Where Have all the Rainbows Gone?

I couldn’t help but notice that while scrolling through LinkedIn on July 2 that things have gotten a bit less colorful. Gone are the rainbow-colored logos, the stock photos of happy people carrying rainbow flags and other graphics featuring some version of rainbows. As a marketer, I’m a little impressed everyone was so punctual, I mean how many times have we not changed that webinar from live to on-demand the moment it took place? Don’t get me wrong, I’m so relieved to live in a time when embracing Pride has become a corporate mission. It’s about time. But I can’t help but wonder—and hope—if it’s all authentic.

Full disclosure: as the CMO of FocusVision I made the very conscious choice not to change our logo. Here’s why. While I believe, support and will even march for equal rights not only for the LGBTQ community but also for women, minorities and any other group that has been discriminated against, and as a company, we ensure everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation and/or race has equal opportunity, we don’t do anything beyond treating everyone fairly and equally–and shouldn’t we all just be doing that anyway? In fact, my boss and CEO, who grew up in Copenhagen, was a bit baffled by the rainbow lined storefronts in NYC. “At home, we just accepted everyone for who they were. I never even thought about anyone being different because of their sexual orientation,” he told me. So it seemed a bit disingenuous to change our company logo, or imagery to feature rainbows last month when we weren’t taking any other action rather than just being human beings. No donations, no special programs, no sponsorships, which we’ve agreed we need to think about as a company.

As an insights company, though, what we did do was use research to see what consumers think and how they feel about all of the rainbow washing(1). And once again, I learned something new. While most people are satisfied or neutral (71%) with the representation of the LGBTQ community today and have positive or neutral feelings (76%) about all of the media around it, as one would expect, there is a portion that don’t support it which we found out through the survey we ran. Now here’s the interesting part. What we learned from the qualitative part of our research, was that the people that didn’t support the rainbows, ads and media didn’t cite the reasons we all assume, they cited inauthenticity and using a cause to promote a business as key reasons. See for yourself:

“While we are seeing more lbgtq people in media, they are usually for comedic purposes or a lesbian couple introduced to appeal to male audiences.”

“They are not as represented as they should be and when they are it is often not in the right light. People just put an LGBTQ person in just to seem inclusive but don’t make them a key or central part to the media or make them someone the others look down on.”

“It should be noted that advocating for the LGBTQ community is not just about ‘speaking out,’ but also about providing more ‘natural’ representations of the LGBTQ community.”

“Advocate without making a big deal about it. Like….a scene with two dads and a kid doesn’t need to have a big rainbow flag on it. Just present it the same way you would a straight couple.”

“Don’t appear as if you’re “bending over backwards.” You don’t want to come across as merely trendy or PC. It’s a great thing just to include LGBTQ people as regular folks, family members and friends of straight people. Normalize.”

“Gross. Not because of the men, but because it’s a company co-opting a legit cause to make bank.”

My personal belief is that all of the support we saw in Pride Month came from the right place with the right intentions. My hope is that we continue to see progress and acceptance and hopefully, one day get to a place where we don’t have to call out any particular group because we’re all just human beings that are treated the same. But as a woman, mother, friend and aunt, I know we aren’t there yet. And as a business leader and a marketer, I know it’ll take more than turning my logo rainbow to get us there.

(1)FocusVision asked 1500 U.S. consumers how they felt about LGBTQ in advertising, whether brands were doing an appropriate job representing LGBTQ and how this impacted their purchasing decisions using FocusVision Decipher.
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