Marketing the Rainbow
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Amazon.com, Inc. (est. 1994) is an American multinational technology company which focuses on e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, and artificial intelligence. It is one of the Big Five companies in the U.S. information technology industry, along with Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. The company has been referred to as "one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world", as well as the world's most valuable brand. It started as an online marketplace for books but soon expanded to sell electronics, software, video games, apparel, furniture, food, toys, and jewelry.
Amazon is known for its disruption of well-established industries through technological innovation and mass scale. It is the world's largest online marketplace, AI assistant provider, live-streaming platform and cloud computing platform as measured by revenue and market capitalization. Amazon is the largest Internet company by revenue in the world. It is the second-largest private employer in the United States after Walmart. The company employs over 1.3 million people worldwide.
In 2021 Amazon Studios partnered with GLAAD and Pride Media to present Voices: Pride, a one-day virtual event featuring a series of roundtable conversations and lightning talks with important LGBT+ voices in the media and entertainment industries. It featured Max Harwood of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, A League of Their Own co-creator and executive producer Will Graham, and others. Topics included trans visibility, queer spaces, a writer’s roundtable on LGBT+ representation in the writer’s room, and more.
As a company growing towards a trillion dollar market value, there have - of course - been numerous controversies over the years. Concering LGBT, the most striking was the reclassification of regular LGBT-themed books as adult content in 2009 - including children's books, self-help books, non-fiction, and non-explicit fiction. Amazon first said that there was no policy of de-ranking LGB material and blamed the change on a "glitch" and then on "an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error" that had affected 57,310 books.
In 2018 at least 10 employee-designed Pride posters were defaced at Amazon’s headquarters, for instance by crossing out the “T” in “LGBT” or writing “Why?” over the message. The company replaced those posters and added a message that reiterates its policy on vandalism: “Posters are company property. Defacing posters is a violation of Amazon’s policy.” Some employees voiced their displeasure in an internal email thread over Amazon’s failure to directly address the issue and for not showing more support for the LGBT community.
The corporate website has a page "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion" which states: Our diverse perspectives come from many sources including gender, race, age, national origin, sexual orientation, culture, education, and professional and life experience. We are committed to diversity and inclusion and always look for ways to scale our impact as we grow.
Late 2020 it came to light that they gave a platform for more than 40 American anti-LGBT groups to raise money via the AmazonSmile programme. The relevant Participation Agreement clearly states that eligible charities cannot “engage in, support, encourage, or promote: intolerance, discrimination or discriminatory practices based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or age”. Already in 2018 two major US Christian right organisations - Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Family Research Council (FRC) - were removed from the programme for this reason (while accusing Amazon of religious discrimination), but others managed to sneak in.
In 2018, while searching for a location for their new "HQ2", they seemed to be making LGBT rights a core part of their decision. It would mean an investment of more than $2.5 billion, resulting in 25,000 Amazon jobs. North Carolina lost out due to HB2, better known as the “bathroom bill” (which cost the state over $3.76 billion and 2,900 jobs, see also my article about Boycotts). Eventually Amazon opted for Virginia,
Bezos accepted the 2017 National Equality Award from the US LGBT rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign. In 2012, he and his then wife publicly pledged $2.5m to the fight for same-sex marriage in Washington state.
Although they have 13 employee resource groups "with more than 87,000 employees across hundreds of chapters around the world", there is no explicit reference to LGBT on this page. This only comes up on the underlying page "Affintiy Groups", where glamazon (est. 2005) is mentioned. "Glamazon helps Amazon be a great place to work by educating and informing employees about the LGBT+ community. The group mentors fellow employees (both LGBT+ and allies) and promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion. Amazon is more visible within the LGBT+ community-at-large by sponsoring events and PRIDE around the globe. Glamazon (with more than 60 active chapters around the world) supported the creation of a Transgender Toolkit for
This commercial, which seems to include LGBT employees, had two sides. 1. Amazon Warehouse workers talk about why they love working with the company. One worker loves that Amazon is a trans-friendly work environment and another that their boss is an advocate for them. 2. Observers notice: "Amazon, with all its terrible press about the horrid way they treat their warehouse workers, is using this blatant PR spot to try and make it look like they are taking good care of their employees."
