Marketing the Rainbow

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Pantene is a brand of hair care products owned by Procter & Gamble. The product line was first introduced in Europe in 1945 by Hoffmann-La Roche, which branded the name based on panthenol as a shampoo ingredient. It was purchased by P&G in 1985. The brand's best-known product became the 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioning formula, Pantene Pro-V. The product became most noted due to an advertising campaign in the 1989 in which fashion models said, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful." Kelly LeBrock and Iman gained notoriety as the first television spokeswomen to speak this line. The line was criticized by feminists and became a pop-culture catchphrase for "annoying" narcissistic behavior (says Wikipedia).

The beginning

For a number of years, Pantene has been working with the transgender and non-gender conforming community to, as they call it "increase awareness on the power of hair and advance its mission to create better hair days for everyone. Whatever hair you dream of, Pantene stands with you." It's more than just a marketing ploy - they have created powerful images, introduced well-known spokespersons and even opened and supported 'non-gender salons'.

Philippines: Stronger Now (2018)

In 2018 Pantene made a beautiful feel-good commercial in their campaign Stronger Now, "celebrating the strength in everyone, regardless of gender". With it, the brand unveiled 13 ambassadors from different backgrounds. Lead protagonist in this clip is Kevin Balot, aka "The Girl Named Kevin". Kevin Roxas Balot was born on 1991 in Matatalaib, Philippines. In 2012, she joined Miss International Queen, the most prestigious pageant for transgender women. She ended up winning the competition, despite being only the second choice to represent the country. 

Thailand: See Beauty, Not Gender

In the same year they ran the campaign "See Beauty, Not Gender" in Thailand. Poyd Treechada, who is Thailand's most famous trans beauty queen narrated a story featuring famous Thai trans activists and beauty queens. Pantene Thailand and GREYnJ United wanted to celebrate the beauty of people from all walks of life, without gender boundaries, so took on the topic of transgender people. The emotional storytelling ad aims to look at how transgender people are now more acknowledged and accepted in Thailand than ever before, but there still exists an unspoken bias from the public. The video was also sent to the Cannes Festival to enter the competition.

2019: #HairHasNoGender 

Vogue Italy: "We know it, but Coco Chanel reminds us: "A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life". It is true for women, of course, but also for men. In fact, hair does not and should not have a gender. This is where the new Pantene campaign, called #Hairhasnogender, starts right from here and is part of The Power of Hair initiative. The Power to transform launched by the brand on a European level with one goal: to celebrate the diversity of each person."

The spokesperson for the #Hairhasnogender campaign in Italy is Lea T: Brazilian supermodel, transgender woman and activist for the rights of the LGBT+ community

2019: Coming home should be #BeautifuLGBTQ

For the 2019 holiday season, Pantene launched this campaign with 5 videos, in collaboration with GLAAD. 

The ads feature the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles singing the holiday classic “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and tells the stories of a series of trans and gender nonconforming people as they travel to their version of “home” for the holidays. 

For transgender and gender-nonconforming people, going home for the holidays can be a fraught experience — as can any family get-togethers or social interactions. But this campaign reminds us that families (or chosen families) can play a big part in making them feel welcome as their true selves.

2020: Family is #BeautifuLGBTQ

In November 2020 Pantene released a series of three short films featuring real LGBTQ+ families as part of a campaign to celebrate National Adoption Month. Titled “Family Is BeautifuLGBTQ,” the films aim to show how washing and styling a child’s hair “can serve as a powerful tool to help bond a family,” Pantene said, adding its research indicated that LGBTQ+ couples were seven times more likely to adopt or foster children.

They also hosted an Instagram TV series in partnership with the nonprofit Family Equality featuring adoptive LGBTQ+ families discussing their rituals around hair care and what they represent. The brand pledged to donate $1 (capped at $100,000) to Family Equality for every family photo shared using the hashtag #BeautifuLGBTQ.

