LGBT History Month is a month-long annual observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the history of the gay and related civil rights movements. It is observed during October in the United States, to include National Coming Out Day on October 11. In the United Kingdom, it is observed during February, to coincide with a major celebration of the 2003 abolition of Section 28.
But why is LGBT History Month particularly important for the communications industry, and what’s next for LGBT history month celebrations?
Why it’s important for communications?
LGBT History Month, and other such diversity celebration events, is important for two reasons – for the culture of the communications industry and for the work that we do for our clients.
For the culture the communications industry we have to be able to differentiate ourselves to clients as a creative and ideas business. If you are committed to building a creative organization one of the first things you need to do is embrace ideas and ways of thinking that are different to your own. This means celebrating difference. Diversity and inclusion are just as important for the next phase of creativity within the industry, and to ensure effective marketing, as they are for good working relationships within a company. LGBT History Month seeks to bring visibility of the LGBT community and celebrate diversity to encourage people to be themselves wherever they are and give them the confidence to reach their full potential.
And for the work that we do for our clients, today we are embracing difference – seeing the value of not everyone being and doing and looking the same – as never before. This helps to enrich society in so many ways. And for marketing organizations this provides a huge opportunity, as a well a challenge to seek to understand and engage groups of consumers that have previously gone unrecognized.
Marketing and communications today entails more than reaching the right consumer with the right message at the right time. Instead it’s become more about engaging people emotionally and brands showing a longer term commitment and support for higher purposes, such as human rights and sustainability.
As more and more attention is focused on equal rights for the LGBT community – specifically, marriage equality and diversity in the workplace – it’s influencing how consumers make decisions. This is especially true among the young; over 45% of consumers under 34 years old say they’re more likely to do repeat business with an LGBT-friendly company, according to a Google Consumer Survey from August of 2014. Of them, more than 54% also say they’d choose an equality-focused brand over a competitor.
Brands are responding with campaigns that espouse messages of inclusion, equality, and diversity. This “pride marketing” is having widespread impact.
However, communicating and engaging with the LGBT community isn’t just about acknowledging and embracing them. It’s an opportunity for brands to speak their own truth and take a stand. And when they do, consumers, especially millennials, appreciate it and respond positively. They engage, participate in the conversation, and ultimate drives sales.
The future of such milestone events, such as LGBT History Month, will inevitably become more commercial, and an opportunity for brands to support and engage with LGBT people. As the LGBT community becomes more mainstream and ‘acceptance without exception’ becomes a reality – a mantra that LGBT charity Stonewall advocates – the more we will see brands and communication specialists view such LGBT events and festivals as marketing and sponsorship property opportunities.
However, whilst LGBT rights and acceptance is widely felt in Western countries (such as the UK and US), there are still many parts of the world that do not currently have the same level of acceptance. Consequently, there is much work still to be done in other parts of the world – both in bringing visibility of LGBT people in mainstream communication campaigns and celebrating diverse people in the workplace. In the future, we will see the importance and rise of LGBT History Month and celebration events in countries where human rights are currently failing.
Brands that are pro-LGBT rights in the US, for example, but silent on the subject abroad generally get away with it. Gay rights groups haven’t put much pressure on such brands to spread the message to other markets and they haven’t pushed brands to be more consistent with their messaging. Increasingly, LGBT rights groups will put the pressure on brands and marketing campaigns to highlight the disparate approach on human rights in different markets.
However, this issue is nuanced and comes with a lot of political considerations. Making an attempt to dismiss brands for not being consistent on they extend, or choose not to extend, their LGBT marketing efforts globally, is missing the key takeaway. And the key takeaway is that brands have already started to step up to show their support for LGBT people. And that’s a huge step forward in the right direction.
Follow the highlights on from The Economist’s Pride & Prejudice 24-hr event tackling the thorny question in mind: what is the cost of LGBT discriminationon? Starting March 3rd.