The Youth Lab


It’s officially pride season. From shifting norms and brand expectations to partying and protesting, pride remains a critical cultural moment for LGBTQ+ communities and individuals, serving as an annual reminder to brands and businesses of the importance of advancing diversity and inclusion efforts. For 52INSIGHTS this week, we’re exploring rainbow-washing in 2023 and how brands can get pride right.


No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.” Marsha P. Johnson, Activist (Stonewall uprising leader)

The first pride marches were a protest to fight for equality for LGBTQ+ communities. This fight is still happening today. Despite positive progress happening in many parts of the world, from the ‘Don’t say gay bill’ in the States to Ireland’s lack of Transgender healthcare it is clear that there is still a long way to go when it comes to legislation and structural support. Tensions and events in popular culture are driving increased consciousness around pride too. For example, Beyonce’s recent performance in the UAE - a country with anti-LGBTQ+ legislation - sparked controversy because her new album has its roots in black and queer culture. Despite this her tour is being applauded by other fans for creating a uniquely safe space:

Renaissance 'is a very special album. It's a love letter to the LGBTQIA+ community…​​if Beyoncé can manage to create a safe space for 45,000 people in Tottenham Stadium, then you can do it for your little organisation.’ Amy Kean, LinkedIn

Other stars have been accused of ‘queerbaiting’, while elsewhere we’re seeing young artists come out and talk about how sexuality is being co-opted for PR stories: “june is just around the corner !! the season of journalists etc tentatively asking … ‘are you queer?? can we include you in a pride month feature ??? what are you????’...CMAT. Of course, when it comes to youth culture, we’re endlessly impressed by how meme accounts like saintthoax are able to explore the importance of pride and the conversations around it in increasingly brilliant ways.

For brands and marketers, perhaps the most powerful example of the importance of pride today is the right-wing backlash against brands who are speaking out in support of LGBTQ+ communities this year.


Pride month is a little double edged, it enforces celebration and queer identity but it has also become a marketing ploy that is overused and aggravates most people who see it everywhere. And when people are aggravated they are more likely to go against the message.” Sebastien, 16, New York

People are open to companies getting in on Pride festivities - 76% of the LGBTQ+ community feeling more positively toward companies that sponsor LGBTQ organisations and events. However, many would say we’ve hit a peak when it comes to rainbow-washing. Fair Planet describes rainbow-washing as, ‘organisations or corporations that disingenuously use Pride branding for their own gain or to give themselves a deceptive air of liberalism and allyship.’ It’s clear to young audiences’ when there’s no one from the LQBTQ+ community in the room for the process of creating a pride-related campaign. Bud Light, for example, created a campaign using the LGBTQ+ acronym ‘Let’s Get Beers Tonight Queen’. Many were quick to point out the stereotypical language: ‘This is such a patronising ad campaign - would rather they did nothing. We’re all just one homogenous group to them aren’t we? Luke.

From another perspective, in recent weeks Bud Light’s Instagram partnership with a trans influencer was targeted by right-wing media on social media platforms - it is crucial to be clear and steadfast on your values in an increasingly tense environment.


To show real commitment, there is a sense that companies should not only think more long term, but more collaboratively. Donating to existing funds and projects and collaborating with experts and communities on the ground doing the work is key to a successful impact-campaign or project. Diversifying staff is also central to getting this action right.

There are many brilliant examples of brands showing their support for the LGBTQ+ community all year round - pride just being a culmination or celebration of these ongoing efforts. Fenty, for example, is showing other brands how to properly cater to the diversity that exists in society. From including a wide range of sizing, colour range for Fenty beauty and a diverse range of models for every campaign. For its pride campaign Fenty created a line of clothes that anyone would love to wear: ‘They put some thought into it rather than just making their logo rainbow and calling it a day.’ Sonny Oram from QWEAR Fashion. This week Ben & Jerry’s, a brand that has a long history of fighting for LGBTQ+ rights (THINKHOUSE worked with the team to advocate for marriage equality in Ireland in 2015!), announced that it was ending paid Twitter advertising due to the proliferation of hate speech on the platform.


Stakes are High

Recognise that stakes and expectations are high when it comes to pride. Not only are LGBTQ+ communities still fighting to live safe and healthy lives in countries across the world, but culture wars around this are heightened. To be truly helpful and legitimate in this space you need to be making an impact, and not just doing it during the month of June. Allyship can be uncomfortable but highly rewarding. You need to be completely confident in your company's commitment and values to be able to operate in this increasingly volatile space too - have a clear north star that keeps you on track.

Measure Impact & Embrace a Learning Mindset

Sticking a rainbow on all of the packaging doesn't mean or accomplish anything. Support should be transparent by having a clear mission statement, be measurable with clear outcomes and have policies aligned with UN standards of conduct. To show your support all year round it is important to speak up during conversations that impact the LGBTQ+ community. Working with minority groups may require you to make compromises and rethink the things you take for granted like traditional power/financial structures to really do the best thing.

Need help? Reach out to the THINKHOUSE Planet team for support on diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives via