Pride Month and the Pride in London festival has come to a close for another year.

During each year’s celebrations we see more and more brands engage with Pride – and it’s easy to see why. If the global LGBTQ community were a country, its GDP would be the world’s fourth largest.

Pride in London saw approximately 1m attendees this year, and in turn London retailers saw huge spikes in on-the-day revenues. Although impossible to measure with pinpoint accuracy, some report the “Pink Pound” in the UK to be worth around £6bn annually.

Unfortunately, Pride is often tainted by the perception that brands exploit the event for their own gains. Consumers remain unconvinced by flash-in-the-pan rainbow-colored marketing that appears once a year; LGBT+ consumers, and those in support of the LGBT+ community in particular can see right through these tactics. If a brand is deemed to be exploiting a market they risk losing consumers rather than gaining them.

Much like any area of diversity, brands need to strive for authenticity. In the US, 64% of LGBT+ consumers and allies said they were more likely to spend with a brand if they deemed them inclusive. However, inclusivity is not simply introducing a same sex couple into your campaign for one month of the year – it should be a continuous communications effort and far-reaching business objective designed to ensure genuine diversity.

Most importantly, the motivations for inclusivity should stretch beyond just profit. Much like other marginalised groups, the LGBT+ community face huge difficulties – 68% of LGBT people avoid coming out at work, while 2 in 5 have experienced harassment within the last 12 months.

Advertising can help to action positive changes by contributing to our cultural landscape, and in turn helping to shift public opinion. A great example of this was the Nike ‘Yes’ campaign in Australia, where they turned their classic swoosh logo into a symbol for social acceptance in the Marriage Equality postal vote.
For those brands looking to branch into new markets, it can be a sensitive territory to navigate.

But there are more resources than ever available to help them tread carefully. PrideAM, the ad industry’s LGBT network, recently released Outvertising – a resource for brands needing advice on LGBT+ inclusive communications strategies. Similarly, specialist consultancies have launched – take Othervox, for example, an agency providing intelligent LGBT targeting in digital media.

Along with semiotics and cultural insight agency SignSalad, the7stars has also this month released a whitepaper, Representing?, exploring the ways in which brands can champion diversity without offending and, importantly, making sure they avoid tokenism.

Brands have started waving the rainbow flag – now they need to make sure they’re supporting diversity year-round.