Every year, on June 1st, you may scroll through social media and notice some of your favorite brands and influencers have changed their logos or profile pictures with a rainbow-decorated graphic.
Recognition of Pride Month has proven to be somewhat controversial due to the ongoing political and religious debates surrounding the LGBTQ+ community.
However, more brands and companies have opted in to show their support over the years as our society has pushed for social justice and change. So, who feels supported when that rainbow flag is displayed? Here at Plug and Play, Pride Month helped us open the dialogue internally to learn whether changing our logo would be performative or supportive.
The first Pride parade occurred amid civil unrest following the Stonewall Riots in 1969, primarily involving queer people of color. Over 50 years later, we can see how far the movement has come, with millions of people attending parades around the U.S. Since these historical events, the fight for equality has continued.
“History has shown us the poor treatment that LGBTQ+ individuals have received, and it’s still an ongoing issue today," said Jacky Tsang, Social Media Associate at Plug and Play. “As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I see companies changing their logo to the Pride colors more as a publicity stunt. True support comes from the initiatives and steps corporations take to demonstrate they are genuine allies for the community.”
In 2022, big companies like MTV and Fabletics changed their logos to demonstrate their support for Pride Month. But do today’s marketing efforts for Pride hold the same relevance? Is it genuinely supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, or has it become a “watered down” effort?
We were concerned that changing our logo would just be a form of performative allyship or “pinkwashing,” a common phrase used to describe oversaturated marketing efforts that lack legitimate support or action for the LGBTQ+ community. We didn’t want to just “talk the talk,” we wanted to make sure we also “walk the walk.” One of our first actions was donating to StartOut, a non-profit organization focused on empowering LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. As our team wrestled with the decision to update our logo, most of us felt we should focus on taking more action.
“These discussions are important to ensure we’re supporting and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in a way that will create actual impact,” commented Allison Romero, Marketing Director at Plug and Play. “Real change comes not just from waving the rainbow flag, but from taking active steps to promote equality for all.”
An essential part of allyship is the ability to listen. By surveying some of our employee bases, it was clear that people wanted us to understand better how our strong and diverse ecosystem can make an impact. It’s crucial that we, and any other company, go beyond donations and hosting discussions on this topic. We must aim toward full collaboration and empower these communities still being exploited and marginalized today.
Addressing opposing views
Don’t get us wrong, we think our logo would look great in rainbow colors. However, based on our feedback, this could do more harm than good. For example, a 2021 CNBC article noted that “66% of LGBTQ+ individuals between the ages of 18 and 34 believe people from diverse backgrounds are featured in ads ‘just to make up the numbers.’”
Something else we considered was the fact that we have a broad, global network. With offices worldwide, our coworkers don’t all share the same views. Inconsistencies in a company’s brand representation have sparked controversy before. For example, some corporations’ U.S. and Middle Eastern social media accounts did not display the same Pride logos, and their audiences noticed the difference.
It would be a disservice to our employees, colleagues, friends, and family to misrepresent such a historically impactful month. This year we decided not to change our logo and instead focus on how we can demonstrate support for the LGBTQ+ community moving forward. As June ends, we will continue to reflect on what this month has taught us.
We’ll continue donating annually and working with StartOut to invite more LGBTQ+ founders and their businesses into our ecosystem and programs. These efforts will be an ideal start for Plug and Play to show that we stand with the community.