The Dresscode project

Pantene is also a partner in Europe of the Dresscode Project, a network of hair salons and barber shops with ** no gender ** spaces currently present more than 200 salons throughout North America. An initiative born in Canada in 2017 thanks to Kristin Rankin, an internationally renowned hairstylist who had the sensitivity to understand how difficult it can be for many transgender people to go to the salon and ask for a men's or women's haircut that is not traditionally associated with own sex. Now Dresscode Project

Within the #Hairhasnogender initiative, Pantene, together with P&G, supports the Libellula Association in Italy, an organization that aims of help and defend transsexual and transgender people. This collaboration should materialize with the opening of a new office in Rome dedicated to LGBT+ people.

The commitment to Gender Equality, together with the enhancement of Diversity and attention to Inclusion  has always been in Procter & Gamble's DNA. The company is one of the 12 founding members of the first global coalition (Campaign for Human Rights) committed to promoting LGBT + equality in the workplace around the world. And in 1992 Procter & Gamble was among the first companies to include sexual orientation in its identity declaration.  In 1996 they created the GABLE (Gay, Ally, Bisexual, and Lesbian Employees) affinity group as one of our three globally recognized affinity groups, with a goal of creating an inclusive environment where LGBT employees feel valued, accepted, and able to perform at their peak. In 2003 they walked in their first PRIDE parade.

"137 million Americans will travel home this holiday season. But, 44% of LGBT+ people feel they can’t come home as their true selves, fearing their identity (including hair, makeup and personal style) won’t be accepted. Let’s make the most wonderful time of year wonderful for all. Because no matter when you come home, where you call home, or who you come home to – coming home should be #BeautifuLGBTQ."

“Pantene is setting the standard for authentic inclusion of LGBT people and stories among brands that transcend industries,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, the President and CEO of GLAAD. “LGBT stories need to be told by brands outside of Pride month and Pantene is demonstrating a real commitment to LGBT storytelling with this moving holiday video."

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m BeautifuLGBTQ+ (2019)

The "Don't Hate Me Because I'm BeautifuLGBTQ+" campaign was a reprise of the brand's 1986 campaign "Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful", when models Kelly LeBrock and Iman starred in the commercial, extolling the virtues of the product for her hair. The tagline “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful” became a pop culture catchphrase. Now, Pantene is looking to transform conventional definitions of beauty by celebrating all types of beauty and transformation.

Next to this charity, they also partnered with The Dresscode Project (Canada, Europe) and Fundacion de 26 diciembre (Spain) to provide safe spaces and job opportunities for the transgender and gender non-conforming community. Pantene’s ultimate mission is "to create more allies for the LGBT+ community, provide safe spaces for those who do not have them, and give more great hair days for everyone. Support is a gift, now more than ever."

This campaign won the Marie Claire Italy "Prix D'Excellence de la Beauté 2020 Ethics Award", which awards projects that stand out for their best performance, values, originality, communication and ethics.

Iman (1987)
Kelly LeBrock (1987)

This article was last updated on Mar 17, 2022

2021: International Transgender Day of Visibility

In a continuation of their Family is #BeautifuLGBTQ theme, they presented the video "Sawyer | Ashley on the power of visibility" in March 2021. We see two lesbian mothers, Ellie and Ashley, talking about their transgender daughter with pride and compassion. These to ladies were appeared in the previous campaign as well. 

Pantene does not only pay attention to LGBT minorities, but also pushes the envelope when it comes to gender roles male vs. female - and the preconceived notions people have about them.

2020: Nina West

In 2020 RuPaul's Drag Race Miss Congeniality Nina West became the new face of Pantene. It resulted in a series of fun clips, based on Nina's apparent love for the country side. 

plans to expand globally by providing associated hairstylists with inclusivity training and create consulting spaces.

The ultimate goal for Italy, in the #Hairhasnogender campaign, is to reach a network of 50 Dresscode Project salons by 2023. Not only that: creating events - " Gender Free Hair Cut " - to provide services to members of the LGBT+ community who cannot go to the salon for economic or personal reasons.

The video went viral - thanks in large part to a ringing endorsement from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg who gave it the “Lean In prize of the day” on the social network: "This is one of the most powerful videos I have ever seen illustrating how when women and men do the same things, they are seen in completely different ways. Really worth watching."

Case study: Pantene

Branche: Cosmetics & Health