing strategy. Big brands such as M&S, Kiehl’s (The Trevor Project), Jack Daniel’s (Drag Queen Mukbang), Reebok (Proud Notes), and many others have allegedly incorporated this trick at least once and gone on to profit off of the cause-based marketing.
Now you might be inclined to think why it is such a big deal. The sole purpose of the intentional abuse and the manipulation becomes the central theme of rainbow washing. When an initiative is without substance and sincerity, it does more harm than good.
Do Brands Donate All Funds From Rainbow Campaigns?
A recent study showed that only 64% of companies donate their funds gathered by pride campaigns. The question arises, why can’t these multi-million dollar companies donate the funds in their entirety? What’s stopping them from supporting for real?
Moreover, the struggle of the community and the efforts of the allies—all get overshadowed with big companies coming forward only for credit and validation. And, of course, marketing.
More than a good campaign, rainbow washing feels like a tactic adopted by a spoilt, attention-seeking child. A good smacking is the need of the hour, perhaps in the form of refusal of the public to become prey to such manipulation. This will come only with proper awareness.
Beware Of The Red Flags
That being said, I understand how challenging it may get to discern the genuine rainbows from their counterfeits, which is why I bring to you some of the red flags.
- Keep up with the calendar. If you see a brand using rainbows only during pride month or when rallies are onboard, it is your chance to beware.
- If the rainbow or other pride symbols are used for decorative purposes and the depth of the cause is untouched—ding ding ding!
- With wisdom comes lunacy. And hence, keep an eye out for companies’ responses to anti-LGBTQ attacks. Keypoint being whether they remain loyal to their said policies and supportive tendencies or do they succumb to the pressure?
- Do not rely on visuals. Being a good ally does not imply that you have to buy only from brands that “show”, instead, do it from the ones that “are”. Again, if it’s confusing, ask someone who’s well-informed or a member of the community, they might know better.
- Remember, the LGBTQ rainbow is not a prop. If you think a brand is into rainbow washing, do your research, and if it proves to be true, report to the concerned members and all of your circle.
It is upon us to make the world a safe zone for each and every member. We are a big, loving community. LGBTQ community is an integral part of our bigger community.
Now that you have been introduced to, and made well-aware of what rainbow washing is and how it is detrimental to the pride movement, take a minute to think of ways you think a brand should come out to support the said community sincerely.
Let us know in the comment section below.
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