Marketing the Rainbow: Why Diversity Isn’t Just Important for B2C

The activities of brands and organizations in the field of Marketing the Rainbow have changed over the years from using homosexuals as a (often incorrect) joke in advertising, to approaching the target group with regard to selling them something, and (for now?) ending in a comprehensive expression of diversity to charge the brand: see for example Amstel, Doritos or Sourcy. That has 6 good reasons.

I described them earlier in the article: “4 Reasons to Practice Your Diversity, Plus Two Additional Reasons.” Two of them were Personal and Corporate Social Responsibility, which also apply to B2B, nonprofits, and charities.

1. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

What started years ago with durability it was soon expanded. My promoter, Prof. Arjo Klamer, wrote the book ‘Doing The Right Thing’. In this, he argues that companies are made up of people and therefore also display human traits. While in the last century the main objective of a company, if not the only one, was to make a profit, that has changed in this century. It doesn’t have to be the primary anymore: a company can best be shown from its good side, while profits are seen as a secondary objective. Secondary does not mean less profit, on the contrary!

CSR begins with the determination of the strategy and policy, which will soon be reflected in the human resources policy. It can then be applied to supplier selection and usually as a final step for marketing and communication.

It is never just about LGBT people: it will always be combined with the role of women and the representation of ethnic minorities, for example. In contrast, LGBT will not always be included as a factor if a company wants to promote gender equality. Finally, it is also barely in article 1 of the Constitution, although the addition “or for any reason” promised a better world. The current amendment proposal aims to add ‘disability’ and ‘sexual orientation’ to this.

2. Staff

Therefore, CSR is often reflected in human resources policy. Allowing an employee to appreciate and be themselves leads to higher satisfaction, higher productivity, fewer sick days, and longer employment: 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 5. Your HR costs go down, your reputation he increases. It has been established that millennials in particular are interested in the D&I image of prospective employers and will drop out if this is not in order. So you don’t necessarily have to belong to a minority or undervalued group to find this important.

So these two points apply to B2C as well as B2B, although B2B is probably less reflected in advertising. The policy will be configured internally first, after which the flag can be loaded. An example.


The Anglo-Dutch company RELX (pronounced “Rel-ex”, formerly better known as Elsevier, later Reed-Elsevier and since 2015 with the addition of LexisNexis in the name as RELX) provides scientific, technical and medical information and analysis and organizes events. . The latter is called Reed Exhibitions: it is the largest exhibition company in the world, with 500 shows for 140,000 exhibitors and 7 million visitors.

RELX is active in 40 countries and serves customers in more than 180 countries. The company is worth approximately $60 billion and has over 33,000 employees who have worked there for an average of 9 years. Elsevier has 8,000 employees and the workforce is made up of 51% women and 49% men, 45% of people managers and 31% of senior executives are women. Elsevier (founded in 1880) is one of the few multinationals to have a female CEO: Kumsal Bayazit.

Inclusion and diversity

While many (but not enough) companies talk about D&I, Elsevier talks about R&D, indicating that diversity is beautiful, but inclusion is more important.

Its corporate website says: “At Elsevier, inclusion and diversity are at the heart of the way we work, think and run our business. An inclusive environment is essential to enable a diverse and unique workforce. We know that inclusive and diverse teams are essential to improve innovation, productivity and decision-making.” Now more (big) companies are profiling themselves with such buzz language, but it’s really only buzz if nothing is done about it. However, RELX does not stop at words.

In 2020, the company was recognized by Workplace Pride as the “Most Improved Private Sector Compared to 2019 Global Benchmark Score: +32.6%” with a score above 90%. Of course, that meant they weren’t doing very well until then, but they worked hard at it, and with success.

Last year, the US branch LexisNexis (employing nearly 11,000 people) achieved the highest ratings on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s annual scorecard: 100%. “At LexisNexis, we are deeply committed to ensuring that our business reflects the diverse communities we serve around the world and fosters a culture that celebrates differences,” said Alyce Clark, executive vice president of global human resources.

