Marketing the Rainbow

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Some companies in "Entertainment" are leaders in the field of Diversity and Equality. One such company is Apple. Not only were they mentioned a LOT of times in my survey as gay friendly, but when their new CEO Tim Cook came out a few years ago - as the only openly-gay Fortune 500 CEO - they more or less set the standard. Yet, even a leader in the field is not always a beacon to follow.

In 2013 they were scrutinized for offering a "gay cure app" in their store: Exodus International, a self-described "umbrella group for ex-gay organization" released an app that according to their web site is "designed to be a useful resource for men, women, parents, students and ministry leaders" to "cure" gays of their homosexuality. Even after 100,000 people signed a petition on to have the app yanked from the iTunes Store, Exodus International was not only found to contain "no objectionable content," it was given a 4+ rating by Apple. It took some more convincing before the app was removed. A similar process was repeated a few months later for the Setting Captives Free app.

Earlier, after a Christian app opposing gay marriage (titled the 'Manhattan Declaration') was pulled from Apple's iTunes store, Christian leaders were outraged. Apple's rationale: "We moved the Manhattan Declaration app from the App Store because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people."

Apple - as part of a coalition with Facebook, Intel, Nike, Oracle, Qualcomm, and numerous other individuals and companies - publicly backed gay marriage, saying that gay marriage bans not only harm workplace morale, but also make it harder for them to recruit gay, lesbian and bisexual workers.

The next year, Alabama’s only openly gay lawmaker, Democratic state Representative Patricia Todd, put forward an anti-discrimination bill designed to protect LGBT employees. She suggested “in jest” to name it after Tim Cook, also an Alabama native. Apple was initially hesitant about Cook’s name being associated so publicly with such a politically sensitive issue. However, they reconsidered, and Todd received a positive call from Apple’s general counsel, Bruce Sewell, saying Cook was happy to lend his name to the cause, thus The "Tim Cook Bill".

Following the 2015 SCOTUS decision, Tim Cook lead 8,000 Apple employees participated in San Francisco’s 43rd Pride Parade in - considerably outnumbering the hundreds of employees from other tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Uber. They also announced that Apple’s ResearchKit would power the world’s largest medical research project into the health needs of the LGBT population.

Later that year they were sued in Russia for ‘gay propaganda’ over including the same-sex couple emoji in their most recent update: a Russian senator claimed the emojis “promoted non-traditional sexual relationships, denied family values and showed disrespect for parents and other family members”. In December a Moscow City Court ruled that the emojis were up for “interpretation” - arguing that the couples pictured could in fact be considered friends or family. They added that the images do not actively promote any behaviours or violate the controversial anti-gay propaganda law. Whoop-dee-doo.

When Apple launched their Mother’s Day campaign in May 2016, one of the protagonist families was a lesbian couple with two kids. A mere 3 seconds in the commercial. Yet, they considered it might be offensive to show the diversity of motherhood, and the segment was removed in the French, German, Italian, Turkish, and Japanese versions of the ad. Buzzfeed: “it is strange that this particular image was omitted only in certain geographies - especially from a company that has made very public commitments to fostering inclusion and diversity across the business.” Apple hasn't yet explained its reasoning.

The fact that their old logo featured six colors of the rainbow, just like the LGBT flag is pure coincidence: the order is different. Apple did use a number of ads targeted at the community though.

Case study: Apple

Branche: Entertainment