Last week the 20th World Economic Forum took place at Davos. Out Leadership was the first LGBT+ organization to start the LGBT+ equality conversation at Davos in 2016. So we’re always interested observers every January. We’re delighted to share the below remarks given by P&G Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard at the GLAAD Luncheon on January 22nd.
This article is lightly adapted for clarity.
Early in my tenure as P&G’s Chief Brand Officer, I experienced a moment of truth.
I had been taking heat from a variety of groups who objected to some of our marketing. There were groups objecting to having Ellen DeGeneres as a COVERGIRL. Others objected to showing a same-sex married couple in a Tide ad. And there were many who objected to P&G’s sponsorship of Cincinnati’s PRIDE Festival and parade.
There were threats of boycotts and making public statements against P&G. I was then invited to visit one of these groups, along with our Chief Diversity Officer. We went, and this group not only repeated their objections, they took it a step further, indicating their unhappiness that things like our PRIDE sponsorship “supported the other side”, and that this support, along with our advertising was counter to their definition of families. It was made clear to us that a very public boycott was likely.
That’s when I snapped. I said P&G supports all people, and all families. We do not define families, love does. I finished with “it’s clear that we are just going to agree to disagree”.
And the meeting was abruptly over…and we couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
I made up my mind right then that we would not be held hostage by threats of boycott or protests driven by negative bias, exclusion, and even hate. We came back and doubled down on our efforts, including dialing up our PRIDE sponsorship. We decided that P&G would use its voice as a force for good…to drive acceptance, inclusion, and love for humanity.
I’m still often asked, however, if this is a smart business strategy. Will inclusive advertising build our business? The answer is yes because we believe our company and our brands can be both a force for good and a force for growth.
In fact, it’s not an option today, because people expect more from our companies. 9 out of 10 consumers say they have a more positive image of a company when it supports a social or environmental cause…and half say they make purchase decisions based on shared beliefs with the brand. People of all ages expect brands to take a stand on important social issues.
LGBTQ equality and inclusion is something we are willing to take a stand on. That’s because people who identify as LGBTQ often face inequality and exclusion…including discrimination in jobs, housing, schools, communities, and even in their own families.
And the LGBTQ market brings opportunity for growth – $3.7 trillion worldwide…and more if you include the fact that allies are 83% more likely to purchase from a company supporting LGBTQ inclusion.
So as a company that reaches 5 billion people every day with our brands, and serves all humanity, we are choosing to use our voice in advertising to promote equality and inclusion. Advertising affects perceptions and culture. Advertising embeds images into people’s minds that form bias – so we need an accurate portrayal to eliminate bias. We strive to accurately portray all people – regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, different abilities, different spiritualities and religions, and ages. And studies show that advertising with accurate portrayals performs better with +10% higher ratings in trust and +26% higher sales growth.
And we’re taking it to the next level with a new approach to LGBTQ marketing, by building it into the fabric of how we build brands—versus “bolting it on” as a separate effort. We build in valuable insights that responsibly represent the values and culture of the LGBTQ community that link closely to the character of our brands—never stereotyping…never misappropriating.
P&G brands like Pantene and Gillette are sharing unique aspects of the LGBTQ experience that not only foster a greater understanding of the community but also create a new demonstration of what those brands represent…their values, beliefs, and views about people.
For example, the first shave for a young man is an important milestone, and when you pair this insight with the perspective of a young transgender man shaving the first time, it elevates shaving in a new way—shining a light on the power of a first shave and reinforcing a shared bond between all men— transgender and cisgender alike. Have a look:
Pantene is a haircare brand that took the time to deeply understand the lives of LGBTQ people and gained valuable insights. Hair is the most visible way we represent ourselves to the world. Now, consider that 60% of LGBTQ people change their hair when they come out of the closet. It reinforces the power of hair to transform while helping people better understand the journey of many in the LGBT community. Here’s how Pantene brought this to life in Europe with #hairhasnogender.
This campaign is building the business in several markets. Because they gained deep and authentic insights and created work that role-models inclusion and educates to spark conversations. Conversations promote understanding, understanding leads to attitude change, and that ultimately leads to more welcoming communities.
Marketing isn’t rocket science, but LGBTQ marketing brings many variables that need to be considered—evolving definitions; differing local, regional and global considerations; and the incredible diversity of the community itself. So it is essential to have the right partners.
GLAAD has been a wonderful source of inspiration and has helped us ensure that our intent to be a positive force for good shines through (show Pantene North America visual slide) This has been critical for Pantene’s “I’m BeautifuLGBTQ+” campaign in North America that tackled sexual orientation and gender identity bias and the familial challenges the community faces during the holidays. Sarah Kate— thank you and your team for your pioneering work and being a positive force for change.
P&G is also proud to be a founding member of PGLE—who are leading some important conversations this year in Davos—so we can help accelerate inclusion in the workplace and in communities around the world. It is encouraging to see the growing list of LGBTQ related topics this year at the World Economic Forum.
Beyond the case for cultural change and business growth, I want to acknowledge the impact inclusive content has on the individuals who see it. During the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, we had the opportunity to work closely with freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy and share his journey as an LGBTQ athlete.
After seeing the content we created as part of our Olympic campaign that featured Gus, he received a letter from a 20-year old US Marine which said:
“Thank you, Gus. Thank you for being my inspiration and the spark that lit the fire in me, a fire I never thought in my life would be lit. I saw you at the right time and place and because of you I am living an unbelievably happier life. Thank you for saving another soul.”
This is beautiful…and for me, was another moment of truth.
I believe everything happens for a reason, and moments like these reinforce my conviction that using my voice to promote equality and inclusion is a path I’m destined to take – to use whatever influence I have to help make the world a better place.
My call to action is for all companies and brands to step up and use whatever power they have to eliminate bias and promote equality and inclusion. If you’re an advertiser, commit to the accurate portrayal of the LGBTQ community in advertising. Commit to advertise on media and news programs that are accurately portraying sexual orientation and gender identity. Commit to stepping up and using your voice – whether it be in an ad, in a public relations activity, or in a leadership speech – to take a stand on LGBTQ inclusion.
We’ve made these commitments at P&G, and we’re using our power to encourage others to be a force for good. We’re not where we want to be yet, but we’re making progress. And we will not stop until we’ve achieved an equal and fully inclusive world. Thank you.