Every year, during the month of June, various events across the globe are held to celebrate the Pride month in a number of different ways.
There are community events, street festivals and parties, as well as educational sessions, which attract millions of participants annually. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness of the issues facing the LGBT community and recognise the influence of the community’s members around the world.
51 years ago, in the early hours of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Riots began as police raided the Stonewall Inn – a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village. This led to a massive civil rights movement and, a year after the uprising, marches took place in other cities to commemorate the anniversary of the riots. Today, LGBT Pride events are held towards the end of June to mark this march, which over time has transformed into the Pride parades and celebrations that now take place all over the planet.
Edinburgh was one of the cities that marked the 50th anniversary of Stonewall in 2019.
Jamie Love , the marketing director and executive producer for Pride Edinburgh, says: “Pride Edinburgh started as a very political pride in the sense that, being in the capital, we’ve always been very bought into the whole political aspect of it.
“We start the march at the parliament, and we have political speakers, activists – it’s always been that. In the past four years we went from 2,500 attendees to 25,000, so it’s grown in insane amounts. But the good thing with it is that it always retained that real activist foundation, which it was originally built on, and I think very few very Prides can still say that.
“It’s because I found a lot of them have been overcomercialised and overfestivalised, where with pride Edinburgh it’s always been around the activism, making a change and really raising awareness of what is happening. So that’s why, for us, marking the 50th anniversary for Stonewall was so big, because of that kind of activism element. It was a big year for us for sure.”
The birth of Monumental
Love is an entrepreneur based in London, and founder of digital marketing and PR agency, Monumental Marketing, which focuses on growing its clients’ success.
“This year we were voted the Best Growth Marketing Agency in the UK, which was awesome,” he explains. “We started off working in the sectors that I was most comfortable with – we did a lot of lifestyle, fitness and education because that was my background.
“Over time, we started going into every other sector, so now we literally work across any sector in the whole world. We have clients In Hong Kong, in Saudi, in the US, in Europe, and we do everything from initial social media packages that help small businesses, all the way up to being the global agency lead for a number of businesses. So I really want to retain that kind of capability of helping a small business that maybe only has £500 a month to spend on their marketing, all the way up to the big corporate staff wanting to use us as their lead agency as well. Tthat’s kind of where we started and retaining that accessibility is really key to me.”
Monumental Marketing has been the sponsor of Edinburgh Pride for the past two years, although Love intially met the chairperson of Pride about four years ago.
“That’s when I personally got involved with supporting it,” he says. “I was helping out with the marketing, with the PR, the entertainment and then I wanted to almost bridge the gap between Monumental and Pride. So now the whole team is involved in different ways, like our head of sales helps us on the sponsorship fund, our marketing team helps us with the social media and announcements.
“There’s also a PR team that helps us with getting the word out. We find it’s actually a really nice way for the team to come together as, for example, the marketing team and the agency wouldn’t really work extensively with the new business team. So it’s a really nice way that we can work on something that we all hear about and are passionate about in a collaborative way.”
Monumental Marketing also produces main stage in Edinburgh on Pride day itself. Love’s role as a Pride committee member is to oversee the press and marketing activities, and nail down the perfect line up, which takes a number of months.
“When it comes to the press we are actually very careful,” he explains, “because we have very limited capacity as Edinburgh, although it’s an awesome city, is not a big city.”
Love and his team put a lot of time and effort into management of the event, starting to put a lineup together in September for participants to book in March.
“We almost have very operational PR in the sense of having to convert it into actual capacity and how does it fit with our operations and it all fits quite nicely with the entertainment that we line up,” he says. “Different entertainment will attract different people and, for us, Pride Edinburgh is very much a community event. So we try and cater for a community that’s going to be varied. We have to find a piece of entertainment that’s going to work for 60-year-old women as well as an18-year-old non-binary person.”
To ensure the entertainment programme offers something for everyone, Love tries to evolve the entertainment strategy to cater it to as many different people as possible.
“It should be an event and entertainment that invites everyone,” he says. “We don’t discriminate against anyone. We have straight and LGBT performers from Edinburgh and abroad. When it comes to putting together a strategy, we want to ensure we can offer something for every single audience that comes, no matter where they come from.”
Love had begun his activist work in the LGBT community after winning Mr Gay Scotland in 2016.
“I really wanted to do that, because I always hid who I was, because of where I grew up,” he says. “So after I won that, I did kind of create this platform that I wanted to use to do something, and because of my own experiences LGBT Youth was really important.
“I think if people can come into themselves, know who they are and are proud of who they are at young age, that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
Love also recalls the campaign he set up in 2016 called ‘Be Your Own Hero’, saying: “The way we depicted it was to kind of mock the masculinity of the hero. So, you know, superman is very masculine, very macho, and we had me who is like a camp gay guy to kind of mock that. Although you don’t match what you’re taught the hero should be, you still are.”
Off the back of this campaign, Monumental Marketing was founded.
