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Opinion

Solving the Pink Pound Problem

According to Stonewall, the UK LGBTQ+ market or The Pink Pound is estimated to be worth an eye-watering £80 billion a year. It’s no wonder then, that in recent times we’ve seen an increase in LGBTQ+ inclusive marketing. Whether it’s featuring gay men in above-the-line campaigns or selling limited-edition product variants, some of the largest companies in the world are putting their weight behind marketing towards the LGBTQ+ community.

Every year, this type of marketing reaches a vibrant crescendo in June. For one colourful month, the rainbow flag greets you everywhere you turn, as brands switch out their usual aesthetic for Pride. It seems that many marketeers heed the advice of the ancient proverb: Wrap a rainbow around it and the gays will come.
But with rising cynicism from the LGBTQ+ community, is this true? Some are accusing brands of missing the mark with their ‘rainbow-washing’ attempts to reach the LGBTQ+ community being perceived as opportunistic and self-serving - take the backlash Marks and Spencer received for their LGBT (Lettuce, Guacamole, Bacon and Tomato) sandwich. 

It’s worth remembering that, compared to the past, it is a small triumph to see the rainbow smiling at you as you shuffle through a crowded supermarket. It’s a way LGBTQ+ people can see themselves represented, not only in the mainstream but in everyday life. This visibility is lovely to see, particularly for young queer people still coming to terms with their sexuality.

But despite the stratospheric strides the LGBTQ+ community has made, this is still a marginalised group. Criticism comes from LGBTQ+ people wanting brands to take their support further, to show they aren’t just on this team because of the gold at the end of the rainbow. They want brands to go beyond We See You to We Care About You. But what does this look like? It’s a word that haunts the corridors and pool tables of every marketing agency in the world: authenticity.

In vogue.
LGBTQ+ people don’t slip into hibernation after Pride. So why do many brands dissappear when the parade stops and the floats are tucked away? Absolut vodka chooses not to participate when Pride rears its glittering head. Instead, it embraces the LGBTQ+ community all year round, and has done for decades. Brands that stick it out for the long haul make the community feel like they’re more than a once-a-year opportunity, demonstrating authenticity in their support. This is especially important when facing anti-LGBTQ+ backlash – heroes like the NHS have shown us that instead of folding to complaints, you double down with fire and sass to stand your ground.

Not dancing on my own.
From homelessness to mental health problems, the LGBTQ+ community faces a veritable smorgasbord of issues. And this is where the best brands can really step up. Gay Times did a terrific job, removing two stripes from the rainbow flag to raise awareness of the two in six LGBTQ+ youth at risk of taking their own lives. Brands who offer tangible support or raise awareness for specific issues are showing the community that they’re understood and cared about. Even when selling something, if real positive change for LGBTQ+ people is happening, that’s awesome.

Raining men. And women. And trans-folk.
When you mention The Pink Pound you’re talking about a diverse bunch. From transgender people, to bisexuals, to people of every colour, not just pink. Cue Marriott, who nailed it with a campaign that featured every segment of the community. Brands who capture this diversity are showing that they get what this colourful community looks like, from head to toe. And for those who feel invisible, even within the community, it’s a brilliant little touch to make them feel seen.

True colours.
Great allies are those who practice what they preach. Take Vodafone, who overhauled its recruitment process to roll out inclusive job ads, a modernised code of conduct and a support programme for LGBTQ+ graduates. These measures create a safe and equal workplace for LGBTQ+ people. It’s the simple stuff like this – support for the community from the inside out – that proves that the rainbow really does run through a company’s veins.

Ask those who were born this way.
Who better to provide insights about the LGBTQ+ community than those who are part of it? They know what will resonate, what the community is like, and most of all, they’re invested. Consulting these individuals and giving a platform for their voice creates an authentic response that will strike a chord with the right people.

There is a solution to the growing cynicism around LGBTQ+ marketing and it’s beautiful in its simplicity – be a genuine ally. Those that talk to the community as more than just The Pink Pound will be celebrated by its members as a brand who will stick by them - even after the very last piece of confetti is gone from Oxford Street.

Written by Tom Ovett
Account Executive