Everyone is dragging these awkward Pride-themed products
8 July 2019, 17:57
Sick of these pointless pride products? You're not the only one...
Last weekend saw a record number of people attend London Pride. Up to 1.5 million people are thought to have rocked up to the UK’s biggest pride event, most of them fabulously drenched in the obligatory glitter and rainbows. But the Pride revellers weren’t the only ones covered in rainbows.
Most of the high street chains that line the parade route were also decked out with rainbow window displays, with many shops creating one-off Pride ranges for the big event.
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Now, shops getting involved in the spirit of Pride, especially those alongside the parade route, can be a welcome addition to the festivities (I mean, there’s no such thing as too many rainbows at Pride) but in recent years the numbers of businesses looking to jump on the bandwagon to launch Pride-themed products has been steadily increasing, and this year things seemed to have reached a new peak. And it certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed by discerning Pride attendees.
I wonder if the companies using Pride as a marketing tool, also take human rights into account when sourcing products from countries who’s ethical attitude towards LGBTQ is questionable?— Karl Cross (@topoftheprops) July 6, 2019
Let’s celebrate & remember what Pride month is all about - it’s more than buying commercial products w rainbow labels.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 2, 2019
It’s about acting in celebration, acceptance, & solidarity w of people of ALL gender expressions + sexual orientations.
Proud of NYC ⬇️ https://t.co/GpogWkFDRh
hi guys, just because “pride month” is over doesn’t mean it’s over. like lady gaga said, it should be pride year every year. i know you’ll see brands taking away the rainbow on their social media’s and products but please keep supporting the LGBTQ+ community. it means the world🏳️🌈— Marina Alerts (@MarinaAlerts) July 1, 2019
And you wonder why we still need #Pride. Why companies doing nothing but putting a flag on their products to sell is infuriating. Commodifying us while people don’t feel safe. But we should just be grateful, because “Why isn’t there a straight pride? You get to have all the fun.”— Harry Clayton-Wright (@HClaytonWright) June 7, 2019
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my manager has been getting requests like this every day, I’m guessing it was emailed out to a bunch of people, no details on what this amazing pride collection is or what this big famous brand with lots of money plan to do with any ‘proceeds’. I just.... the bare minimum approach here makes me laugh. No matter where you stand on corporate brand-pride tie ins it’s hard not to feel this years 2019 pride collection of mouthwash, t-shirts (socks shoes jumpers glasses hats ) banks and sandwiches has felt especially icky. representation matters, of course, and corporate pride / rainbow capitalism might be hideous but at least queer people are getting paid...and....I know there are well intentioned people behind many of these campaigns but....just no. Re-doing your logo in a rainbow and ‘dOnAtInG a PoRTiOn Of pRoCeEds’ is not enough!!!!(possibly not even happening with this brand!??)) I wish brands would realize how embarrassing this kind of shit is 🤦🏼♀️
So why are so many brands suddenly slapping rainbows on everything like they’re going out of fashion? And why is it bad?
The roots of Gay Pride are in protest and overcoming oppression. While companies creating Pride products arguably helps representation and awareness, the fact that companies are profiting off the event feels like it is cheapening, or lessening, the spirit of the event. After all, the events are supposed to be about community, not profit.
There is also evidence that some of the companies pay lip-service to LGBTQ rights during Pride month but conveniently seem to forget about them for the other 11 months of the year, what is commonly known as 'pink-washing'.
Sometimes, however, the products are just terrible. Like, really bad. Let’s take a look at a few of the worst offenders.
1) Marks & Spencer's LGBT Sandwich
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Pride month is in full swing and we’re celebrating with our tasty twist on the classic BLT. Featuring a delicious combination of lettuce, guacamole, bacon and tomato – our LGBT sandwich is the perfect lunchtime treat. Donating £10,000 to @aktcharity, the national LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity, and €1000 to @belongtoyouthservices in Ireland, M&S is proud to celebrate pride month.
Because nothing screams Pride like a dead pig sandwich, right? Imagine being a fly on the wall at the marketing meeting when they had the eureka moment for this one.
