Happy Pride Month from all of us here at YMC!

As society shifts towards more accepting attitudes, those who identify as LGBTQ+ are empowered to come out and live authentically. Gen-Z youth in the United States have grown up surrounded by an increasingly accepting culture, and their widespread access to the internet has allowed information about LGBTQ+ identities to be more readily accessible and relatable. 

A recent Gallup poll has shown that Gen-Z is increasingly identifying as LGBTQ+. Overall identification of LGBTQ+ individuals among all ages grows, sitting at 7.1% compared to 3.5% in 2012. 20.8% of Gen-Z identifies as LGBTQ+, a truly remarkable figure compared to previous generations. Much of this explosion in Gen-Z’s identification can be attributed to Gen-Z entering adulthood and becoming increasingly more comfortable with openly identifying their sexuality and gender.

Is This a Trend?

Some have deemed past societal shifts as passing trends and fads. There are individuals today who are attributing the rise in queer identities as such. Bill Maher, the bombastic political satirist, has recently landed himself in hot water by claiming that gay and trans youth are trying to be trendy, sparking criticism from many, including LGBTQ+ advocacy groups like GLAAD.

So what’s the cause of this significant increase? If we look back at the history of LGBTQ+ people, many were unable to be open and public with their identities due to societal norms, discrimination, lack of accessible knowledge, and fears of violence. The 1969 Stonewall Riots sparked the modern LGBTQ+ movement, and while there have been enormous strides in LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance, these newly gained grounds are shaky and uncertain. That being said, society as a whole is more accepting of LGBTQ+ identities now than ever before, leading to many becoming more comfortable with being out and proud. 

The internet has given rise to safe spaces for marginalized communities and provided people with the ability to share previously suppressed information. Many older LGBTQ+ individuals have talked about the lack of knowledge and language to express themselves in the past and how drastically different that is for young people today.

Becoming Mainstream

With the passage of marriage equality and strengthened rights for LGBTQ+ Americans, many more have been empowered to come out and publicly identify as LGBTQ+. With conversations about sexual orientation becoming increasingly mainstream, increased and explicit representation in media, and acceptance from some political and religious institutions and society, LGBTQ+ individuals are more easily able to live their lives without fear of discrimination. Gen-Z has benefited from the struggles of their queer predecessors and faces fewer challenges in identifying as LGBTQ+.

While pollsters like Gallup have conducted similar surveys about the sexual orientations of Americans in the past, there were issues with inaccurate counts of marginalized communities. Due to the fear of violence and non-acceptance, many self-censored their answers, resulting in undercounting queer populations.

Let’s be clear: there have always been LGBTQ+ individuals, many more than we could ever possibly know. But it was not safe for these people to come out, and thus their stories and identities were erased. 

Rainbow Capitalism

As LGBTQ+ identities have become more widely accepted, corporate America has increasingly started to market and message around these groups. Pride month inevitably is accompanied by brands changing their social media profile images to some rainbow iteration. Companies like Target, Walmart, and Amazon have released Pride-themed collections with mixed results. While some items from these collections have resonated with queer communities, others have read as tone-deaf and borderline offensive

Suppose your company is planning on releasing a pride-themed collection. It’s imperative to have LGBTQ+ decision-makers at the table and in all steps of the process to ensure that the message and products you are delivering are authentic and meaningful. It’s also essential to step back and figure out why your brand is messaging around Pride and LGBTQ+ identities. Is this an issue that your brand is passionate about beyond Pride month? Is there a benefit to the queer community to releasing these collections? Is your brand doing more than trying to get the queer dollar? Your company should be using this as an opportunity to empower the LGBTQ+ community, whether it is through giving queer creators a platform, donations to LGBTQ+-related causes, or taking stances on issues that impact queer people.

Celebrating Pride is vital for LGBTQ+ acceptance. Despite the many strides in LGBTQ+ rights and equality, there continue to be many threats, such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Texas’ litany of anti-trans legislation, and many more across the country. While queer acceptance is at an all-time high, it’s essential to still take a stance on these issues and realize that the fight for equality and protection is far from over. Gen-Z is entering adulthood amidst many changes, challenges, wins, and losses. 

How You Can Support Queer Communities

Pot. Weed. Bud. All those bogus slang terms that the D.A.R.E program taught. Marijuana. 

With the rise of the legal cannabis industry, companies are dipping their toes in bringing the plant to the general public. Despite the growing acceptance of cannabis and the increasing number of states where the plant is legal recreationally and medically, it remains illegal on a federal level. This means that advertising and marketing marijuana products is complicated and impossible in some cases. However, brands are finding creative and effective ways to get around these restrictions and get the word out about their products.