The Embassador

Michiel Kolman has been with Elsevier since 1995 and is now Senior Vice President. He actively supports R&D and launched the LGBT platform Elsevier Pride, of which he is now the main sponsor. He has been in the Financial Times Top 100 ranking of the most influential LGBT CEOs for two years in a row. He currently serves as co-chair of the board of directors of the Workplace Pride Foundation, and previously served as president of the International Publishers Association, where he continues to chair the Literacy and Inclusive Publishing Committee. He also supports inclusion in publishing and was Vice Chairman of the board of ABC: The Accessible Books Consortium for 4 years. The ABC aims to make books accessible to people with visual impairments. Diversity everywhere in Kolman’s CV, who is also a regular speaker at conferences, OUTTV and smaller events since his role at Elsevier, IPA and Workplace Pride.

RELX never misses an opportunity to dress up the rainbow company. For example, every year Pride Month is celebrated: this even happens – very modern – ‘intersectionally’ by combining it with, for example, organizations that honor the role of black people in society. #MoreColorMorePride

Around Pride has been around for a few years in various places drag queen bingo organized. What is probably the most boring pastime in the world after cricket is turned into a hilarious event thanks to the introduction of quirky and non-descript hostesses. Over the last two years, it has practically established itself as isolation bingosince the different Pride parades were also virtualized.

amsterdam pride

The display of your D&I policy, in addition to the clauses on your corporate website, can be displayed more prominently when participating in Pride Amsterdam. Ships from companies such as IBM, NS, ING and Heineken have sailed there for decades. There has been a lot of criticism and it has been called ‘the commercialization’ of Pride: what are they doing there anyway? That is not a question I am asking, because I know better: without these participants, the biggest event in Amsterdam would not be possible to afford. Of the 3 million euros it costs, the city only pays 250,000 euros (which makes it the highest grant it awards), the rest has to come from the participants, because selling tickets – that’s not going to work.

You need a power for yourself corporate to participate. Where a group of friends pay a few hundred euros, a company like Deloitte soon has to pay 25,000 euros. Then there are the costs of the ship, costumes, and decorations.

non profit

For nonprofit organizations, the costs are somewhat lower. Reade, a center for rheumatology and rehabilitation medicine in Amsterdam, also participated in 2019. The main objective of the participation was to show that you could be yourself as a member of staff and as a client of Reade. So there was also a human resources component, but the performance of this was impossible to quantify. Since my husband works there, they asked me to help with the organization (he had done it twice before), especially for sponsorship. Because a care institution has limited resources, and although the participation was initiated by the staff association and partially financed by them, the ship also had to be decorated a bit. In addition, some 15 LGBT wheelchairs were moved, to which adjustments had to be made. The image came about thanks to good business relationships and generous private donors, the participants were very enthusiastic and the diversity message was proclaimed to 350,000 viewers, plus viewers at home: “At Reade you can be yourself as an employee and customer”.


Finally, the charities: They need money, and that is often available in the LGBT+ community. LGBT people are interesting to charities because of their high disposable income and brand loyalty, read the affinity they have for the topic – so once you have them as a donor, there’s a good chance they’ll stay connected. This not only concerns LGBT-related organizations, but also those dealing with human rights, sustainability, animals and the environment.

It draws attention, by the way, because they usually don’t have to do it for “their kids”! However, I realize that charities in the Netherlands have little regard for this target group. They probably don’t have the resources to advertise or approach (for a fee) these potential donors. Of course, there are no personal data lists for sale with a rainbow flag next to them. Collaboration with LGBT organizations would put them in the spotlight, but they are generally non-profit organizations with limited resources and a specific goal.


Because R&D is not only a great idea, but can also contribute in various ways to your brand’s load and ultimately to your operating bottom line as well, it’s smart for a company to formulate and implement its strategy. And it’s not just about B2C brands, but B2B, charities and non-profits as well.

Alfred Verhoeven is a marketing specialist and is in the final phase of his Marketing the Rainbow PhD research. He previously wrote for Marketingfacts on TRANSPARENCY, White Smoke & Black Smoke, Matchmaking, Cultural Sensitivities in Marketing, The Myth of the Prosperous Gay, 4 Reasons to Practice Diversity, Boycotts, The Fashion Industry, The Travel World, Real Estate and cars.

Leave a Comment