How To Make Pride Marketing Campaigns Work In China | Marketing

Bottega Veneta’s Qixi movie — which cast same-sex couples to portray the inclusiveness of love — resonated strongly with Chinese audiences. With the theme of “Love in motion”, the film featured three couples (including gay, lesbian and a straight couple) riding bicycles through the alleys and countryside of Qingdao, a port city in the Eastern Province. from Shandong. Yida, a Shanghai-based PR professional who belongs to the LGBTQ community, told Jing Daily how he and his friends love the campaign’s storytelling and visual production.

This isn’t the first time luxury brands have experimented with LGBTQ marketing in China. Cartier featured a gay couple in its 2020 Valentine’s Day-themed campaign, but faced ridicule online for its inappropriate explanation of the couple as “father and son”. As Yida explained, this “made the campaign very inauthentic. Like they’d rather not touch on the subject.

China has the largest LGBTQ population in the world (about 75 million) and the strongest spending power – totaling up to $636 billion (RMB 4.3 trillion) in 2019, according to the business council LGBT Capital. Yet this demographic is underrepresented in campaigns as global companies tend to take a cautious stance when it comes to communicating with the local LGBTQ community. It doesn’t help that government cultural ‘guidance’ on this discourse has also tightened since 2016, when local authorities said films, TV shows and online programs should avoid gay themes or characters.

Below, Jing Daily dissects the current socio-political context around this culture while examining some of the do’s and don’ts of rainbow marketing in China.

Break down the social context

China, shaped by traditional Confucian culture for thousands of years, has never been a hotbed of queer activism. However, there was a period in the late 1990s and early 2000s when gay clubs flourished and NGOs began advocating for gay rights. In 2009, Shanghai Pride was founded and became the mainland’s first and largest LGBTQ event. But in 2020, it abruptly announced its closure — a significant sign of the increased crackdown on LGBTQ rights.

There are several reasons for the cancellation. The current central government has set the tone for a more conservative and conformist China, which is reflected in policies such as the three children allowance and prohibition of what they call “sissy men and Other Abnormal Aesthetics” on television. Stronger censorship has also hit the LGBTQ community, with the WeChat Accounts of several LGBTQ associations in the country’s prestigious universities (including Tsinghua and Beijing) died out last year.

On the other hand, the discussion on this subject is no longer limited to underground communities. “I can see more awareness and more support over the past three to four years,” Yida told Jing Daily. “While there have been tighter restrictions on relevant content on social media, people’s overall understanding of the discourse has improved and the arena of public opinion is friendlier.”

This open-mindedness is evident in netizens’ reactions to brand collaborations with celebrities and KOLs from the LGBTQ community. Marjolaine Moret, a Hong Kong-based freelance consultant who focuses on cross-cultural marketing, took Dior’s collaboration with openly transgender TV icon Jin Xing as an example of positive change. National public support for this partnership indicates that “younger generations, especially Gen Z and Millennials, are becoming more tolerant on this topic,” Moret says.

Dior has named transgender icon Jin Xing as the new face of its iconic women’s fragrance J’adore in 2021. Photo: Screenshot from campaign video, Dior

Start with baby steps

That said, Dior’s team with Jin was unique, and she was just one part of China’s fashion powerhouse’s vast celebrity matrix. Not all companies have the same ability to bet on such an initiative. As Hoang Nguyen, senior consultant at Daxue Consulting, suggests, “Brands should take this step by step, given the dominance of Chinese government politics and the huge portion of the population that may still feel bad about it. comfortable with this dialogue. .”

Overall, luxury houses were cautious. Bottega Veneta’s Qixi project appealed to both LGBTQ insiders and general consumers with a cohesive brand image characterized by understated elegance and the inclusive expression of love. This approach aligns with Moret’s proposition – that “brands need to find a way to address the LGBTQ community by addressing relevant topics indirectly, for example, targeting everyone and not just the community, and promoting equality for all, self-expression and universal love.” These pillars of communication, which go beyond gender and sexual orientation, are more achievable than targeted, hard-core activism in China.

Bottega Veneta’s Qixi 2022 campaign featured two same-sex couples. Photo: Bottega Veneta

While small steps are welcomed by local consumers, consistent community support is even better. Yida admitted that there are companies that capitalize on rainbow marketing, but believes that “if a brand continues to be heard and supported, it reflects the commitment of said brand and its team” .

Think Beyond Rainbow Logos

When it comes to LGBTQ culture, the rainbow symbol might be the first thing that comes to mind for marketers. However, there are no shortcuts to this community. Raising rainbow flags and rolling out exclusive collections with multicolored prints during Pride Month won’t work in China. On the one hand, there’s the rainbow wash concern where “brands affix a rainbow flag sticker to their products in hopes of boosting June sales without making any real effort” , says Cory Schröder, senior content marketing manager at marketing solutions provider Latana.

Instead, businesses should contribute to community causes. A prime example is the range of collaborators who have supported Voguing Shanghai, the continent’s premier voguing and ballroom culture platform. Among them were Beats, Fenty Beauty and Farfetch. Above all, Schröder emphasizes the importance of localization. “You can’t just copy examples from other countries. Overseas companies need to prove they care about Chinese consumers by understanding the contemporary language of China.

Fenty Beauty provided makeup for one of the founders of Voguing Shanghai @JackyJackyVS last year. Photo: Fenty Beauty

Along with storytelling and media representation, organizations need to do the hard work behind the scenes. As Nguyen comments, “a brand’s efforts should also be quantified by internal activities and their results.” This means creating a non-discriminatory environment for employees.

While the words of advertising campaigns are, of course, important, a company’s actions can speak louder. If your brand isn’t ready to support the community, don’t pretend you are.