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Beyond the Rainbow: Showing Your True Colors as a Pride Ally

The rainbows are coming! The rainbows are coming!

And they will be everywhere this June as the symbol of Pride Month, which celebrates LGBTQIA+ dignity, self-respect and value.

Marketing has taken up the cause—in one way or another—to recognize the growing influence and financial impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex and other nonbinary people wield today.

At one time, it would have been noteworthy enough for a brand to just make passing references to allyship with the LGBTQIA+ community in its public messaging. But today, brands need to do more than add rainbow-colored hearts to their logos or social media posts to show true alliance with a community.

Email gives you a direct channel to your customers to show you care about them, to show how you support the cause and what they can do to participate; it also gives you a way to show allyship all year long.

The Cost of Staying Quiet

Staying quiet can cost more—both in the marketplace and among employees—than speaking up. It can show significant audiences that you’re not interested in them and their situations. It can cut you off from consumers who are looking specifically for these shows of support.

In the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, 86% of respondents say they expect CEOs to speak up on societal issues and 68% say CEOs should step in to fix social issues when the government does not.

Plus, as we’ve shown with other cause marketing (Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Month), consumers expect business leaders to step up, especially when the government and other institutions don’t.

“The heightened expectations of business bring CEOs new demands to focus on societal engagement with the same rigor, thoughtfulness, and energy used to deliver on profits,” Edelman said in its report.

7 Strategies (and Emails) for Pride Month Messaging

Supporting Pride is not just about sending a single campaign and then moving on to the next message. It’s a commitment, not a marketing moment.

Here, we outline seven ways brands are incorporating their allyship into their email campaigns. And while we are only highlighting email, it’s important to note that in order to avoid making your support a marketing moment, you should always be creating a cohesive experience that incorporates all channels.

Make sure your entire marketing strategy, not just a singular email or statement, reflects your stance.

1. Pride is about more than being gay.

To quote a recent GLAAD statement: “There can be no Pride if it is not intersectional.” The rainbow of sexual and gender identities that gather under the Pride name tells you that it’s more than being gay or lesbian—it’s about the acknowledgement and celebration of all races, genders, classes, physical advantages and sexual orientations! If your Pride messaging doesn’t include the acknowledgment of other marginalized communities, it’s considered performative activism (and the LGBTQIA+ movement doesn’t need more performative allies).

This email from Levi’s captures the current focus on pronouns—indicating the brand acknowledges everyone’s choice in how they self-identify. It begins with the subject line: “All pronouns. All love” and the preheader: “Pride 2021 is here and all are welcome.”

Levi's Pride Month Email

A Pride message can deliver extra impact when you intentionally show respect for all sexual and gender identities. Image via MailCharts.

2. Be clear about what your company is doing to support the Pride community.

As with other cause marketing, people will be quick to call you out if your messages are seen as “cashing in” on the front end but not supporting the cause on the back end, such as buying from LGBTQIA+ suppliers, employing community members and supporting public policy and legislation that benefits the community.

Your messages should reflect what’s happening in society today. You can’t just repeat the same content year after year. That doesn’t make community members feel heard.

That’s what makes this Prose email stand out. It was sent in June 2020 when racial tensions were running high. It incorporates messaging for both without diluting the impact of either stance.

Prose Pride Email

This Prose email also invites its customers in to help out—speaking to a wider audience without neglecting the communities in the message. Image via MailCharts.

3. Make it a month-long campaign.

Being an ally is not a one-month-a-year type of thing. It doesn’t work that way and it feels disingenuous to only feature the LGBTQIA+ community once a year. Lovepop comes back to the Pride theme later in the year with a campaign tied to LGBTQ History Month in October. Besides providing another campaign theme to stand out in the run-up to Halloween and Black Friday, it gives your brand a second opportunity to send a themed support message.

Lovepop Pride Email

An email sent during LGBTQ History Month can focus more on history and community than on allyship or support. Image via Mailcharts.

