One would need to be some sort of hermit to be unaware of how pervasive the rainbow has become in contemporary culture. Where it once might have been seen as an innocent depiction of its real-life counterpart, it has taken on a distinctly political significance. (Although, more often than an actual rainbow it is a flag or its colors.)
It has also become incredibly mainstream. One could expect to see it on posters and t-shirts and the like for those in the lifestyle or personally supportive of it. What we see, however, is an explosion of the familiar spread of colors splashed across nearly everything. That isn’t much of an exaggeration. Look around anywhere, in your community, in the news, in a retail store, online, anywhere, and you would be hard-pressed to not find it.
Rise in Rainbow-Washing
Which must mean the entire world is fully on board with the social and political agendas behind the rainbow, right? At least most of the big corporations are. That should be obvious by how completely and vigorously they plaster everything they touch with it. Their websites, advertisements, even their products and packaging.
The reality is a bit more blatant. Believe it or not, companies are in business to make money. If something will contribute to their bottom line, you can bet they will seriously analyze the best way to exploit it. And, then they do. Voila, it’s rainbows galore.
Some in the LGBTQ community are happy to see the support, wherever it is and however artificial it may be. Others take exception to what they consider a misappropriation of their almost sacred right to its use and meaning. Some days, you can’t win for losing.
As common as the symbol is, what many may not recognize is the term applied to this sort of use. Called “rainbow-washing”, it describes the practice of plastering the logo or colors on something with little actual effort or conviction. Easy enough to do, especially for potential benefits in reputation or financial profits. But, it is seen for what it is – a disingenuous way to take advantage of someone else’s cause.Called 'rainbow-washing', it describes the practice of plastering the logo or colors on something with little actual effort or conviction. Easy enough to do, especially for potential benefits in reputation or financial profits. Click To Tweet
Drawbacks of Rainbow-Washing
There is little doubt companies reap certain benefits, at least in the short term. But, there may be a downside lurking behind all those vibrant colors. The problem with everyone and their brother using these symbols is that everyone is using these symbols. In other words, they all blend together.
One of the major points of a marketing strategy is to set oneself apart from the competition. When every company looks the same, that defeats the purpose. Another concern is the whiff of politics that can linger over the products or the company, not ideal to say the least.
“The rainbow flag is the most visible and tangible representation of the LGBT lobby. Given its political nature, the incorporation of this symbol in a commercial context—on packaging, logos, advertising, websites, social media, and shop windows—can come across as forced and artificial…At times, the products themselves seem incidental to the ideological message.”
There are other reasons one might criticize this trend. But, even from just a purely profit-driven perspective, those who have so unreservedly employed this strategy may want to rethink it.
Read in full at Selling the Rainbow: Why Rainbow-Washing Is Actually Bad Marketing.