Hi guys and welcome back to the ROR blog. Over the past year, we have been attempting to develop our online presence and "voice" and ultimately want to use our online space for good, and start some open discussions about life in 2018. Don't get us wrong; we still LOVE a good styling post (and all the sassy slogans), but we also know that the world is changing, and for a lot of us, this can be a scary, unknown place to be. From the #metoo movement, to a reality star in the White House, many things have happened that have made for really interesting debates. So; as a business that prides ourselves on allowing people to make a statement, we thought we would start a more 'hard hitting' series of posts, discussing topics that have been in the spotlight or made us sit up and question our own beliefs.
The first issue we thought we would explore is a personal one for us. Earlier this month, a follower on Twitter commented on our Pride collection and how it seemed to be "one of many" using the LGBTQ+ rainbow symbol as a marketing ploy. It got us thinking (so Carrie Bradshaw right now!); do more people feel that way, do brands just use the rainbow as a marketing ploy, is it a "trend"?
So, first things first. We have been, and always will be a proud LGBTQ+ brand. By this, we mean, we believe in equality for all; love is love. It's hard not to stick the usual, and sometimes ignorant "we have gay friends and family!" line. But it's true. And they have had a huge impact on our lives growing up and how we see the world today. We are lucky to be based in Manchester; with one of the largest LBGTQ+ communities in Europe, where we celebrate people's uniqueness and individuality and not just who they love. I think it's only honest to say that we can perhaps be naive to the fact that homophobia is still rife, and we probably live our lives with rose coloured glasses, where everyone accepts everyone.
However, when we were accused of "commercialising pride" it really got to us. But why? Well mainly because this was never our intention, but also because we hated the fact someone would think that about us. It hadn't even crossed our minds, but should it have? When we designed the range, along with proud LGBTQ+ advocate Dom & Ink, we wanted to create something that people would smile when they saw. To create "awareness" of Pride, to make a statement and to ultimately make something you guys would love wearing. However, we promote this throughout the year and this is very clear from our social platforms.
We've always had great feedback in the past, so this twitter comment really stood out to us. It's possible the person didn't know our brand well, or that 20% of sales from last year's Pride tee went to the Manchester Pride Charity - they just spotted some of our designs and "assumed" it was a fad.
*We do also have to point out that our Twitter friend did actually help us to update some of our content, and we were happy to engage & have a conversation regarding this. Our chat ended amicably, but if one person got this impression from us, would others do the same?
So; we decided to do a little bit research ourselves. It didn't take long to find some quite shocking, and quite frankly disgusting opinions on this. Let's just say, homophobia is well and truly alive in 2018. It started by looking at brands on Facebook who had changed their logo to the rainbow symbol. Big brands like Marks & Spencers and Debenhams were the hardest hit, with literally hundreds of comments on their colourful new profile pictures.
The general consensus was that the (mainly older) people who shopped there, would no longer be shopping with them (nope this is not a joke) because they were supporting the LGBTQ+ community. We were pretty shocked by this, but it's happening. So surely this is having the opposite effect for brands with an older, less accepting target audience? In fact, I'd go in far as saying that, actually, whatever people think, M&S were quite 'brave' in their actions. No; just to clarify we don't think that declaring that you accept equality, love and pride is an action that in any way should be construed at 'brave' in 2018, but you have look at this contextually. M&S, Debenhams and other brands who have a demographic of mainly over 50s (72% of M&S's sales last year, came from 45-70 year olds) then could they still be accused of using Pride to sell?
Then you have 'younger' brands, such as Boohoo, Topshop and H&M, who do have a younger target market. Are they "using" the rainbow to push sales? An article on fastcompany.com conducted a survey and it found that only 15% of the LGBTQ+ community said they feel “very positively” toward companies that only promote Pride once a year, compared to over 40% who said they felt positively about brands who work LGBTQ themes into their branding “regularly or continually.” Are the other stores really genuine?
Should we change?
It's hard not to sound like we're slagging off other brands, but it is an interesting thought. We actively share "the rainbow", quotes and designs promoting equality throughout the year. Yes, we push it at Pride, but only because there are festivals specifically designed to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and it would be daft not to. However, we are much more aware of our voice, and opinions that we didn't think applied to us. It has made us think twice about what we share and how we share it.
We'd LOVE to know your thoughts on this. Do you feel brands are using Pride? Would you buy from a brand that only promotes Pride once a year? Get in touch and start a discussion!