Letter of the Law

Cannabis remains illegal on the federal level. Even in states with legal medical or recreational marijuana, federal law supersedes state and local laws, meaning that the government has the final say. Even as the federal government has largely shifted its focus away from cannabis, the laws are still in place, and defying them can come with dire consequencesranging from fines to criminal penalties.

Google and Facebook ban the advertisement of cannabis and related paraphernalia on the platform, which takes over half of the digital advertising market off the table for cannabis businesses.

Getting Creative

This doesn’t mean that cannabis can’t find a place on these platforms in the form of organic content. However, organic content can get flagged by the platform, resulting in removal or a ban altogether. Organic content cannot be geo-targeted to only legal states, meaning that marketers need to get creative with their language and shy away from direct promotion. Additionally, SEO has enabled cannabis brands to market themselves via search results without putting money behind promotion.

Programmatic advertising is an increasingly appealing option, with the ability to geofence advertising promotions to legal states and those over 21. These ads appear as banners on websites, on television services like Roku, and in mobile games. While it is platform-dependent on allowing these advertisements, many marijuana brands are finding success with this approach.

Guerilla advertising has been wildly successful in both legal and illegal states. Some well-placed stickers have led to brands achieving viral success. Recently, Bubby’s Baked made the world’s largest edible, an 850-pound brownie with over 20,000 milligrams of THC, leading to substantial earned media in major publications worldwide.

Foxy and Eaze broke into Tribeca X, the branded content showcase of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, with The Pope of Dope. The Pope of Dope, a cannabis activist biopic, premiered at the Tribeca X Film Festival. Backed by Foxy and Eaze, this is the first marijuana brand-backed project ever to make it into the Tribeca Film Festival, leading to a big surge of popularity in the brand without explicit advertising.

Success from Brands

Houseplant, Seth Rogen’s cannabis brand, has had wild success, with product launches including cannabis, lighters, and ashtrays. Houseplant is one of the first cannabis brands to get national mainstream attention. Seth Rogen’s celebrity status and weed-loving persona do a lot of the heavy lifting of their promotions, but another part of the success around Houseplant is that the brand is divided into House (which sells home goods and cannabis paraphernalia) and Plant (which sells marijuana). Advertising lighters and vases are far from illegal, meaning that the brand benefits from paid advertising from the legal aspects of the business and can avoid ever mentioning the plant aspect, as it is implied.

Often, celebrity-backed cannabis brands succeed due to their existing audience and their association with marijuana in general. Some famous stoners, like Snoop Dogg and Tommy Chong, have created and promoted successful weed businesses through their existing network and innate associations with the plant. Even celebrities that have not typically been associated with marijuana have been able to launch successful weed brands, like Jaleel White (“Did I do that?”) and Melissa Etheridge.

In recent years, influencers have also significantly impacted cannabis brand popularity from paraphernalia to the actual strains. Formal influencer programs tend to get shut down in these spaces. However, influencers who promote these products and brands based on their personal connections are legally clear, leading to some brands exploding and achieving cult status. Blazy Susan has become a status symbol for marijuana users, with their signature pink rolling papers and rolling trays. The brand’s popularity has been attributed to super fans with big audiences on social media, like comedian Ashley Ray and other verified Twitter and Instagram profiles.

What’s Next?

The changing legal landscape around marijuana will have massive impacts on the industry beyond advertising. As more states legalize recreational marijuana, it is expected that the advertising restrictions will be loosened, and it is likely that we will start seeing paid advertising for weed. However, the industry has had success in marketing without ad spends and will likely continue to expand on these tacticsutilizing celebrities, influencers, and guerilla promotion.

How Can YMC help?

If your brand is interested in engaging with some non-traditional marketing, we’re here to help.

At YMC, we specialize in connecting brands with Gen-Z and Millennial consumers, and we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!

Since Pinterest launched in 2010, pinning has found its way into the pop culture lexicon, and the site now boasts over 454 million monthly users. The website has led to the rise of virtual mood and vision boards, recipes galore, and DIYs ranging from easy-to-execute to downright impossible. Despite Pinterest’s role as a powerful social media platform, it’s escaped the scrutiny placed on other giants, such as Facebook and Twitter. This can be attributed to the format, which makes it easy to avoid conversations, and to the fact that the content on Pinterest tends to be more innocuous than other platforms, at least on the surface. However, Pinterest has been making moves in the past several years to easily earn it the title as the most positive place on the internet. Let’s dive into how Pinterest is curating a positive and healthy community on the platform and why you need to be keeping an eye on it.

Who’s On Pinterest?

The user base of Pinterest is primarily described as moms who like DIY. However, their massive community is diverse and generally breaks away from other social media platform demographics. Over 77% of users are female, with age ranges evenly distributed. Additionally, over 28% of all social media users maintain an account on Pinterest, where they primarily use it for purchasing inspiration. Pinterest users are active on the platform, with over 260 billion pins saved and more than 5 billion boards created.

