Is it just me or was Pride less of a social media fest this year? Authentically in person it was a slay but I saw less rainbow flags and Pride hashtags, if anything when I did see them they felt a bit dated… 

New data from Emplifi, a provider of customer engagement software for social networks and companies like McDonald’s, agrees with me. Apparently the number of U.S. brands using Pride-related hashtags on Instagram declined 16% year-over-year, while interactions, meaning comments or likes, fell 73% this year compared to 2020 when engagement peaked, according to the report. 

They also touched on the dated rainbow element, “the reality is that consumers are likely becoming desensitised to the ‘rainbow washing’ that happens during Pride, instead wanting brands to be more introspective and honest about their involvement in social causes” Emplifi has said. 

Emplifi has a theory for what’s behind this; “brand-led social campaigns supporting #Pride simply aren’t cutting it with the modern consumer any longer,” Zarnaz Arlia, Emplifi’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “The reality is that consumers are likely becoming desensitised to the ‘rainbow washing’ that happens during Pride, instead wanting brands to be more introspective and honest about their involvement in social causes.”  

As a queer person myself, I have to admit that on the surface it made me happy to see less Pride campaigns on socials simply because I find the majority to be shallow and commercial. Furthermore, it annoys me that brands will rainbow vomit for Pride month and then either never do anything for the queer community year round or worse make decisions against our favour. 

Having said that, this also means my queer content creator siblings are getting less bag if there’s less brand content to be made and that’s never a good thing (hence why queer inclusion year round is so important). For LGBTQ creators, the swirl of headlines seems to have had a chilling effect. Creators like Rose Montoya told The Guardian that fewer brands have reached out for Pride-related sponsorships this month. “It’s disappointing,” Montoya told The Guardian.

However, from a negative stance, these past few months of queer marketing have surfaced homophobia. Some Target customers, for example, confronted employees at retail locations over LGBTQ-related merchandise, resulting in the retailer removing some of it from stores last month. Meanwhile Bud Light faced a boycott from some customers after it partnered with trans TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney for an ad. (Mulvaney broke her silence on the partnership on Thursday.) Then last weekend, some Starbucks workers protested in response to allegations that some managers removed rainbow decorations and flags supporting Pride month at some Starbucks locations. A company spokesperson told Reuters that it “would be inaccurate to report that Starbucks stores are banning any decorations.” 

The homophobia continues. Americans are nearly twice as likely to say they would want to back companies facing criticism for supporting people in the LGBTQ community, rather than their critics, according to a poll last week from GLAAD, the largest LGBTQ media advocacy organisation, and Ipsos. That same survey found that 74% of Americans are “neutral” or “positively impacted” by knowing a company offers Pride merchandise. 

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