Pride Month: The Month of Taking Advantage of Queer Consumers


Photo courtesy of Toyota Newsroom.

Toyota campaign to show equality for LGBTQIA+ team members.

Each year during Pride Month, corporations demonstrate their support for the LGBTQIA+ community, but is it a marketing scheme or true allyship? The community has now succumbed to rainbow washing as companies use rainbow advertising throughout the month of June to indicate support. But, research has been done which contradicts the surface level support many corporations show for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation sponsor donations in the last three years. (Photo courtesy of Data for Progress.)

The entity Data For Progress works with the pride movement for pooling research that empowers progressive advocates. Businesses portray a celebration for the LGBTQIA+ community’s history and progression by using pride representation in advertising or packaging. Data for Progress has suggested behind closed doors, “dozens of corporations are giving to state polticians behind some of the most bigoted and harmful policies,” affecting the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Over recent years, Data for Progress pooled Amazon, a familiar favorite online delivery site, to have donated up to $87,900 to anti-LGBTQIA+ campaigns, with AT&T and Comcast donating significantly more than that amount. Most notably, Toyota has donated a whopping $601,500 to these anti-LGBTQIA+ lobbying. 

“Companies who do some sort of washing, without being authentic to said cause, do it so they can increase their market chair, their sales, or positive perception by customers, by pretending they are concerned about those issues,” Dr. Oliver Cruz-Milan, a TAMU-CC Marketing Professor, said regarding corporate agendas.

Companies like Amazon and Comcast use virtue signaling to receive money from the community, then rotate their profits into promoting causes that work against queer people and their well being, such as the ban of discussing gender identity and sexual oritentaion in school. 

AT&T allegations show support for the LGBTQIA+ community. (Photo courtesy of Robert Herbert, Sponsored by AT&T. )

Cruz-Milan explained an important concept in marketing is developing trust and confidence in those companies by advertising in a “consistent, systematic, and authentic manner.” If companies were to lose a large proportion of consumers due to unethical advertising, it could alter their leadership and agendas to be more accepting to today’s culture and society. 

The president of the Corpus Christi Pride Program, Jonathan Swindle, discussed how rainbow washing can lead consumers to be more aware of where their money is spent. Swindle is a believer in room for change. Swindle shared that when he was in college, he opened up a bank account with Wells Fargo. Swindle left the bank because they were against the LGBTQIA+ community at the time. 

However, they have changed their behavior to be more accepting and inclusive, and Wells Fargo is now affiliated with the Human Rights Campaign. “There is willful ignorance, but there is also taking the time to research, so you can be a better general advocate for the community you support as an individual,” Swindle said. 

Holding companies accountable for their decisions has potential for their policies to shift. For example, Disney advocated for politicians in favor of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation, but was confronted by their queer employees and patrons. Disney’s chief executive, Bob Chapek, spoke out against governor DeSantis “Dont Say Gay” bill, which resulted in vast consequences. Disney is now subjected to Florida taking over Walt Disney World’s special taxing district, Reedy Creek, restricting up to 25,000 acres of land purchased by Walt Disney, as well as tax dollars given to Disney to fund Disney World Parks and other attractions. 

“It’s a process to get these companies to act in a way that is more performative than putting a logo out there, and that they are supportive of us,” Swindle said.