Similarly on Amazon Prime there is a dedicated section - unlike Netflix, for instance - and search results (in the Netherlands) also includes hits from partner OUTtv (not included in the subscription).
It lasted until 2021 for them to decide to remove books from its catalog that frame transgender and other LGBT identities as mental illnesses. Earlier, at least two employees resigned over the issue, and there was a petition that called for the removal of the book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” by Abigail Shrier.
managers and employees to use when going through a gender transition in the workplace. In 2019, thanks to the efforts of glamazon working with leaders across the company, we were honored again to receive a 100 Score on the HRC Corporate Equality Index, a US benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to LGBT employees."
Amazon has a perfect 100 score on HRC's Corporate Equality Index.
Amazon released this holiday commercial in 2019, with the Blues Brothers' song "Everybody needs somebody to love". Among the many meetings and contacts is also a passionate lesbian encounter.
Ellen Degeneres and her wife Portia de Rossi made a commercial for Amazon's Alexa for the 2020 Super Bowl: #BeforeAlexa. Ellen had reviewed and previewed Alexa and its features in her show before as product placement in her show, such as the funny Alexa Backseat Driver, Alexa spying, the Whisper Mode and Alexa's Involvement with the CIA.
The 2020 commercial also had two teasers.
After the 2020 Alexa commercial with Ellen and Portia, Amazon chose another gay-themed presentation for the Super Bowl 2021. The protagonist gets carried away and dances on the table, when his male partner comes home, surprise. "Experience immersive Dolby Atmos Sound with Echo Studio – the best sounding Echo yet."
Distracted by Amazon's "low prices" as he shops from his phone, a man absentmindedly pushes a vacuum over his dog's chew toy, kicking off a montage of other shoppers with their attentions captured by online bargains. All slightly distracted from their activities, they browse the retailer's catalogue as they share a bathroom for their morning routines, tend to livestock and hang around after a parachute crash.
Among the people featured are two lesbian (?) couples, but don't blink or you will miss them. As the company worked with Ellen and Portia before, maybe we are seeing a theme?
This article was last updated Dec 17, 2021
In this Kindle ad, a man and a woman are sitting on reclining chairs on the beach. The man visibly appears to be having trouble reading while using his tablet due to the glare. The woman chimes in with advice suggesting that he uses the Kindle Paperwhite instead. The man promptly buys the Kindle via his tablet and says “we should celebrate.” The woman smiles and says “My husband is bringing me a drink right now” to which the man responds “So is mine.” The camera then cuts to two men buying drinks at an outdoor bar.
Remarkable is that this ad is one of the first to use the term ‘husband’ in reference to a same-sex couple, rather than ‘partner’ or ‘boyfriend’ - even before same-sex marriage was nationally legalized.
A company with the size of Amazon should be a role model for others. Instead, they are wavering in their communications. With the huge media presence they have, one would expect a lot more Marketing the Rainbow, but apart from sub-brands like Amazon Music, not a lot of attention is given to the LGBT community.
Amazon distributes a variety of downloadable and streaming content through its Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, Twitch, and Audible subsidiaries. Amazon also has a publishing arm, Amazon Publishing, film and television studio Amazon Studios, and a cloud computing subsidiary, Amazon Web Services. It produces consumer electronics including Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets, Fire TV, and Echo devices. Its acquisitions over the years include Zoox, Ring, Twitch, Whole Foods Market, and IMDb. Amazon is currently in the process of purchasing film and television studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
On February 2, 2021, Amazon announced that Jeff Bezos would be stepping down as CEO and was succeeded by Andy Jassy, previously CEO of AWS.
The market cap of Amazon is $1.75 trillion as of Oct. 28, 2021. Bezos net worth is estimated at roughly $200 bln. in December 2021, making him the wealthiest person in the world.
This platform stated: "Pride playlists and LGBTQ-identified artists on Prime Music. It's the official time of year to celebrate Pride all around the world, and these themed playlists and artist stations from LGBTQ-identified artists on Prime Music can be your soundtrack. P.S. There's no real end date to celebrating Pride, so please don't stop the music!" Examples are: Drag Race Superstars, Gay Pride Party, Best of Madonna and Adam Lambert and More.
