Marketing Briefing: As Pride approaches, marketers should be ‘truly invested’ as marketing backlash continues

This Marketing Briefing covers the latest in marketing for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

The month of June — and Pride marketing dollars to mark the occasion — will soon flow. For marketers in recent years, that’s often meant rolling out various Pride campaigns with LGBTQIA+influencers and creating Pride merch. This year, however, Pride arrives amid a more fraught and politicized marketing environment as the backlash to advertising deemed “woke” continues.

As we covered in last week’s Marketing Briefing, brands like Bud Light, Miller Lite and Adidas, among others, have faced backlash and boycott threats for releasing marketing efforts that aimed to be more inclusive or any effort that could be deemed “woke.” The heightened politicization of inclusive marketing efforts may lead to more caution among risk averse marketers.

The fraught and politicized marketing environment has already seen one brand, Target, pull its Pride merch — which ranged from celebratory clothing to a bird dressed as a drag queen — from its floors as the company’s employees have faced threats while at work, per the company’s statement. Target also noted that it is “moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.”

Marketers and agency execs say that this current political moment will likely separate the brands that are truly committed to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community from those that had made Pride an annual marketing spend. And clearer to distinguish the brands that were rainbow washing.

“With Pride Month around the corner, the LGBTQ+ community will certainly be looking more closely at brands that are activating in June AND all year ‘round, asking the question ‘are you here for a money grab or are you really down for the cause and the community?,’” said Pilaar Terry, managing partner and COO, POV Agency. “Marketers that are truly invested will be counted on to really show up, and not just during Pride Month. It’s an invitation to double down and not just be performative.” 

Marketers are currently making decisions out of fear and threats of violence in an increasingly fraught environment, explained Carlos Santiago, co-chair of the ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM). Bending to those threats sets a bad precedent that could lead to more pushback for other inclusive marketing efforts. “If we let ourselves respond and run to the corner every time [there’s pushback because] ‘this is a woke brand,’ then where does it stop?” asked Santiago. 

Earlier this month ANA AIMM put out a letter in USA Today noting the importance of inclusivity and warding marketers off from being selectively inclusive. Santiago also noted that marketers already spend just a fraction of their ad budgets to support the LGBTQIA+ community; per AIMM’s 2022 study on diverse-owned ad spend, “only 0.2% of all consumer ad dollars are invested by brands in LGBTQ-owned and targeted media publications.”

Marketers and agency execs said they believe brands will still show up this year for Pride, but those that do so need to truly support the LGBTQIA+ community and be ready for potential backlash. 

“Regardless of who your consumer is as a brand the worst thing you can do in brand marketing is flip flop,” said Emma McIlroy, founder and CEO of Wildfang, a queer retail brand that plans to host 48 hours of a continuous drag show in July in Portland to fundraise for the Trevor Project, a non-profit focused on suicide prevention efforts for the LGBTQIA+ community. “When you decide you’re for one thing and then flip, who are you? What are you? You’re just a commodity.”

Given the current environment, marketers participating in Pride this year will “need to mean it,” said Hannah Fishman, CCO for The&Partnership in North America. 

“The word Pride is very important,” said Lisette Arsuaga, co-chair of the ANA’s AIMM. “When it comes to Pride, I think companies that support the LGBTQ community have to be proud to support the LGBTQ community. When difficult times come through, they have to be proud to stand firm.” 

3 Questions with Tiffany Xingyu Wang, CMO of OpenWeb, a community management platform

There’s a massive gold rush for brands and advertisers to have a Web3 presence. Is that momentum expected to continue through an economic downturn? 
Moving forward, people really are questioning the economics of Web3 and what are the underlying true technology fundamentals of Web3, and how do they interact with each other. What are the fundamental tech that will truly drive economic impact in this new era of the internet? The nuance when I say Web3 will continue and will thrive is in the sense that the fundamental technologies that will drive Web3 will drive more economic value.

What does brand safety look like in Web3, a space that’s still largely considered the Wild West?
As we build out Web3, we have to think about how we ensure safety by design in these playgrounds where people are going to interact, socialize and live on. The brand or holding companies that work with brands need to identify where are the safer playgrounds for the brands, and then they can choose and pick the places where brands can be safeguarded in a better way.

How is success defined in this space?
I first start with challenging the question if ROI is the core definition of success. That’s where we failed ourselves in Web2. There needs to be a mentality shift because in Web2, it was literally growth at all cost. It was the attention economy. The social platforms would optimize every single metric to drive your attention to the extent of addiction and at the cost of potential and misinformation. Because in Web2 what was optimized was the ROI and was the growth. In Web3, [there’s] what I call a pendulum swing from Web2, where data was centralized and the people were productized and the growth was at all costs. There’s a swing back to people need to be at the center. People need to own their own data and then they need to feel safe in their own community and then they can grow along with the businesses. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

It has been more than a decade that social media has grown at a stratospheric rate, resulting in the emergence of “influencers” in our modern society. All over the world, there are people earning millions of dollars by creating content in a wide variety of niches across online platforms using a variety of content creation methodologies. A survey conducted by TopRatedCasinos asked over 2,000 adults in the U.K. about their attitudes toward becoming an influencer and their own luck when becoming one. See key findings from the report below:

  • Among Gen Z, 69% dream of becoming a TikToker, but only 4% have succeeded.
  • 44% of Londoners want to be Instagram influencers, while 47% want to become YouTubers.
  • YouTube is the most popular platform for people considering becoming influencers (36%), followed by TikTok (32%). — Julian Cannon

Quote of the week

“If you’re a global media company, then you’re facing a nightmare of cross-compliance. In the internet era many companies are global by nature… it’s a nightmare from a technical, legal, and consumer experience perspective.”

— IAB Tech Lab CEO Anthony Katsur on the complications of GDPR on its five year anniversary.

What we’ve covered

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