4. Focus on value along with support.

What can your brand add to the conversation beyond a supportive message? Using company resources to support initiatives and charities like the Trevor Project is another. But if your budget is stretched thin, or you want to show more active support, find ways to marshal your company’s resources for community members.

That’s what Talkspace does in this email, sent several days into July after Pride Month was over. The subject line is the first clue: “Pride doesn’t have to end in June 🏳️‍🌈.” As a provider of online therapy services, Talkspace doesn’t send typical promotional messages like ecommerce or B2C brands. Instead, it shares resources that speak to both Pride community members and their families and allies.

Talkspace Pride Month Email

Talkspace’s email, which went out to a broad audience, combined two messages in one: one for the LGBTQIA+ community and another to others who want to learn how to be allies. Image via MailCharts.

5. Make Pride messaging as inclusive as possible.

Pride messaging often reflects brand-standard imagery: handsome men, pretty women, lack of racial diversity—all images that don’t push the brand image beyond the regular personas.

But to help your messages resonate with a wider audience, look at intersectionality, such as being gay and black or plus-size and trans. There’s a wide spectrum of experiences under the Pride banner.

You can also bring together the various causes you support your Pride messaging, as Brilliant Earth does in a Pride-focused email that includes a direct appeal to Black-owned wedding businesses.

Brilliant Earth Pride Email

Your Pride campaign can show people of all identities that there’s room for them as well. Image via MailCharts.

6. Make Pride messaging a part of every campaign

We mentioned earlier that Pride doesn’t end when Pride Month ends. If you changed your messaging—especially the people you chose for your images—for Pride-related emails, can you keep that going and make it a part of your regular email content?

Look at the email below for Zola. Pretty nice for Pride Month messaging, right? It doesn’t focus on using same-gender couples in its imagery; it’s just part of the regular message. Surprise—it was sent in November! But we like how it normalizes non-heterosexual couples. Look for opportunities to continue this kind of messaging all year long.

Zola Pride Email

There’s actually lots to love in this email. The animated GIF, user tips and benefit-focused copy makes this tops for engagement—and not the kind that comes with a ring. Image via MailCharts.

7. You can create a captivating Pride message no matter what you sell.

If you’ve ever been to a Pride event, you know the costumes rule, and not just the human ones. Petco gets this and came up with a fun campaign that also normalizes Pride events (subject line: “Is your pet ready for Pride? 🌈🐾.”

Petco Pride Month

Another bonus: This email is for everyone, whether you’re planning for a critter costume parade or just looking for something fun for your own furry friends. Image via MailCharts.

What Pride Month Means for Iterable

At Iterable, we’ve made sure that Pride isn’t limited to June.

“Pride is something we focus on in the month of June, yes, but we’re gay 365 days a year,” says Jeffrey Marquez, Customer Success Enablement Manager and co-leader of Iterable’s Pride Affinity Group leader. “Leading the Pride Affinity Group has helped create a safe space for queer employees year-round. I’m hopeful that we’ll live in a world where we’re surrounded by inclusive spaces in the workplace and inclusive images in our inbox.”

Pervasive bias is something many businesses can overlook or neglect. At Iterable, we’re committed to implementing programs—like our employee-led Affinity Groups—to tackle pervasive bias and create opportunities to highlight underrepresented communities.

This month, our Pride Affinity group, led by Jeffrey and Senior Software Engineer, Zach Power, will be celebrating Pride Month by hosting a virtual Queer Vaudeville Show and an MTV-style virtual concert featuring Queer music creators from within the company!

For the second year in a row, our recruiting team is also partnering with Lesbians Who Tech to sponsor Pride Summit 2021 on June 25th and 26th.

These are just a few of the events we’re hosting in June. Stay tuned here and on our social channels—like Twitter and LinkedIn—for more Pride events and inspiration throughout the year!


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