Beyond ‘Love is Love’: Crafting authentic pride campaigns that speak to all genders

Marketing has the power to redefine the social narrative around trans, gender-diverse, and nonbinary people. Hank Paul, chief storytelling officer at Out For Australia, explains how to create impactful Pride campaigns that avoid the trap of oversimplification and embrace genuine representation that goes beyond tokenism.

When it comes to three-word slogans, “Love is love” certainly ranks as one of the best.

Not only has it permeated the collective consciousness, but the result of the “Love is love” campaign has been positive social change for LGBTQIA+ people around the world. The slogan is inclusive, affirming, and taps into a universal emotional trigger: everyone loves love. While “love is love” primarily emphasises romantic attraction and queer relationships, it inadvertently sidelines the rich galaxy of gender identities and expressions that are equally integral to the LGBTQIA+ experience.

As we approach the 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, now is the time for marketers to move beyond tokenistic gestures and simplistic slogans. We must not remain content with plastering rainbows and love hearts everywhere. Instead, we must show up as authentic allies and ensure that everyone feels safe, seen and celebrated.

Marketing has the power to redefine the social narrative around trans, gender-diverse and nonbinary people. But how do we create impactful Pride campaigns that avoid the trap of oversimplification, overcome our fear of making mistakes, and embrace genuine representation that goes beyond tokenism?

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you craft your upcoming Pride campaign:

Nuance over simplicity

It’s easy to tell when a Pride campaign hasn’t hit the mark. Usually, the representation treats the queer experience as universal. But there is no singular “queer”, “trans” or “nonbinary” experience. Remember: gender is a galaxy. It is vast, expansive, and fluid. Resist the urge to simplify gender diversity into one-dimensional terms or stereotypes.

When we try to distill the infinite and expansive nature of Queer identities into three-word slogans like “love is love”, we risk homogenising communities and making assumptions about how they all think and act (and spend). This kind of homogeneity leads to problems like reinforcing harmful stereotypes or minimising the intersectional challenges faced by the most marginalised people within LGBTQIA+ communities.

Instead of trying to simplify something as expansive as gender, embrace the nuance and diversity within gender-diverse communities.

Tip: focus on real stories that celebrate what makes a person (or members of a community) unique, rather than trying to fit them into a predetermined soundbite.

Embrace making mistakes

If we’re going to become more confident and impactful allies, we also need to embrace making mistakes. As marketers, it can be tempting to stick with what we know and avoid risks for fear of offending someone or being cancelled. When it comes to authentic allyship, we know that the boldest, most inclusive brands become the industry leaders. Don’t believe me? Google the Fenty Effect.

Engaging in genuine consultation with gender-diverse people during your Pride campaign’s conceptual and pre-production stages will give you the space to test your ideas. You should also give yourself (and your team) permission to muck up, learn and grow. It’s all part of the journey of authentic allyship.

Tip: Avoid asking the one queer person on your team to do all the heavy lifting (read: unpaid labour) in regards to providing an inclusive perspective. Instead, consult with multiple voices and inclusion specialists to ensure a well-rounded and authentic approach.

Authenticity beats tokenism

If you or your client are worried about appearing tokenistic, take the time to consult with gender-diverse people and inclusion specialists. Tokenism is casting gender-diverse talent to be the face of your campaign, but misgendering them when they show up on set. Authentic allyship is educating yourself, amplifying a variety of Queer voices at every stage of your campaign, and actively working to make every part of the process more inclusive. (Did somebody say all-gender bathrooms?)

Authentic allyship goes beyond the campaign too. Do some research and find out whether your client has a history of LGBTQIA+ inclusive policies, hiring practices, philanthropy etc. Brands that support LGBTQIA+ people year-round are much better placed to capitalise on the Queer dollar during Mardi Gras season.

A note on intersectionality: consider the diverse, intersecting identities and experiences of trans, gender-diverse, and nonbinary people. Some people within these communities face multiple layers of discrimination, often influenced by their race, class, religion or disability. When developing your Pride campaign, it is vital to acknowledge and amplify these perspectives to ensure genuine inclusion.

The pot of gold at the end…

Marketers can reshape social narratives around trans, gender-diverse and nonbinary people, by moving beyond slogans like “love is love” and embracing a new era of Pride marketing that speaks to all genders.

I haven’t been able to come up with a slogan that encompasses all of my feelings about LGBTQIA+ inclusion in three words.

But here are twelve: everyone deserves to feel safe, seen and celebrated for who they are.

Hank Paul (they/them) is an LGBTQ+ advocate and inclusive marketing consultant, helping brands authentically connect with LGBTQ+ consumers without feeling awkward or tokenistic. Hank is also the chief storytelling officer at Out For Australia, communications lead at Transgender Victoria and co-host of the Values Proposition podcast. With their unique perspective and passion for storytelling, Hank continues to inspire and captivate business leaders worldwide. Head to www.hankpaul.co to learn more about their work.


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