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3 Brand Campaigns Celebrating Pride ’23 With Sincerity

Published on Jun 21, 2023

3 Brand Campaigns Celebrating Pride ’23 With Sincerity
Anastasia Dyakovskaya
Anastasia Dyakovskaya studioID

With drag ban attempts and anti-gay and -trans bills threatening LBGTQ+ communities around the country, Pride 2023 sadly looks and feels very different from just the year before. Brands and companies who’ve shown their support throughout Junes prior are now facing violent protests and calls for boycotting, with many choosing to cancel scheduled pride messaging and products, or stay quiet all together. 

It’s not that simple, though. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. While performative pride marketing (or none at all) has been an ongoing issue, LGBTQ+ historian and Pulitzer Prize finalist Eric Cervini makes it clear: “If you’re running a marketing campaign for your company involving the rainbow flag, that is declaring that you will protect the LGBTQ+ community — that you want to fight not just against bigotry, but all forms of oppression that affect the LGBTQ+ community.”

Pride is, by definition, a protest.

Today, this is an especially important reminder for brands to know, understand and integrate throughout your company culture. To dive in deeper, let’s take a look at a few of this year’s most genuine pride campaigns, and how your team can go about pride marketing and activation as an authentic ally

💌 Related Reading: How Marketers Can Honor Awareness Months + Holidays With Tact

The North Face: Summer of Pride

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A post shared by Pattie Gonia (@pattiegonia)

Brand response to backlash:

“The North Face has always believed the outdoors should be a welcoming, equitable and safe place for all. We are honored and grateful to support partners like Pattie Gonia who help make this vision a reality. Creating community and belonging in the outdoors is a core part of our values and is needed now more than ever.”

Commitment in action:

Despite disappointing current events, for the second year in a row, The North Face has partnered with outdoorsy drag queen extraordinaire Pattie Gonia for their Summer of Pride series. This year’s campaign includes the launch video, seen above, as well as a slew of planned virtual and in-person events, guest speakers, nature-related content activations, and a colorful new collection for fans to strut their stuff.   

We stand with those who support our vision for a more inclusive outdoor industry. 

— The North Face

“For a brand like The North Face, their values have been on their sleeve for a long time,” observes Lisa Weser, CEO at Trailblaze. “That’s a brave and bold move that other brands can follow only if they’re able to stand ground in the same way and have put in the same amount of equity in the bank with those communities over the years.”

Why it’s powerful:

As displayed by their firm stance in the face of adversity, The North Face isn’t just putting on a show; their care for the LGBTQ+ community is genuine and goes well beyond a month. Year-round, the brand partners with YouthSeen, an organization that supports queer, trans, Black and Indigenous People of Color, as well as Brave Trails, a non-profit summer camp dedicated to LGBTQ+ youth leadership. 

And their work hasn’t gone unnoticed. “The 400-plus campers whose paperwork I’m dealing with are hearing messages from the outside world that are so profoundly negative,” says Kiersten Short, one of the camp’s administrators, and parent of a nonbinary young adult. “To be an ally is more than wearing a rainbow flag. It means that I need to 

Speak up when people are saying disparaging and untrue things, and work harder to create spaces that are safe for LGBTQ+ youth to thrive.

Starbucks: It Starts With Your Name

Brand response to backlash:

“At Starbucks, we unequivocally support the LGBTQIA2+ community as part of our global mission to nurture the limitless possibilities of human connection. Our campaign in India, #ItStartsWithYourName, shows how Tata Starbucks is committed to making people of all backgrounds and identities feel welcome, helping our communities and partners (employees) show up as their authentic selves every day.” 

Companies have to make a decision whether they’re going to keep to their corporate values of LGBTQ inclusion or cave to a fringe but loud, anti-LGBTQ organized effort to silence us.

— Rich Ferraro, Chief Communications Officer at GLAAD 

Commitment in action:

Last month, Starbucks India debuted a heartwarming clip showcasing a central moment of the trans experience. On Instagram, the company shared the video with this sincere-sounding caption: “Your name defines who you are — whether it’s Arpit or Arpita. At Starbucks, we love and accept you for who you are. Because being yourself means everything to us.” And while not without critics, the spot seems to have garnered a much warmer reception than what we’ve been seeing in the United States.

Stateside, although customer messaging hasn’t touched on trans rights, like The North Face, they’re also supporting and having employees volunteer for the Brave Trails nonprofit. There’s also a dedicated Starbucks Pride Network, which aims to “affect positive change and increase awareness.” And to celebrate Pride 2023, they teamed up with queer Canadian artist Tim Singleton to create a line of gorgeous, glittery, rainbow cups and tumblers that, in the words of the designer, are “about queer liberation, self expression, the joy of abundance, and the beauty of emerging into the world.”  

We will continue to use our voice to advocate for greater understanding on the importance of inclusion and diversity across the communities we serve around the world.

— Starbucks

Why it’s powerful:

India’s campaign isn’t the first time Starbucks has invested in representing the transgender community in its messaging. In the UK and in partnership with Mermaids, a British foundation focused on gender variant and transgender youth, the brand won 2019’s Channel 4 Diversity Award for their first similar effort — seen below and inspired by real experiences and Starbucks interactions lived by the trans community. And though we have yet to see what the brand may come up with for American audiences in this regard, back in 2018 they took a significant step in the right direction by expanding health insurance benefits for trans employees across the country. 

Headspace: Educational and Inclusive Content 

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A post shared by Headspace (@headspace)

Brand statement:

We’ve been in this space so long that we never received that type of backlash… We want to make sure we have content and opportunities and give folks a sense of belonging inside of our product.

— Morgan Selzer, Chief Content Officer

Commitment in action:

More than a one-off campaign, the meditation app Headspace is committed to integrating the queer experience throughout their content offering, making it the norm instead of the exception. AdAge reports that one fifth of the company’s users identify as LGBTQ+, and they’re hungry for the relevant content Headspace keeps producing. That includes long-form reads on mindful ways to personal pronouns and inclusive language, finding the right therapist — featuring expert insights from the founder of the National Queer & Trans Therapist of Color Network — and efforts for asexual and intersex people as well as LGBTQ+ youth.

Why it’s powerful:

By focusing on consistently inclusive and educational content, Headspace gets to the heart of what Pride is really all about. And while the app might not be the target of today’s small but loud group of haters, Trailblaze’s Weser advises that “for brands that were already activating around Pride year over year, we’re encouraging them to continue supporting those communities and not pull away. But also, to do so only if they are fully prepared to stand behind those choices if and when they’re attacked.”