Understanding Inclusive Marketing Strategies and How to Get It Right

Authenticity is not just THE buzzword in marketing and communications at the moment; it is an essential driving force in creating brands and messaging that resonates with your audience. Brands must tell stories FROM the community to authentically connect WITH the community.

Following the 2023 pride PR stumbles—Bud Light’s failure to support Dylan Mulvaney and Target pulling merchandise due to extremist threats—brand support for the LGBTQ+ community has become a particularly contentious issue. With hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills proposed across the country, a majority of which target the trans community, we are in a scary time for the queer community, so visibility and inclusion are extremely important to ensure the community doesn’t feel alienated or abandoned.

According to a GLAAD study in 2023, 70% of non-LGBTQ+ adults agree that companies should publicly support the LGBTQ community through hiring practices, advertising, and sponsorships. Even so, we are nowhere near representative visibility in mainstream advertising. According to the GLAAD 2023 Advertising Visibility Index, “Of the 436 ads on national linear television from the top ten largest advertisers, LGBTQ people received 1.42% of screen time and are featured in only 3% of ads.” This falls far strikingly short of matching the 16.66% of Generation Z members (18-23) who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Marketing to the LGBTQ+ community does not need to be complicated, but it does matter. The most supported type of pride month campaigns simply show queer people in ads, with pride merchandise showing the lowest support among the LGBTQ+ community, according to a 2022 survey published on Statista. Simply showing queer people existing is a strong move toward inclusion, as representation drives acceptance.

Gone are the days when a pride campaign meant slapping a rainbow version of your brand logo on social media profiles. Consumers and their wallets are standing on authenticity and ethics and expecting companies to do the same. Pride campaigns need to include not only LGBTQ+ voices but also direct support for the community through sponsorships, scholarships, or donations to pride organizations and charities.

In addition to the rainbow logo, it’s imperative to share how your brand is working towards a brighter future for your LGBTQ+ employees and customers, whether through pride-focused team-building activities (with a hint of queer history education) or donations and volunteer time. Authenticity requires action.

An important reminder: support for the LGBTQ+ community is not just a conduit to a sale. Queer people are humans with myriad lived experiences who want to feel represented and safe to live their authentic lives.

Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, said it best, “LGBTQ people are strong, brave, beautiful, and most of all, resilient. We need brands to be allies. You’ll feel good doing the right thing and may feel even better when you see your business succeed and your profits grow. The facts are clear on every front: LGBTQ people are worth it. Your support of us should always be something to be proud about.”

Support the LGBTQ+ community loudly and proudly. We’re counting on it.

Visibility matters. Queer people matter.