What’s It Like?

Pinterest’s communities are vast and often intermingled. While TikTok can boast more separate communities, like BookTok, FoodTok, and NoodleTok (is it a bones day?)—Pinterest’s users overlap. There are countless options to explore on the platform, including fashion, recipes, fitness, home decor, beauty, art, tattoos, and news.  As of January 2021, the top topics on the platform include:

  • Home décor
  • DIY and crafts
  • Entertainment
  • Education
  • Art
  • Women’s fashion
  • Food and drinks
  • Beauty
  • Event planning
  • Gardening

All Social Media is Toxic, Right?

Pinterest isn’t immune to most common pitfalls impacting other social media channels. It’s been used as a tool to spread misinformation, including falsehoods about COVID-19, the 2020 election, medicine, and mental health. The platform has long been accused of fostering impossible and unattainable standards for young women and girls. There are communities within the platform promoting dangerous behaviors, such as disordered eating, medication abuse, or “cures” for conditions that cause long-term harm. 

These are problems that plague many platforms. However, Pinterest has taken a hardline approach to these issues and has implemented several measures to reduce misinformation and discourage dangerous behavior. 

In March of 2021, Pinterest announced new measures to combat vaccine and COVID-19 misinformation, prohibiting ads that offer COVID-19 cures and treatments, curating expert-lead search results related to the pandemic, and further enforcing their health misinformation policy on the platform.

To build upon the misinformation policy, Pinterest has taken great measures to combat misinformation on the platform across various topics. Through the use of AI, machine learning, and human moderators, Pinterest is removing content on the platform that “may harm Pinners’ or the public’s well-being, safety or trust.”

Mental Health on the Platform

It’s no secret that there are detrimental mental health impacts associated with social media use. Often, social media users curate profiles and personas that show an ideal and perfect life, leading to harmful comparisons, especially for young people. 

Pinterest has launched several initiatives to improve mental health and provide a healthy reality check to its users. In October of 2021, Pinterest launched Pinterest Havens, a board that encourages users to “explore the relationship between mental health and rest.” This has also been paired with an IRL installation in Chicago to bring awareness to burnout—utilizing art and community programming—and donating to local Chicago community nonprofits. Pinterest also launched a self-care tool, which is presented when searching for key phrases related to emotional and mental health. 

In July of 2021, Pinterest made a big move as the first social media platform to ban all weight-loss ads. Social media often exacerbates disordered eating, with communities dedicated to encouraging this behavior and ads promoting weight loss products compounding the issues.

Representation

White and wealthy women are often put on a pedestal as a standard to attain, a trend that is evident across all social media platforms, pop culture trends, and media. Pinterest has recognized this and is working to ensure that its platform is inclusive and representative of all its users. 

Earlier in 2021, Pinterest launched a hair pattern search option with a focus on BIPOC users. This tool will enable BIPOC users to find hairstyles that fit their hair texture, shape, and needs more efficiently. By creating a dedicated tool for its users of color, Pinterest has shown that it is dedicated to fostering an inclusive environment where all users can find their needs met.

Pinterest also launched a creator fund designed to elevate creators from underrepresented communities. With this fund, creators must sign their “Creator Code,” which requires creators to fact-check, practice inclusivity, and be kind. 

Is It Working?

There is no straightforward answer as to whether Pinterest’s strategy is working. It’s hard to quantify positivity and negativity on a digital platform, and many of these changes are in their infancy. However, all of this action has posited the platform as a leader in social media moderation. Making these bold and public moves signals to users that the platform does care about the health and well-being of its users and is taking action to protect them.

Should Your Brand be on Pinterest?

Brands have been slow to adopt Pinterest, finding the format not overly intuitive towards spreading their brand messaging. However, establishing your brand on the platform is an excellent opportunity to reach a broad and diverse audience looking for inspiration and ideas. 50% of Pinterest users have indicated that they have bought products after seeing a promoted pin. Pinterest users tend to skew towards those with a higher income, with 41% of users earning more than $75,000 per year, further cementing Pinterest as a part of the e-commerce ecosystem.

Pinterest has a very active community that often goes onto the platform with a goa—whether to get a recipe, find a solution to a household chore, buy gifts, treat themselves, or have some fun. That positions Pinterest as an excellent platform for businesses looking to connect and inspire their audiences. The photo-forward nature of the platform gives brands a perfect opportunity to showcase their products and services in a fun and creative way.

How Can YMC help?

If you’re interested in establishing your brand on Pinterest and other social media platforms, we’re here to help. At YMC, we specialize in connecting brands with Gen-Z and Millennial consumers, and we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!