The 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising has made 2019 a year of deep significance for the LGBTQ+ community. Commemorations and events have been big news, with Pride 2019 having extra import for many.
No wonder perhaps that so many big brands are openly declaring their support for the LGBTQ+ community. Just today I saw promotional material for the Santander Summer of Love, with their employee led LGBTQ+ network going out to represent at a range of Pride events up and down the country. That’s what inspired me to write this post.
It feels like everything has had a rainbow slapped on it. Washing up liquid, trainers, cookies. But not all of them are actively supporting LGBTQ+ charities. A survey by RebootOnline showed that of 122 companies analysed, only 64% with a Pride marketing campaign actually donated to charities. While donating to charity is not the only way to actively and effectively support the LGBTQ+ community, it is a good indicator when considering large brands with budgets to match.
But what of the SME sector? In my experience, small though that sample may be, promoting an actively LGBTQ+ friendly stance is simply not relevant to many. Roughly a third of the small businesses we work with are LGBTQ+ owned. Generally the idea of weaving this fact into the brand narrative has either never arisen or has been actively dismissed.
In these cases, the fact the owners are LGBTQ+ is simply not relevant to their marketing strategy. Some businesses chose to lead with personal stories, others do not. Not unreasonable at all.
It’s a tricky issue to consider and to write about. Without the steady growth in the visibility of the various communities that make up LGBTQ+ in recent years, as a society we would not be as far down the road to equality as we are. So there is definitely an argument to be out and proud, if people choose that for their business.
Meanwhile, the anger at including same sex relationships in teaching that has taken place in Birmingham, and the countless hate crimes still taking place up and down the country show we still have much, much further to travel. And for many SMEs, the sexual orientation or gender status of the owner is simply not relevant to how they promote their business.
I don’t have any answers, only questions. I think every small business should consider how their product or service is accessed by their target markets. Every business owner would benefit from addressing barriers to access whatever they might be. But there is more to equality than a rainbow sticker.
I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts. And does the landscape change depending on whether you are talking about big business or SMEs?