Question: What makes the Pride Vaseline tin worth £1 more than the regular Vaseline tin? Answer: A Vaseline-branded rainbow sticker on the front.
A photo of the contrasting Vaseline tins has racked up 270,000 likes on Twitter with one user commenting, ‘From the creators of pink tax, here comes... (roll drums) GAY TAX!’. Vaseline’s Pride themed tin is part of Superdrug and Unilever’s partnership with Switchboard, a charity providing support to the LGBTQIA+ community. Though it isn’t explicitly outlined on Superdrug’s website, we are left to assume that some of this price increase (the Pride Vaseline costs twice as much as the regular Vaseline) is included in a donation to Switchboard.
Vaseline’s Pride edition tin seems to have had good intentions, but the optics of the campaign led to it becoming a Twitter laughing stock, and even worse, appeared to be a blatant attempt by Vaseline to profit off of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Consumers are increasingly questioning ‘rainbow-washing’ coming from brands, with vague declarations of ‘Love is love’ across corporate social media accounts during Pride Month and helplines printed in tiny writing on rainbow-branded products. Consumers no longer want brands to simply say they support social causes, they want them to actually care about the causes too - and brands that merely make their social media accounts rainbow-themed in June are now becoming the butt of online jokes.
What does a successful Pride campaign look like then? This year, dating-app giant Tinder has partnered with Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a LGBTQIA+ charity that was founded in 1980. Their mission is to overturn the ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood in the US, a ban which has been in place for almost 40 years, since the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Together, Tinder and HRC are not only calling for an end to the ban but are also proposing a solution in the form of a ground-breaking blood donation eligibility survey - and crucially, Tinder is using its platform to source and survey participants and create momentum on this issue.
In 2022, the real and the digital world can feel like a moral minefield for everyone, but particularly brands. While consumers expect brands like Tinder and even Vaseline to engage with social causes, the blueprint for how to engage with topics like Pride is constantly and rapidly evolving. It’s becoming clear that consumers want genuine engagement, and that no engagement would be better in many circumstances than half-hearted rainbow logos or opportunistic money grabs. So what should brands do? Ask yourself not what engaging with the cause can do for your brand, but what your brand can do by engaging with the cause. Genuinely engage with causes that align with your brand values and use your resources to create real change, and you might just find your Pride campaign going viral on Twitter too (but in a good way).