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  • Writer's pictureDiego Tomasino

Pinkwashing: When Awareness Turns into Opportunism

June is almost ending and, surely, we have seen hundreds of brands with their "pride activation campaigns". A very clear marketing objective: the LGBTQ+ community. 🏳‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️

The idea is to show how inclusive and progressive they are and how great a logo with a multicolored and rainbow tone looks on the vast majority of their products and services. But what happens when some of these brands take no action to benefit or promote LGBTQ+ rights? Or what happens if at the slightest criticism, the brand decides to withdraw the campaign?

We call this Pink-Washing, also known as Rainbow-Washing 🌈🚿, a term to describe this type of behavior by corporations, countries or governments that try to project a positive and friendly image towards the LGBTQ+ community, while failing to take concrete actions to protect to the people in the group. These actions are made so that the organization is perceived as inclusive and respectful of diversity and identities when, in reality, the organization has implemented policies that show almost the opposite. Sometimes these marketing actions even try to diminish past negative actions or divert attention from them.

The origin of the term also known as "pink wash" dates back to the 90s when several companies decided to use the color pink, a symbol of the fight against breast cancer, to sell more and better their products during the month of May. As a result, the company Breast Cancer Action used the term pinkwashing to denounce those companies that claimed to support women with breast cancer for marketing purposes.

Don´t fall for it 🖐🛑

1. Have a purpose: Think about the core values ​​of the brand, how can you match the ideal scenario with the current reality towards social commitments within the brand? Find an authentic route and plan a strategy where honesty is present, as well as, recognize that it is a long-term effort. Include testimonials from your LGBTQ+ staff, to better connect true emotions.

2. Be inclusive and show it: Create internal policies that guarantee inclusive teams, equal treatment and visibility in senior management positions. If the brand is committed, it has to generate measurable results and communicate them. Check that all your policies and benefits are equitable for all people in your organization, regardless of whether they are in the closet or not.

3. Train your staff and foster allies: Throughout the year you can (and should) train your team on diversity and inclusion issues. Beyond focusing exclusively on the LGBTQ+ community, it can also incorporate other issues such as unconscious bias, gender, privilege, inclusive communication, and many more. It is also key to encourage the participation of allies in all these talks.

4. Connect with organizations that take real action: Find local organizations that support LGBTQ+ education, health or social issues and create a long-term partnership with them to unite the brand with the cause. You can also join local LGBTQ+ Chambers of Commerce, Pride Connection or similar organizations.

5. Donate Part of Your Pride Proceeds: Some companies donate 100% (or part) of the proceeds from their Pride collection to LGBTQ+ charities. When it comes to concrete action for equality, rainbow marketing can have a positive impact on society.

The fact of not talking about "pride" also indicates your position as a company before the LGBTQ+ community.

Hush Hush 🤐

Being a business ally to the LGBTQ+ community is not supposed to be an easy task. Sometimes there will inevitably be a pullback in certain sectors, especially in the more conservative sectors.

But this is precisely the acid test. Be encouraged to be on the right side of history and avoid giving in to reactionary efforts to produce what Fabrice Houdart has aptly called 'Pink-hushing': “Companies that deliberately keep their Pride initiatives secret for fear of being target of trolls”

What's worse is that many companies that get involved in Pinkwashing end up switching to Pinkhushing when they face opposition or negativity. When companies feel their profits are in jeopardy from backlash from LGBTQ+ haters, they often withdraw support from the community to avoid resistance. These companies are more interested in protecting their brand image at the expense of their promised commitment to LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance.

Can you think of some brands that have done similar actions?

Final recommendations

When you're about to launch your pride campaign, ask yourself these four questions to make sure it aligns with your company's values

· Does the cause have to do with your brand?

Ask yourself if the cause responds to your values ​​or if you do it because it favors your image to talk about it.

· Is your company thought-provoking?

The answer will be yes if your organization is helping, beyond “fashion”, to make the problem visible and surely, you have been doing it for some time.

· Do you promote the cause internally?

Reputation has a lot to do with the organization's employees. Therefore, if you defend a cause, or any value, be sure to include it in your communication and internal policy.

· Does your brand commit to the long term or only on specific dates?

If you defend a cause or movement, then you must work to make visible and constantly apply policies that favor it.

I hope that this month of pride has found us with clear purposes for the whole community, that we continue to learn to truly value the LGBTQ+ community, and that we continue to build more inclusive companies that are encouraged to “ComeOut!” all year. 🚪🌈

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