Brands in P'town
Scrolling through my social feeds this month has been like walking down Commercial Street in Provincetown in the middle of summer: rainbows, pride and gaiety as far as the eye can see. It doesn’t matter whether it’s shampoo, mobile phones or cloud software, brands have wrapped themselves in multihued pride in an effort to show the world their diverse, open-minded and LGBTQ-affirming brand selves.
But as someone who’s been to this parade - pun intended - before, it feels like P’town in more ways than one. For decades, the historic New England village of Provincetown has been a gay holiday mecca; a place of fantasy where vacationers and revelers left their everyday lives behind and became who they wanted to be for a short time.
But when vacation was over, they went home to Omaha or Peoria or Tampa, they put the pride rings back in the box, the “I can’t even think straight” tee shirt back in the drawer and pride back in the closet for much of their day-to-day lives.
And that’s what it feels like with the corporate pride being expressed – here for the party, but then putting the LinkedIn company rainbow icon back in the drawer come July 1. As hopeful as it is to see corporations embrace LGBTQ pride for whatever reason – employee retention, marketing or basic morality – it’s still disheartening to think of it as an annual event rather than a way of being.
That disheartening feeling is compounded by the number of corporate pride efforts that feel exploitative or hypocritical – non-inclusive workplaces and anti-LGBTQ policies feel even more harmful when the company touts their “pride” in June (looking at you, Bed Bath & Beyond*.)
So, as the official Pride month wraps up, maybe corporations can take an additional cue from Provincetown. It’s still a haven for vacationers from all corners, but today it’s as much about family as fantasy; not about “what could be” but about “what is” as it reflects the reality of LGBTQ lives that have become more visible and accepted.
Companies that want to win loyalty with their LGBTQ pride need to demonstrate it in more than parades and sponsorships – they need to offer inclusive workplaces, policies and products. Real Pride is about how they treat their employees and customers, not how they spend their marketing dollars.
*Bed, Bath & Beyond scores 20 out of 100 HRC Corporate Equality Index, 2019