June is Pride Month which means we’ve seen countless consumer brands temporarily emblazon their logos and branding to incorporate rainbows or any of the variety of Pride flags.
I’m very interested in cause marketing, which means I started thinking about Pride marketing, who benefits from it, and how Pride (and cause marketing) is incorporated into marketing programs. We’ll talk about the levels of involvement that can come with cause.
Pride, when adopted by mainstream companies like LEGO, Dunkin Donuts, etc. is a particular kind of marketing /branding that will continue to get more important as the Millennial and Zoomers stream into the market, demanding transparency, truth, and motivation.
Cause marketing – Where a brand harnesses publicly supporting particular causes ranging from low level donations to partnering with a particular group in a cause.
When looking at Pride and today’s cause marketing, we must acknowledge the increasingly transparent world we live in. More and more people are learning which questions to ask to get to the bottom of a brand’s involvement in a cause.
How does transparency work?
The question boils down to a single “Is this real or fake support?”
Here are the questions I like to ask when it comes to vetting a cause:
- What is the intent of the campaign?
- Who benefits from this campaign?
- How do they benefit?
- Where does the money go?
- What is the impact of the campaign?
Intent covers the reasons a brand may run a cause marketing campaign. Here are a bunch of different examples one might have a Pride or cause campaign:
- To support an employee that is LGBTQ+
- To make LGBTQ+ people feel welcome working with/for your organization
- To hire LGBTQ+ people directly
- To fundraise money to an LGBTQ+ person or group
- To make money off of an LGBTQ+ person or group
We live in a society and so of course a company that is running a Pride or another cause marketing campaign wants to make money. Corporations have calculated that it is profitable to support Pride, based on where they perceive the general sentiment is.
The first part of goal setting is setting the intent of what you want to do. When you are vetting a cause campaign, look for the intent of the campaign.
What actions can you take to meet the intention you set? How can you directly act to in support of this cause?
Here are some examples of actions a brand could take in a cause marketing campaign:
- Hiring an LGBTQ+ person to make the offering or content
- Buying a product from a person who is LGBTQ+
- Giving money to organizations that directly support LGBTQ+ individuals
- Making a product that is aimed towards Pride audience
Let’s look at the pride campaign from Lego this year:
Lego’s campaign includes creating an intentionally inclusive set of Lego blocks, created by an employee of the company Lego has an entire product devoted to it, talks about its inclusive company culture, and shows off its partnerships with LGBTQ+.
The fact that they have a member of the C-suite out as the face of their campaign shows the safety in the company culture. It also represents a pivot in the Lego brand, which had a reputation of ducking away from politics, which was revealed in 2015.
As of 2018, some of the biggest monetary supporters for Pride were also donating large sums to anti-gay politicians.
I really enjoyed the FedEx comment given to Forbes, “ ‘FedEx has a long history of participating in the political process, and we support candidates on both sides of the aisle,’ said a spokesperson in an emailed statement. ‘FedEx is as diverse as the world we serve. We strive to provide an inclusive workplace in which all team members feel safe and respected.’ “
This might have flown in 2018, but in 2021, more organizations are feeling the eyes of consumers on them, and will be pushed to “choose a side” or “take a stand.”
Who reaps the benefits of these campaigns?
- One or several employees at your company
- Another individual who is part of the cause’s group.
- Your company in the form of PR and/or increased sales
A well-executed campaign should benefit both actual people impacted by the cause you support and make your company money.
Arguably, the money is what speaks the most.
Follow the money and you see the true roots and motivations of both corporations and causes.
Ideally, you find actual people in your community that are part of the group you’re supporting.
Do they get a percentage of donations? Do you donate directly to an LGBTQ+ person? Did you hire someone or buy a product from them?
I’d argue that putting your money where your mouth is, is the most important part of properly doing cause marketing today. If your allyship doesn’t directly financially support the cause, there is a lot less potential value in it for both cause and brand.
That leads us directly into impact.
The impact is the actual result of the campaign. Did you gain new customers because of your campaign? Did you put actual money/resources into the pockets of people in a marginalized group? Was an appropriate proportion of the funds donated to the cause?/What sort of donation method did you use? Did you actually create a net benefit?
On a personal level, I like to spend money buying from artists and makers I know over supporting any large corporation. I know that my purchase pays their rent and groceries. There are ways for every business to have similar impact in their communities.
Let us know what you think:
- Does your brand support Pride or another cause?
- What are your motivations?
- What have the outcomes been?