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Going beyond the rainbow

At this time of year, Brussels explodes in all the colours of the rainbow. I love to see the pink banners, rainbow crosswalks and flags during Pride month, it genuinely warms my heart to see all the LGBTQI+ symbols – because when I was a young boy struggling with my identity, these symbols were invisible, and as a result, people like me were implicitly told to remain invisible.

But as I’ve grown up, so has the struggle for LGBTQI+ visibility. Recently, there has been a shift to a fight against the commodification of the LGBTQI+ experience. June is the time that brands change their logos to a rainbow version and publish ads with ‘Love is love’-type slogans. Too often corporate Pride campaigns present a sanitized version of LGBTQI+ culture that is easily digestible for a wider and (whisper it), heterosexual audience.

As communication professionals, we have a huge responsibility. We need to ensure an authentic depiction of Pride and the communities it represents. It starts with including the entire LGBTQI+ spectrum. As a white gay man, I’m lucky to belong to an LGBTQI+ identity that is now seen as mainstream and socially acceptable. But Pride campaigns that rely on dominant LGBTQI+ narratives go against the true purpose of Pride, contribute to ‘rainbow-washing’, and ultimately can be harmful to both the communities it is supposed to support – and the brands that employ these methods.

We need to be brave to be a real force for good. The first Pride was a vital expression of this bravery – not a party or celebration, but a protest. To truly respect the spirit of Pride, we need to dare to tell the untold stories, the uncomfortable truths about segments of humanity that have been told to remain invisible. ‘Love is love’ is a nice sentiment but will only ever provide you with superficially feel-good content. It can never convey true, authentic support and allyship.

Everyone involved in the creative process of campaign development, needs to take the time to understand LGBTQI+ history and the difficulties that different identities face. It’s about actively listening to the stories from the community, learning about cisgender privilege, why deadnaming is so painful, or why people place importance on pronouns. It’s about offering a meaningful contribution to the conversation.

We need to move brands from engaging in a one-month recognition of LGBTQI+ communities, to year-round action. This means a sustained push for genuine efforts to embed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policies, and continued, tangible contributions to LGBTQI+ safe spaces. Only then will we be one step closer to achieving a true representation of LGBTQI+ culture.

What will your company be doing when your logo switches back to normal on July 1?

Jeroen Fermie

Jeroen oversees the agency’s operations and ensures we have the right capabilities to deliver innovative and high-impact work for clients. He empowers the team to deliver on our mission of delivering work that matters by bringing together the different expertise and client service teams into an integrated communications consultancy.

Jeroen brings 15+ years of experience counselling senior executives across the globe through significant business initiatives such as M&A, restructuring, crisis, and rebranding.

Most recently, Jeroen was the Executive Director of Golin in Hong Kong, leading the firm’s corporate reputation practice. Prior to that, he served as GM for MSL, Executive Director for TBWA in Vietnam, and Communications Director Europe for Campbell’s.​


Jeroen Fermie

Managing Director