Marketing The Rainbow

Graphic by Mrunal Pawar

You’ll be surprised to find that Pride Month is celebrated to commemorate the Stonewall Inn riots, which date back to 1969. At least, I was. Back then, it wasn’t a whole month, it was just one day, typically the last Sunday of June. Even then the dates weren’t fixed, and nowadays, we recognise the entirety of June as Pride Month worldwide. Many countries organise activities throughout June, leading up to a grand ‘Gay Pride Parade’, usually held towards the end of June.

It’s not just nations that indulge in Gay Pride Month. Various brands ‘show support’ by coming out as allies of the LGBTQ+, showcasing their logos as rainbow-clad. They also bring out elaborate schemes to market pride-themed consumables, hammer customers with slogans, and decorate their stores in pride colours. One might say, these brands are just showing their support for the community. But, it’s not that simple. As soon as we hit July, these brands pack it all up – no more goodies for us. This phenomenon is known as “Rainbow Capitalism”.

Rainbow Capitalism is interpreted in one of two ways. One perspective is that the companies are simply exploiting the community for profit, while the other perspective is that these brands are just displaying their support for the community. 

The first interpretation explains that corporations are minting money by introducing Pride Month items in June, and then disappearing for 12 months, repeating this cycle over and over. The LGBTQ+ community has gained sufficient power to gain the spotlight of marketing strategies. This purchasing power is referred to as ‘Pink Money’. The behaviour of these corporations has led the consumers to act this way as well – support the queer during pride month and then disappear. 

Additionally, the brands should be held accountable for pink capitalism, which is another name for rainbow capitalism. They are not showing support for LGBTQ rights, but merely taking advantage of consumer identities. In the end, they fail to invest resources of time and money. Hence, they are not fighting oppression against the queer community, their policies still favour binary.

The second interpretation, on the other hand, acknowledges that profiting from the community, albeit dissatisfactory, is inevitable. The queer community has faced their fair share of barriers in the corporate world in the past – can’t start being picky now. The rainbow representation displayed by corporations might be shallow, but at the most basic level, it represents acceptance. Buying from a place that supposedly accepts the community makes sense. 

Brands are trying to become more socially conscious. They should be provided with adequate appreciation; they are only trying to do their jobs. If the companies remaking a genuine effort by introducing queer marketing techniques, introducing policies for their protection, then there’s no harm. 

So.. which interpretation is correct?

Both of these interpretations are correct. You can be angry about the careless and deceptive outreach activities of businesses, while still acknowledging that capitalistic activities are inevitable in the corporate world. Real change will start coming about when the activities of the corporations are conducted in good faith. These changes will constitute year-round support to the queer community through engagement, support, and policies, not just during Pride Month. 

When consumers buy a product, they don’t take into account the complex social factors which add to the pre-existing discrimination against the community. They might buy these items just because they want to, actually support the rights of LGBT.

To ensure that the businesses are playing fair, we, queer and straight people alike, need to take a stand. We need to understand and spread the word about what these businesses are trying to do. We have to demand that these businesses play fair, and embrace meaningful change. There are a million different ways that they can do this. Some of the ways include developing inclusive workplace policies in the work environment, hiring LGBTQ+ at all levels, promoting the interest of the community and hosting events that favour them, to state a few. 

Until such policies are formed and implemented the right way, corporations will continue to exploit the LBBTQ+ community, and pink capitalism will only remain an illusionary ideology. It is crucial to remember that we can’t free the liberate the queer through the consumption of such goods and services. 

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