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How do brands celebrate cultural moments meaningfully?

As brands continuously look for ways to stay relevant and resonate with their audiences, it only makes sense for them to want to tap into all the big cultural moments that as a society we collectively celebrate.

But it’s no longer as simple as just creating a themed social media post in order to insert oneself in the conversation – audiences, and in particular Gen Z, are telling brands that to connect is to actually care, with new research from Snapchat showing almost half (41%) of the younger generation would go out of their way to engage with a brand that aligns with their values and supports social causes that matter to them.

In a year where loss, grief, and disconnection has been at the forefront of the global conversation, Deliveroo showed us that it was listening and gave its UK, US, and Canada customers the option to opt-out of marketing about Father’s Day this June. Recognising that occasions like Mother’s and Father’s Day might not be days that everyone wants to celebrate, the brand told its customer base, “if you’d rather not receive emails about it, we understand.”

Flower delivery service LVLY also allowed for customers to opt-out of its Mother’s Day marketing communications this year in an effort to kickstart a ‘thoughtful marketing movement’, encouraging other Australian brands to consider the potentially damaging effects of sending out “Don’t forget mum” style messages to people who may have lost a mother or child.

With many taking to social media to express their gratitude and appreciation for the opt-out trend, these brands have shown how to effectively acknowledge a significant cultural moment, while ensuring their audience is heard and understood.

As we approach the end of June and the end of Pride Month, it’s a good time to reflect upon how brands have chosen to show their support for the LGBTIQA+ community, and what separates those who have been praised, versus criticised.

With new research showing that while eight in 10 ANZ LGBTIQA+ consumers say they expect brands to be consistently committed to diversity and inclusion, only four in 10 feel accurately represented – so it comes as no surprise that big corporations get painted with the ‘performative support’ brush when it comes to Pride.

The way that companies interact with Pride month has long been criticised for pinkwashing, and Coca-Cola’s Pride campaign this year is no exception. The brand’s online bottle personalisation tool has restricted users from customising the label to read ‘lesbian’ or ‘Gay Pride’ – despite the addition of a rainbow Pride bottle (for US customers).

There are thoughtful, meaningful and respectful ways brands can celebrate Pride, and when done well, it has an undeniable impact on consumers and the wider community. This year cult streetwear brand Champion announced an Australia-and New Zealand-first Pride range, Champions of Pride, and ongoing partnership with the Queer Sporting Alliance.The capsule collection proudly heroes the Pride colours in a selection of signature Champion styles, and through the partnership with QSA, the brand will help create to an inclusive space for the LGBTQIA+ community to play sport.

Instead of leaning into ‘rainbow capitalism’ – consumers are asking brands what they are doing to support the extended LGBTIQA+ community beyond the month of June, and to make institutional and structural changes within their organisation.

For the first time this year, the Australian Census will include non-binary as a response option. As our society continues to evolve in this direction, brands need to keep up by listening to their audience in order to understand them in all their richness and diversity, and ultimately can connect with them in a way that shows they care.

Michaela Marinucci

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