Right now, it's Pride Month across the world—prime time for me, my community and our supporters to celebrate, advocate and participate in creating greater change and equality for all. We are vocal and visible, two things that helped us gain the stature we have today.
Last month, I attended and presented at the LGBT Advertising Week conference in New York, three solid days of info and insights about the LGBT market. Being part of an eclectic mix of professionals—from clients at companies like Google and Macy's to ad and media agency executives—was incredibly empowering and inspiring. As a marketing professional, the content was clear validation that the LGBT community, my community, is a valuable audience that matters—valuable to brands and businesses to the tune of well over $800 billion.
As I look back at my own journey and observations over many years of Pride months and beyond, perhaps the most significant and impactful change I've seen is the surge of brands that have made it part of their core ethos to stand with us. That takes guts. They're not just talking the talk, they're walking the walk. And I mean that quite literally. Just look at your local Pride parade to see the array of corporate sponsors and branded employee groups marching in solidarity. Big brands have become some of our most vocal and visible allies in the fight for full equality.
Vocal. Visible. Perhaps the most powerful tools to effect change. Brand advertisements, press releases and social media plays get a lot of exposure, but they are not enough. It is brands' vocal and visible actions that get my community's blood pumping. Celebrating, advocating and participating with us face-to-face, in real time and in the real world is their greatest opportunity to show, tell and prove their organization is committed to us. That's why I believe experiential marketing matters today more than ever.
Experiential marketing creates personal connections that cement memories, build relationships and drive action. And when brands engage us with authenticity and empathy they will gain vocal and visible allies for their businesses.
Looking at brands that are doing it right, the ones creating experiences that resonate and stick with me and the LGBT community, there are some core and shared attributes driving their success.
Creativity: They are fearless and inventive, going beyond clichés (think rainbows) to show how their brand and offerings fit with the LGBT community.
Authenticity: They stand with us proudly, with actions and ideas that live and breathe from the inside to the outside of your organization.
Transparency: They are open to sharing a deeper dialogue about their organization. The good, the bad, maybe even the ugly—they own it.
Committment: They act out loud, touting real initiatives, policies and practices they actively promote.
Humanity: They are personal and relatable, speaking with us—not at us—with their real faces on the front line (LGBT or not).
To be honest, I was mildly unsettled when I presented at LGBT Advertising Week. Yes, I am a gay man. But, I do not work for an LGBT-focused agency. We do not get a lot of LGBT-focused work as our core business. Was I out of place? Did I belong there?
In hindsight, my trepidation was unfounded. My organization, George P. Johnson, is a vocal and visible supporter of me and my community. I see it in the openness and inclusivity of my leaders and teammates. I see it in the medical benefits my partner (now husband) was given when I first joined. I see it today in the giant window sign our team put up to show love and support for the victims and survivors of the horrible violence in Orlando this month. My agency walks the walk every day. It is celebrating, advocating and participating through vocal, visible actions that matter deeply to me.
There is massive opportunity for brands that want my business—the LGBT community's business. To connect with us, they just need to keep creating more moments that truly matter. Keep engaging with us, during Pride Month and way beyond. Keep building relationships with us. It works. When a brand gets some skin in the game, it is showing its commitment to us. Experiential marketing is key.
I know my agency is game, and that gives me immense pride.