After a month of rainbow coloured logos, it can feel like a different world when high-profile homophobic attacks in London, Southampton and Liverpool make national headlines or a national politician suggests science may ‘produce an answer’ for being gay. What can brands do to address the fear, prejudice and bigotry that provoke these attitudes?

There’s a lot that can be learnt from New Queer Cinema (NQC). Emerging from the American Independent Film scene of the 1990s, it focused on taking back representation from mainstream film that had first been ignored, then limited LGBTQ+ characters to a handful of narratives. While the movement itself was short-lived, some directors found mainstream success with The Kids are Alright and Carol and its influence can still be felt in contemporary films such as Booksmart.

First, NQC insisted on representing LGBTQ+ people. This sounds obvious, but in a world where advertising and marketing communications still has a dearth of LGBTQ+ figures and campaigns, brands can really stand out by acknowledging the community. As well as talking directly to this audience, brands should do the work of representation; 57% agree that brands have a duty to represent modern life and at least 23% of the UK have a sexual identity that is not completely heterosexual. This positive effect extends to allies, with 56% actively supporting brands that are inclusive.

Secondly, NQC avoided the ‘coming out narratives’ that had been the only acceptable stories within which LGBTQ+ characters could be framed. In NQC by contrast, characters have rich lives that are not reducible to their sexuality. Brands can challenge stereotypes in exactly the same fashion; by showing lives beyond sexuality and directly challenging bigotry stemming from lack of understanding and they can do this beyond pride, recognising LGBTQ+ people all year round.

Thirdly, NQC’s complex view of sexuality as a changing, fluid and sometimes counter-intuitive concept is something brands will need to start working with to connect with Gen-Z. 18-24s are far more likely to inhabit less definite sexual identifies; 43% describe their sexuality on the Kinsey scale as something other than either completely heterosexual or completely homosexual (compared to 19% for UK adults). Brands will need to understand this to relate to a group that, as the QT found, are 30% more likely than the UK average to reject brands that do not represent them.

  • The QT. the7stars. (Feb 2019)
  • 1 in 2 young people say they are not 100% heterosexual. YouGov. (Aug 2015)
  • 56% of Britons support brands that take a stand on LGBT+ issues. YouGov (July 2019)