Amazon Music was proud to be the Official Music Sponsor of Pride in London 2017. Settling in as the festival’s first official music partner, the Amazon Music service, a Spotify rival, supported the Pride’s Got Talent competition, launched an official playlist for the event and was one of three sponsors for the Radio Diva Women’s Stage Stage at Leicester Square. Amazon staff also marched in the event, an extension of its glamazon LGBT network. The ad from above+beyond's campaign shows two females holding hands before a closed door, evoking a ‘coming out’ or acceptance scene.
The were present the subsequent year as well.
Amazon Music put together a jubilant slate of content to honor the month, aimed at supporting queer folks around the world through music. All month long, Amazon Music’s Pride activities include new Amazon Original songs, donations, live streams, Alexa features, playlists, music videos, and other content from LGBTQIA+ artists. They relaunched PROUD, the global playlist spotlighting new music from LGBT+ artists, and introduced Orgullo, a brand-new playlist dedicated to Latin LGBT+ artists. They also expanded Pride History, a collection of narrated playlists that share stories and music from the history of LGBTQIA+ liberation around the world.
Lebassis, a Brazilian art director and lettering artist based in Rio, created a visual identity, lettering and illustrations for the Amazon Music and Amazon Music Proud campaign. The global campaigns aim to empower, inspire and connect with the LGBT+ community with vibrant, abstract creative that celebrates diversity. The visual identity was initially created for the app, but due to it’s success was rolled out in to the global Amazon Proud campaign. This included sales categories such as fashion, movies, gaming and electronics. Along with the playlists, the content was made with the community in mind. All of the creators involved, including Lebassis, had connections with LGBTQIA+ history, using the work to share knowledge with the audience.
Similar playlists were made in subsequent years.
In 2019 Amazon Music collaborated with two queer superstars, King Princess and Pabllo Vittar
As part of a month-long celebration, The New Blank created a Pride Month campaign showcasing LGTB+ artists. They developed an illustration style and technique that not only spok to the attitude of the month but also kept producers happy with the flexibility required to accommodate touring rockstars schedules.
Pride is also celebrated on the company's HQ in Seattle, with the rainbow flag flying between the Doppler building and the Meeting Center at the Amazon campus.
As part of raising awareness, a new Alexa skill – “Alexa, tell me a Pride fact" – launched in 2017.
Amazon has made numerous public pledges to non-discrimination and inclusion of LGBT people. For example, as an employer, it has, for several years, offered benefits to same-sex partners of its employees and covered transgender surgical procedures.
As the LGBT community and allies prepared to celebrate Pride Month, Amazon Prime Video was setting up a virtual fest of its own with “Pride Inside”. The event was totally immersive with a 360° environment and users weree able to create a profile that allowed them to invite up to nine friends to explore the festival together via peer-to-peer video. The virtual festival was available globally with a maximum capacity of 2 million users.
The fest, which took place at PrimeVideoPrideInside.com, supported The Black AIDS Institute and the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network. It included performances by artists Betty Who, Vincint, The Aces and Greyson Chance. Drag icon Lady Bunny and RuPaul’s Drag Race alums Manila Luzon, Heidi N Closet, Monique Heart, Raja and Gia Gunn also performed, gave makeup tutorials, and contributed to round-table conversations.
Alexa was also celebrating pride. Each day Alexa users could ask to hear a new story from queer history paired with a song to soundtrack the moment. Narrated by Melissa Etheridge, Tegan and Sara, and Kim Petras. Users could simply say “Alexa, open Glamazon” to get started.
In the first virtual Pride Month due to the pandemic, Amazon Music brought us Proud Voices. Apart from a number of playlists, like they created before, they developed special content, such as shorts with upcoming and established queer artists Hayley Kiyoko, Flip G, Chloe Moriondo, LP, and Brandon Kazen-Maddox, and a 15-minute documentary "Love Me Like You Should: The Brave and Bold Sylvester" - which raked up over 350,000 views.