Have Brands Reduced Their Pride Month Marketing?

Have Brands Reduced Their Pride Month Marketing?

This year, the LGBTQ community’s reaction to the Pride Month celebrations seems to have been particularly strong.

Some media have claimed brands have withdrawn public support, citing Budweiser and Target’s alleged withdrawals in response to protests and threats from small but vocal groups.

But have brands scaled back their marketing for Pride month?

CMI’s Chief Strategy Advisor Robert Rose shares his thoughts in this week’s CMI News video. Watch it below or read on for the highlights:

Just because it feels different doesn’t mean it is

According to Robert, 2023 feels different from 2022, when Mastercard hosted Pride Plaza in the Metaverse, Peloton introduced a new clothing line and highlighted its LGBTQ teachers, and Nordstrom highlighted the Pride campaigns of retail brands like Converse, Doc Martens, and Vans.

2023 feels different in #PrideMonth than 2022. But it’s just a perception that brands have scaled back their #marketing via @Robert_Rose @CMIContent. Click to tweet

Target, which has been celebrating Pride for over a decade, has had clothing, events and other initiatives. Even Bud Light had rainbow bottles, a Bud Light Pride River Parade in San Antonio, and donated $200,000 to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. (And Kid Rock didn’t shoot up cans of Bud Light in protest in 2022.)

While the numbers are hard to find, apart from one or two big names, brands’ involvement in Pride campaigns hasn’t decreased. In 2023 the perception Greater risk or challenges in celebrating Pride is the reality.

In 2023, the perception of greater risk in celebrating #Pride is a reality via @Robert_Rose @CMIContent. Click to tweet

These and similar perceptions of other communities’ celebrations have led many brands to ask themselves: how do we create a memorable marketing message (because that’s what it’s all about) that resonates with us? all Audience?

But is that the goal? Should brands strive to resonate with all audiences? Should they strive to be so inconspicuous that nobody cares?

Sesame Street teaches the lesson

“As a marketer, I find it puzzling that brands continue to struggle with this, and some, Bud Light in particular, are doing it so clumsily,” says Robert. “So many other brands seem to be doing this well. Apple comes to mind this year, but also Absolut Vodka, LEGO and Sesame Street.”

Interestingly, Sesame Street received plenty of backlash from this small, vocal minority for its “Happy Pride Month” tweet. What have you done? Nothing. They just got on with their content plan. Therein lies something all brands can learn.

What has @SesameStreet done with the backlash to his Happy #PrideMonth tweet? Nothing. And it’s a lesson for all brands about @Robert_Rose @CMIContent. Click to tweet

When considering messages that recognize and celebrate Pride or any other community, think about content and brand first, not sales. (Of course, there are exceptions, such as brands that create products specifically for these communities.)

“The celebration is not about your brand. The community doesn’t need or want your permission to be them,” explains Robert. “If you do that, you can establish your brand as an appropriator of community identity just to side with something else.”

Instead, create messages that celebrate community involvement. “It’s not about helping people become more like your brand. It’s about how your brand supports them in accepting themselves, celebrating themselves and becoming more of who they are,” says Robert.

Also, you shouldn’t start the messaging conversation about Pride or any other community-related celebration by asking, “How are we going to defend this decision?” If so, you should think twice about moving on because your brand obviously doesn’t have a core belief or has not established this yet.

Bud Light didn’t understand that. That’s why they pressured influencer Dylan Mulvaney, who is transgender, and his marketing managers for their Instagram promotion.

Don’t confuse the fact that you’re not starting on the defensive with a lack of willingness to defend your point of view. Brands should always think about how to respond when a vocal minority objects without changing their point of view. Sesame Street did this by saying nothing.

“All great marketing requires that it’s really right for someone and really wrong for someone else,” says Robert.

You can’t segment your marketing messages to optimize for each audience segment. Your brand needs to believe everything it says, even if it chooses not to say it in the moment. If you say things the brand doesn’t believe, don’t be surprised if your audience doesn’t believe you. Or worse, they create your brand beliefs on your behalf.

What are you doing to amplify voices for Pride celebrations within your content and marketing teams or within your organization? Please share it in the comments. But now we wish you “Happy Pride!”

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to to CMI weekday or weekly emails.


Cover photo by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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