WHATEVER the weather for Glasgow Pride this weekend, I guarantee there will be rainbows.

Designed by Gilbert Baker exactly 40 years ago, the rainbow flag is the symbol of pride for LGBTQ+ people around the globe. For a long time, the flag was confined mainly to LGBTQ+ spaces, but over the past few years there’s been a gradual ‘if you like it then you better put a rainbow on it’ strategy from some of the world’s biggest brands.

We’ve had rainbow coffee cups, rainbow vodka, rainbow ATM machines, trainers, cookies…the list goes on. And what’s wrong with this? On the one hand, absolutely nothing. For people who lived through Section 28 and before, it’s a positive change that companies are now tripping over their rainbow shoelaces to show support.

But on the other hand, if brands really want to make a meaningful impact, on the community and on their bottom line (because, let’s face it, that’s a major reason why many get involved) they should consider a few important things before slapping that rainbow filter onto their avatars.

As marketers, we have a responsibility to represent the people who live in the world around us. But if your company doesn’t have an internal diversity policy, your campaigns are not likely to represent a full world view.

One of the leading sectors in this area is the banking industry, with the Lloyds Banking group and Barclays. Both have internal equality networks, while their customer marketing visibly represents same-sex couples.

This has paid dividends with both organisations regularly appearing in Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers list, plus their more diverse culture has allowed them to attract and keep the best talent in the industry, leading to better business outcomes.

A recent national study shows that 70% LGBTQ+ people are still afraid to be frank about their sexuality. So, it makes sense that companies who contribute to making life better for them will connect far more deeply. Ogilvy Pride’s research showed that 48% of consumers under 34 are more likely to repeat purchase from an LGBTQ+ friendly business.

Marks & Spencer’s has long understood this. They received some stick this year for launching a rainbow sandwich for London Pride. On its own, it might have been a questionable move, however, they also contributed £15,000 to Pride events across the UK and donated sandwiches as well as employee time to various volunteer groups. A search through their social media channels shows overwhelming positivity from their audience – as well as platters of instagrammable sandwiches.

Sometimes brands do nothing because they’re afraid of getting it wrong. But, that risk can be swerved by working alongside the LGBTQ+ community to help craft your campaign.

Paddy Power are one of the best examples of this. They’ve regularly teamed up with Stonewall and Attitude Magazine to push boundaries that have created a cultural change within their own community to the benefit of the LGBTQ+ community.

Their recent World Cup campaign, which saw them donate 10k to LGBTQ+ charities every time Russia scored, raised a total of £170,000, while their rainbow laces campaign kickstarted an important national conversation about homophobia in sport. As a result, 65% of regular betters said they thought more highly of Paddy Power.

The LGBTQ+ community almost certainly forms part of your audience – or your future audience. 1 in 25 young people identify as LGB so by championing diversity, brands aren’t just backing a cause, they’re talking to their customers.

And this doesn’t always require big campaign statements. What the LGBTQ+ audience really wants is better representation all the time. We want to see ourselves doing normal things like wearing shoes and eating cheeseburgers in very ordinary ways.

Get this right and you build a level of brand affection that’s difficult to achieve normally in the modern age.

McCain’s found exactly that when they launched their We Are Family ad placing same sex families at the dinner table. This became their most successful ad campaign ever giving them a 10% increase in brand meaning and perception while their key competitors saw their stats fall.

My company once answered a brief that sought a ‘family values’ campaign. We responded with concepts that represented modern households. We didn’t win that work because the client only wanted “normal”. But, ‘normal’ no longer exists. The world is changing and the brands that are part of that change will reap the benefits. To quote Laura Ward, deputy head of marketing at Channel 4 “It is not a risk to reflect diversity in marketing, it’s a risk not to.”

Lee Beattie is the founder of marketing agency Wire.