A Brand to be Proud Of

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Shaun Stanwood
by Shaun Stanwood

Here at Fuseideas, we’re in the business of identifying brand truths, and using them to grow those brands. It’s our job to build brands and help our clients align their media with who they are rather than who they tell us they are.

Typically these brands grow from a business or institution. However, some brands aren’t generated that way. Some come out of the wild and grow socially —the old fashioned way—through hard work and word-of-mouth.

Our subject today needs no introduction. The Pride Flag is a spectacular example of a grassroots brand with no corporation or institution behind it. The fact that it needs no introduction is precisely why it needs to be discussed and recognized.

To help us understand how this came to be, we need a little history lesson. Prior to 1978, the LGBTQ symbol was the pink triangle - the identification system used for homosexuals during the Nazi Holacaust. Harvey Milk, the first gay man to be elected to a high office in a major American city, told associate and artist Gilbert Baker “how action could create change”. And this is how it was decided a new symbol was needed–something made by the LGBT community for the LGBT community. Gilbert teamed up with an artist by the name of Faerie Argyle Rainbow to conceive and fabricate the first Pride flag. It was flown at the Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25 1978.

How did it grow as a brand? Mostly through grassroots networking. Tragic events however accelerated the process. First, just months after the 1978 parade Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were assassinated. This precipitated an increased demand. And again, ten years later, a man by the name of John Stout sued his landlords when he was told he could not hang the Pride flag from his apartment balcony (he won).

As we progress towards the end of Pride Month, there have been discussions on how pride has made its way into advertising and promotions. Now, there are good ways to do that and bad ways to do that but as we examine that, we should take a step back for a minute and admire the branding of Pride for what it is: A powerful and very successful social movement. At first, the only thing it had going for it was a whole lot of love, hope and grit. But over the course of 4 decades the courage and determination of supporters waved that flag, affixed those bumper stickers, pins and badges to their clothes and said “YES WE ARE HERE!”. Even to this day it takes guts to come out, let alone hold aloft a symbol that states it so prominently. Here’s to all the people who helped make this symbol so ubiquitous. Today it stands as a sign, not just of pride, but of support.

Another lesson we can learn from the Pride Flag, even in branding, is to remember who we are, not who we want to be. Because to be a successful brand, we must first be true to ourselves.