The agency aims to meet the goals of its clients by combining passion with data-driven techniques and a variety of strategies, Jamie explains.
“We just try and involve as much as we can, and just be as active as possible,” he notes. “We’ve just been made an official Tik Tok partner and we always want to be the next big thing. I think it helps that we’re a really young, dynamic team and I like to hire people who have that entrepreneurial self-starter vibe – that they can just go out and say: ‘Tik Tok hit X amount of views, how are we going to use that for our client?’. It’s always about being ahead of the next thing.”
One of the most comprehensive marketing strategies he created and executed was for a music tech client.
“It was comprehensive in the sense that we cover B2B, B2C in a number of different audiences for each globally, and they have a huge music partner,” he explains. “They partner with all the big record labels, so the strategy that went into that is just massive, because there are so many stakeholders and audiences.
“We translate everything we do into about six or seven languages minimum. In terms of how we apply it, I got three people in my team that literally work on that account pretty much full time to deliver this strategy and it’s successful because the company has been running about six years, and two months into our agreement they had the most successful campaign they had ever had, so that was a huge achievement for me.”
Monumental Marketing also strives to build relationships with leads and existing clients by staying responsive and engaging the clients by having an element of surprise.
Love explains: “It’s really informal and, with all my clients, we speak on WhatsApp. We speak outside of the business hours and they are always invited to our events. We do quite crazy stuff that people really buy into like this party that we had…people were so confused – they were just like ‘is this a marketing event? Is it your birthday party?’ and nobody knows, so that’s what I love about us.
“All our reviews mention how responsive and communicative we are, which is key, and then I think it’s also that element of surprise that they just don’t know what to expect next, which keeps them really engaged.”
What interests Love about marketing is the psychology behind it.
“I love sitting with the client, understanding what they want and pulling together the strategy that can deliver it,” Jamie adds.
His projects and collaborations were impacted by lockdown like any other agency, losing some of the work, but his focus was on working harder with clients to find positives in the pandemic.
“Thankfully most of our clients work in technology, so they have been thriving,” he explains. “People are home and are bored, they are on their phones – that’s the marketer’s dream, as they have an engaged audience that wants to learn.
“But it was tough, and I think because we have such close and friendly relationships with our clients – being on calls on the Tuesday of lockdown with eight of my clients who didn’t know when they’ll ever open or could go back – we kept in touch with them and checked what their plans are. We wanted to see how we could help and we really want to support our clients to get through it and make sure that, when they come back, they come back bigger than ever, because they will come back.”
The lockdown period has been a particularly challenging time for marketing teams, but Jamie advises to think about the user first. People’s behaviour has changed. They spend more time online and their needs have shifted.
Love says: “Everyone’s behaviour has changed. Although you are reaching the same people, those people will have very different needs right now. They have more time, they need more value, they want to have something to take away or engage with.
“So, for us, it’s really been about looking at how our brand can be helpful or be entertaining. Now, without hospitality and food brands, for example, we’re looking at offering quick tips or healthy tips or how can we add value to someone’s day, and I think another is to really look at the numbers.
“A lot of our clients have experienced older generations engaging with them digitally. So really revisiting user journeys and user experience at this time is key when there’s a new demographic entering the mix.”
This year, due to social distancing restrictions, Pride Edinburgh is not taking place in a physical sense. Instead, its focus is on the community, making sure that people have the resources they need in order to celebrate in other ways. There will be a number of community groups taking over the event’s social media accounts, with live shows on Facebook to commemorate the day.
Although there are ways in which companies can show support for Pride during lockdown, Love’s strategy is to look internally, striving to make his company more diverse.
“There is this sort of idea that to celebrate Pride you need to colour everything rainbow and tell everyone about it, and I think often when you do that, you forget about the people that are already there – your employees and your team,” he explains. “So if you can’t go big then just go home in the sense of just staying at home and looking at your employees and staff by thinking how you can create an experience for them or even just raise a conversation.
“If it’s a big company, think about how often people talk about diversity, gender or sexuality, and I think this is the time to have those conversations and set up a space to do that.”
As far as succesfully joining in with Pride celebrations, Love points to Skittles as an example of a brand that has been getting it right.
“They’re always the one that stands out,” he says. “I love having them literally change their whole brand just to support Pride and I think that’s amazing. From a marketing point of view it’s a big, bold move, right? The fact that they leave the rainbow to us for that month is amazing.”
But, to many in the marketing world, it means incorporating rainbows into campaigns ahead of Pride month, with many companies simply ‘rainbow washing’.
“It’s a difficult one,” notes Love. “I think the way we look at it at Monumental is that we only work with brands that have an inclusion and diversity policy. And we find that it’s a good starting point to see if someone actually spends time to internalise that and operationalise what that means to their company and people who work there. Or is it just a nice rainbow for them to make more sales?”
As Love puts it, it’s about getting involved and taking action all year round.
- Monumental Marketing, founded in 2017, is a full-service digital marketing & PR agency based in London.