Pride Month Marketing: Why Rainbow Washing Isn’t Good for Business

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A banner with the text "Rainbow Washing: Everything You Need to Know to Stay Authentic" with a washing machine and rainbow in the background.

June is LGBTQ+ Pride month — and the streets are already filled with rainbow flags, parades, and a palpable sense of community and solidarity. But in the middle of all the celebrations, you’ll likely also see a bunch of rainbow logos and colorful marketing popping up on storefronts, billboards, social media, and even sliding into your email inbox.

While it’s wonderful to see that the queer community is finally getting the long-overdue visibility it deserves, a lot of what we’re seeing is just plain-old corporate “rainbow washing”. This practice isn’t just disingenuous — it’s harmful to you, your customers, and your brand.

To help you understand more about rainbow washing, why it’s bad for business, and how to avoid it in your marketing campaigns, we’re breaking it all down below:

  1. What is rainbow washing?
  2. How is rainbow washing harmful?
  3. Why real inclusivity is a smart move for your brand
  4. Tips to keep your brand authentic during Pride Month

What is rainbow washing exactly?

Rainbow washing refers to superficial, queer-friendly gestures meant to elicit positive feelings about a brand in order to sell something, with no real support going to the actual community. This term describes how companies misuse LGBTQ+ symbols to drive profits, boost their reputation, and capitalize off queer consumers.

For example, a brand might slap rainbows on its social media logos, create colorful ads featuring non-heterosexual couples, or launch a line of rainbow-themed merchandise that is entirely unrelated to the lives or issues of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Ok, so why is it a problem?

By rainbow-washing their brands, companies position themselves as allies to the LGBTQ+ community. But behind the colorful logos, many of these brands do little to nothing to really help to enact positive change for their queer customers. In fact, quite a few of them engage in practices that harm the very community they claim to support. For instance, some companies donate to homophobic political campaigns, choose not to hire queer employees, or they fail to create safe and inclusive workplaces for people of all sexual orientations. 

But come June, they flood the market with rainbow-themed products, misleading customers into believing they are genuine allies. This use of Pride Month as a corporate money-making ploy makes rainbow washing a sneaky marketing tactic that can seriously hurt your brand. 

Not all companies are guilty of rainbow washing

There’s nothing wrong with changing your brand’s logo to a colorful rainbow if your company takes real action to support the LGBTQ+ community beyond Pride Month and beyond just selling products.

LinkedIn, for example, was one of the first networking platforms to allow personal pronouns to be added to your profile. They also host regular events and make a point to further LGBTQ+ equality in the workplace. When a brand does this type of work outside of Pride Month, the rainbow logo is a welcome and comforting sight!

 

An array of brand logos feature rainbows and LGBTQ+ symbols.
Brands that changed their logos to rainbow-themed versions for the month of June.

 

How is rainbow washing harmful to brands?

The problem with rainbow washing isn’t just that companies try to sell products. It’s that brands miss the mark on what Pride truly represents. Pride Month is a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community’s history, struggles, and achievements. It’s a time to honor the progress made toward equality and recognize the ongoing fight for rights and acceptance.

Blindly rainbow-washing your brand undermines the significance of Pride by reducing it to a mere marketing opportunity.  When businesses engage in superficial gestures of support without tangible action, they risk alienating their LGBTQ+ audience, obliterating customer trust, and facing backlash from a community that demands authenticity and accountability.

Does this mean you should avoid Pride Month marketing completely? Absolutely not. But it does mean that your brand’s support needs to go deeper than just a rainbow logo.

 

Why real inclusivity is a smart move for your brand

Did you know that the LGBTQ+ community has a purchasing power of over $3.9 trillion? With almost half a billion queer people around the globe, it’s clear that this demographic is a lucrative market for any brand to explore, target, and engage with. But here’s the thing: LGBTQ+ consumers and their allies are becoming increasingly savvy about which brands are genuinely supportive and which are just cashing in on Pride Month.

The solution for brands wanting to connect with their queer customers is easy: Put your money where your mouth is. Because authenticity matters more than ever. 

An image of a rainbow-colored bank card.

By being LGBTQ+ inclusive in your branding and marketing efforts, you can easily:

 

1. Attract younger audiences and win more LGBTQ+ customers

 Younger generations like Gen Z pay a lot of attention to brand ethics. Social media activism and awareness of social issues give them the ability to spot genuine support for LGBTQ+ rights. They’re also good at seeing through performative gestures — and they won’t hesitate to call out brands for rainbow washing their products or branding.

On top of that, research indicates that 77% of LGBTQ+ customers will avoid brands with insensitive advertising. This means that insincere or poorly executed Pride campaigns can lead to losing sales and customers.

 

2. Stand out from your competitors

In contrast, brands that authentically support LGBTQ+ rights can not only avoid the pitfalls of rainbow washing but also gain a very profitable edge over their competitors through positive word-of-mouth and strong customer loyalty. 

Brands that are truly inclusive see benefits far beyond positive PR during Pride Month. They build lasting relationships with LGBTQ+ consumers and their allies, who are often incredibly loyal to brands that reflect their values. That’s why demonstrating genuine support for LGBTQ+ causes and communities is not only the right thing to do — it’s also a strategic business move. 

 

Tips to keep your brand authentic during Pride Month

Wondering how you can show that your brand truly supports queer people? Dive into our quick tips to avoid rainbow washing and keep your Pride Month marketing real.

Here are 5 tips from our marketing experts to help you create impactful campaigns that resonate with your audience this June and beyond:

  1. Celebrate Pride year-round — The best way to show your LGBTQ+ customers you support them? Don’t just limit your efforts to June. Incorporate LGBTQ+ themes and authentic stories into your marketing throughout the year. Highlight relevant events, support LGBTQ+ causes, and continuously engage with the community to show consistent support.
  2. Use inclusive language — Avoid stereotypes and be mindful of the words you choose. Use gender-neutral terms where appropriate and respect individuals’ preferred pronouns. Inclusive language not only makes your brand more accessible but also shows respect for the diverse identities within the LGBTQ+ community.
  3. Representation matters — Feature LGBTQ+ people in your marketing campaigns, from your ads to your emails to your social media content. Authentic representation helps your audience see themselves reflected in your brand and fosters a deeper connection. And bonus points if you collaborate directly with LGBTQ+ influencers and creators!
  4. Stay true and transparent — If you’re donating a portion of your sales to LGBTQ+ causes, be clear about which organizations you’re supporting and how much you’re contributing. Transparency builds trust that your brand’s support isn’t just talk.
  5. Listen to your audience — Engage with your LGBTQ+ audience and listen to their feedback. Create spaces for open dialogue and be receptive to their suggestions and concerns. Use this feedback to improve your campaigns and make them more inclusive. Showing that you value and act on your audience’s input can significantly enhance your brand’s credibility and loyalty.

 

Genuine support for the LGBTQ+ community will enhance your brand’s reputation and foster trust and loyalty among your customers.

So authenticity isn’t just good ethics — it’s good business.

Hustler Marketing: the full-service marketing agency that walks the talk

A person waving the LGBTQ+ flag.

At Hustler Marketing, we’re known for our global, inclusive team culture. Our team of experts is dedicated to helping your brand create impactful campaigns that resonate with your audience while staying true to your values. From crafting inclusive messaging to leveraging the power of data-driven insights, we can guide you every step of the way to ensure your Pride Month campaigns are both meaningful and effective.

Together, let’s celebrate diversity, embrace authenticity, and make a positive impact this Pride Month. Get in touch with us today to discover how we can help your brand stand out from the crowd.

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