What is Rainbow Washing? A Guide to Doing Pride Month Right

What is Rainbow Washing? It is a practice of using LGBTQ+ themes in branding without supporting the community. Discover how to do Pride Month right.

Ideas Collide
By Ideas Collide

Hands holding a rainbow heart for pride month

In the month of June, your social media feed is likely awash in rainbows. It’s Pride Month, after all, when individuals and organizations publicly celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community.

Indeed, Pride Month occupies a growing portion of the public discourse during June — and companies have increasingly joined that discourse through Pride Month branding and merchandising. For a few days or weeks, corporate social media logos become rainbow-adorned, and technicolor products are heavily promoted.

All that corporate inertia, though, has also elicited some public pushback: Companies paying lip service to Pride Month without any tangible action to support the LGBTQIA+ community are (justifiably) accused of “Rainbow Washing.”

Vogue Magazine explained it thusly: “Ever since brands got sentient, the moral state of the planet became another marketing tactic.”

For many corporations, integrating genuine “allyship” into brand strategy is a new frontier. We salute — and continue to learn from — the many businesses that genuinely, holistically support LGBTQIA+ causes. And since it’s Pride Month, we wanted to highlight a few of them.

Ralph Lauren Pride Month Instagram Post

Ralph Lauren’s Pride Collection — and in particular, the collection’s Polo Shirt — is Pride Month done right. One-hundred percent of the purchase price from the sale of each polo shirt goes to Stonewall Community Foundation. The Foundation funds more than 100 LGBTQIA+ nonprofits yearly.

Bliss Instagram Pride Post

The makeup/skincare company Bliss has stepped up in 2021, pledging 0,000 as well as 100 percent of net proceeds (up to ,000) from its Pride Makeup Melt Wipes to The Trevor Project, the world’s largest LGBTQIA+ suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for at-risk youth.

We recommend reading Inc. Magazine’s excellent piece, “The Biggest Mistake Brands Make With Pride Month Campaigns.” The magazine outlines some effective (and sincere) branding strategies here, highlighting some companies that deftly executed those strategies. The shaving brand Harry’s, for example, showed a transgender man’s top surgery scars in a video spot.

“Business is about belonging,” the Inc. piece states. “And you’ll do a better job of proving that LGBT customers belong with your brand when you make a concerted effort to extend yourself to them all year long, rather than just one month out of the year.”

At Ideas Collide, building a more inclusive brand is among our goals, and we gladly anticipate our continued learning on this important topic. We look forward to sharing LGBTQIA+ resources, thought leadership and articles throughout the month of June (and beyond).

Ideas Collide Pride Rainbow Heart