M&S, which made over £84.6 million in profit (pre-tax) last year according to its annual report, launched there LGBT sandwich and donated £10,000 to the Albert Kennedy Trust and a further £1,000 to another charity called BeLong to Youth Service in Ireland but many questioned why all the profits of the sandwich (which cost £4.50) were not offered to charity. And others, like writer Owen Jones, suggested they could better help their LGBTQ employees by paying the living wage and halting opening stores in countries where homosexuality is illegal, like Saudi Arabia. Just a thought, eh?
2) Listerine Mouthwash
happy pride the L in LGBT stands for Listerine pic.twitter.com/L9rnBugnKd— 𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐧𝐲 ☼ (@_gennergy) June 1, 2019
This one really boggles the gay mind. We can only assume the folks at Listerine accidentally drank some of their own product when they came up with this idea. Featuring a rainbow flag and words which were associated with the colours of the flag, we can only assume the pride version of their mouthwash was a shady comment on gays having bad oral hygiene?
Once again, a portion of sales went to charitable causes, but the product was savagely criticised on social media.
3) Tesco's Rainbow Collection
In TESCO 🤗🏳️🌈#HappyPride#pride pic.twitter.com/BNRibjLxr0— きらきら ひかる (@yakuzaishidane) June 23, 2019
Perhaps the shadiest of all the products on this list, Tesco stores had a rainbow stand with a cornucopia of rainbow products like cups and napkins during Pride but neglected to actually mention the words ‘Gay’ or ‘Pride’ in any of the accompanying display signs. It’s like they wanted to join the party but didn’t want anyone to know they were there, which is a pretty accurate description of my closeted years tbf.
4) Burger King's "Whopper Diamond" campaign
Not strictly speaking a pride product, but we're heading over to Germany for more corporate Pride faux-pas.
To celebrate Pride month, Burger King made a “Whopper Diamond,” aka jewels crafted from the ashes of its Whopper Burger. They were then given to a gay couple, Dima and Alvar, so they could get married. So far, not so bad. But it is the tie in to Burger King’s long-running tagline, “Have it your way,” where is gets super cringe.
“Guests are free to choose how they enjoy their Whopper in any country– whether with onions or an extra portion of cheese, the choice is theirs,” said Klaus Schmäing, director of marketing at Burger King Deutschland. “Together with Dima and Alvar, we would now like to show that every person should have the opportunity to freely decide. Especially when it comes to love.”
I mean, are we really comparing ordering a burger to having the right to get married? Love you, Dima and Alvar, but this makes literally zero sense.
5) President Donald Trump's rainbow "Make America Great Again" hats
... the trump campaign is selling a #pride hat "for the lgbt community." pic.twitter.com/aQZkSzfgVo— fake nick ramsey (@nick_ramsey) June 5, 2019
Just...no. You cannot strip away the rights of LGBTQ citizens and then release pride merch. Jesus wept.
So, what can brands do to avoid repeating these errors? Out magazine deputy editor Fran Tirado's viral thread about pride products had a few solid suggestions.
The following are ineffective/vacuous ways to engage with a queer community:— Fran Tirado (@fransquishco) June 1, 2019
- limited-edition rainbow products
- vague "love is love" messaging
- disembodied hand-holding
- a t-shirt (which we are well aware is the lowest cost endeavor with the fastest turnaround) pic.twitter.com/EBa7TQWW6U
- any for-profit venture without a queer nonprofit partner— Fran Tirado (@fransquishco) June 1, 2019
- having a queer nonprofit partner but donating less than 15% of the proceeds
- having a queer nonprofit partner but not disclosing the amount you plan to donate, which we we only read as a thinly veiled “not that much” pic.twitter.com/j6S9rqXZ71
- recycling last year’s pride campaign— Fran Tirado (@fransquishco) June 1, 2019
- straight/cis people developing your campaigns
- underpaying queer/trans people to develop your campaigns
- underpaying queer/trans artists to create original work for your for-profit products
- using a rainbow in lieu of an actual idea pic.twitter.com/9RdA88RKBE
Consider:— Fran Tirado (@fransquishco) June 1, 2019
- donating 100% (💯) of profit to a queer org
- hiring several (not just one) queer/trans creative to develop yr campaign
- removing yr product from the idea
- investing real $$$ in the idea
- educating/activating— tell a fucking story
- doing so 12 months of the year
We second all of the above ^
It will be interesting given the substantial backlash against many of the products this year, whether companies will think twice about creating new Pride lines next year. Or, indeed, if people will even still buy them.