Why Brands May Be Saying Less But Not Doing Less for Pride Month

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Does Pride Month seem quieter this year?

No big controversies stand out like last year, but no creative campaigns — so far — stand out either.

So, what’s going on with content and marketing celebrating LGBTQ+ communities? Is this quieter Pride Month a broader shift in advertising and marketing creative? Or are politics playing a heavy hand?

We asked Robert Rose, CMI’s chief strategy advisor, for his take, and he reminded us we were talking about the same question this time last year. But he still had a take for 2024. Watch this video or read on to find out what Robert has to say:

Brands decrease big Pride Month campaigns

Is your company creating content or marketing campaigns to celebrate Pride Month?

If I believe the anecdotal evidence, more of you will say no than at any time in recent history. Recent marketing trade articles note that 2024 has seen a marked decrease in the number of brands planning big campaigns to celebrate Pride Month.

Target actually announced it’s scaling back, saying it would only sell its Pride Month collection in about half of its 2,000 stores and online.

Additionally, organizations such as GLSEN, a national nonprofit working to support LGBTQ+ youth in K through 12 schools, saw a marked decrease in brand support last year. It attributed the decline to the backlash brands received for their support and noted this year’s brand support was down again.

Last year, I covered some of the backlash that marketers received with my take. I mentioned that the 2023 public pushback made Pride Month feel different than 2022, but many brands were still doing something. Mastercard hosted Pride Plaza, which seems to be going fine in 2024. Skittles announced its Pride site in 2023, and it is still going strong in 2024 but without the announcement fanfare.

Are brands publicizing their Pride efforts less?

So, are there fewer campaigns this year? Is it quieter from a content perspective? Or is it that brands aren’t publicizing their efforts as much? In other words, brands are just saying, “If you know, you know.”

I think it’s the latter. Big brands are trying to avoid backlash by quietly continuing or launching supporting initiatives for the target audience. They don’t want to make news with their marketing campaigns, preferring to rely on the communities and their allies, and social media and other influencers, to spread the word.

That said, some influencers say brands aren’t turning to them as much this year. In an article in Modern Retail, one influencer noted that they usually made one-third of their yearly income in June, but this year it’s more like “just another month.”

Is this reality for 2024?

Is this good? Is it right?

It’s neither good nor bad. It’s a recognition of the reality for most brands in today’s highly politicized environment.

Last year, I noted that succeeding with any campaign like this requires the realization that the celebration isn’t about your brand. The LGBTQ+ communities don’t need or want your permission to be themselves. In many ways, to avoid backlash from the celebrated communities themselves, you need to celebrate who the communities are and not that your brand is selling your way into being part of the communities.

I also noted that you shouldn’t even attempt to have that conversation about Pride or any other community-focused celebration by asking, “How will we defend this decision?” Having that discussion is a sure sign that you haven’t really explored whether the entirety of your organization — your brand — believes in what it’s doing.

That’s the lesson Bud Light learned the hard way last year.

Brands may take these cautions to heart. They may say to themselves, “We’re going to support the community and continue doing what we do. But we’re not going to scream that we’re doing it in some performative, virtue-signaling way.”

If you look at this from the positive perspective, brands are trying to do good work and create spaces for communities without drawing attention to themselves for doing it.

If you look at this from the negative side, brands aren’t willing to have hard discussions about what they’re willing to do in today’s climate.

What answer is right for your brand? For me, I tend to lean hard into doing the work and letting the work speak for itself. That creates trust over attention, but honestly, I value the former over the latter.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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