Small Biz

Brand|Pride leverages the power of collaboration

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By Robin Dillard and Melissa Lowery

In 2017, 105 U.S. cities hosted PRIDE activities and 63 percent of LGBTQ Americans said they would or did attend their hometown event—a one-year jump of 34 percent. PRIDE is an opportunity for companies to reach the LGBTQ consumer where they are, celebrating who they are, surrounded by friends, family and companies that support the community. Birthed from a creative brainstorm at the NGLCC national conference, Brand|Pride is an alliance of three award-winning LGBTQ businesses united to help companies create and implement positive, effective representation of their commitment to LGBTQ inclusion.

Here the co-founders of Brand|Pride fill us in on the new collaboration, how matchmaking brought the three companies together, the importance of authenticity in reaching the LGBTQ community and why a unicorn is their perfect mascot.

BEQ Pride: What is Brand|Pride? Who is involved?

Brand|Pride: Brand|Pride is an alliance of three award-winning, certified LGBTQ businesses united to deliver one-stop pride engagements for corporations nationwide. Brand|Pride is comprised of experience design agency IM Creative, promotional products company ZippyDogs and social media gurus Pink Banana Media. Our companies collaborate to deliver a full suite of PRIDE-related services to LGBTQ resource groups and brand marketers who are already occupied with their normal job functions before PRIDE season even arrives. Combined we have an annual revenue of over $10 million, 61 years of experience and over 55 full-time and part-time staff to help companies plan and activate their brand at events all around the U.S. and the world!

BEQ Pride: How did you come together on this endeavor?

BP: During the matchmaker sessions at the 2017 NGLCC conference in Las Vegas, Elise Lindborg watched a pitch that Shannon Morrison and Scott Ihrig of IM Creative presented to P&G. It looked very similar to what Elise had been working on with Microsoft – to our mutual surprise, we were both working on large scale PRIDE activations. IM Creative worked on Intel’s 2017 PRIDE activation and ZippyDogs helped Microsoft with their National and International PRIDE celebrations. Elisee looked at Shannon of IM Creative and stated, “We must collaborate!” It was at that moment, Brand|Pride was born.

Amazon Pride Parade FloatBrand|Pride was conceived in response to clients of both ZippyDogs and IM Creative expressing a desire to be more intentional with their annual spend on PRIDE-related activities. More and more of our corporate clients working with us on sales meetings, product launches and experiential activations are interested in making the most of involvement in PRIDE. When our clients have a need, we will fill that need.

Since soft-launching Brand|Pride in February 2018, interest in our programs has been extremely positive and for many companies an “aha” moment that they really should be acting intentionally and engaging the services of certified LGBTQ vendors for their PRIDE activations.

BEQ Pride: Major corporations are protective of their brand image; what problem does Brand|Pride solve by offering your solution?

BP: PRIDE is an increasingly visible and potent channel in speaking to and with the LGBTQ community. In an environment in which brands see huge potential in increasingly inclusive marketing to the LGBTQ community, LGBTQ consumers are attuned to which brands engage with our community and how. LGBTQ communities are uninterested in being co-opted or appropriated. Companies can’t risk entrusting their brands to their all-volunteer LGBTQ employee groups, but not showing up and sounding off in support of LGBTQ people is not an option. Brand|Pride exists to help corporations thread the needle that engages their LGBTQ employees on the terms appropriate for the communities in which they march. Simultaneously, Brand|Pride helps ensure that corporations protect their brand integrity while demonstrating respect for and membership in our communities.

BEQ Pride: What expertise do the participating companies bring to Brand|Pride?

BP: The teams that form Brand|Pride are each veterans of brand experiences and LGBTQ activism. IM Creative is the nation’s boldest experiential agency trusted by clients in technology, financial services, pharmaceuticals and more, bringing more than 20 years of experience in corporate events and queer causes to bear on behalf of Fortune 500 companies. ZippyDogs brings more than 18 years of experience to help brands show their pride through the highest quality and most unique branded products and apparel available in the marketplace. Pink Banana Media rounds out the trio with more than 23 years of experience in helping companies find their LGBTQ audience online. Together, we make PRIDE simple for planners, fun for participants and appropriate for community and business interests alike.

BEQ Pride: Your motto is “be proud of your PRIDE” – why is this important?

BP: Many of the employees of corporations that have engaged with Brand|Pride have themselves articulated a sense of embarrassment over the professionalism and polish of their self-produced corporate brand presence. Many major global brands have sizable contingents participating in PRIDE events, but corporate resources are not always scaled to the size of a contingent nor the community in which they are participating. For this reason, it is important to corporations that experts who can make the most of their spend while protecting the integrity of both brands and communities are involved in this high stakes annual event. PRIDE as a sentiment is subverted if you can’t feel good about the way in which your company is presenting its LGBTQ marchers.  We help marchers and companies be proud of the way in which they show their support for LGBTQ people and causes.

BEQ Pride: What are your customers saying about the value you bring?

BP: In 2017 and 2018 we provided Brand|Pride services to Starbucks, T-Mobile, Intel, Credit Karma, Facebook, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cracker Barrel, ADP and Microsoft. Each and every company that we have worked with has appreciated the one-stop-shop access to PRIDE experts. More importantly, they were proud to be supporting LGBTQ-owned companies to help them create a seamless, stress-free PRIDE experience for their employees. They all were confident that their brand was reflected positively to the community, their LGBTQ employees and to their future employees.

BEQ Pride: What do companies need to be doing now to prepare for PRIDE 2019 and how can Brand|Pride help?

Facebook PRIDE FloatBP: Next year will be a huge year for PRIDE events nationally and internationally as it is the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The Stonewall Riots are why PRIDE parades exist to this day. LGBTQ people are still fighting for equal rights.

Companies need to involve Brand|Pride early on in their initial planning for PRIDE 2019. Our team can help develop a strategic marketing plan and overall company PRIDE theme, reserve contingent space for participation in select PRIDE parades, create T-shirt and giveaway designs that work with the companies’ brand and activate LGBTQ influencers and other LGBTQ new media folks on the ground, capturing, posting and sharing photos, videos, podcasts and blog posts before, during and after the event.

BEQ Pride: OK, what’s with the unicorn?

BP: The unicorn is the official Brand|Pride mascot. Sightings of unicorns, the most extraordinary of beasts, have been noted in texts for thousands of years. The creatures were so magical no one could be certain of what they had seen. Fierce yet gentle, the elusive beauties were believed to reveal themselves only to those pure of heart. Today, the unicorn celebrates hope, love and acceptance with Pride. To find out what your unicorn name is, visit

ties were believed to reveal themselves only to those pure of heart. Today, the unicorn celebrates hope, love and acceptance with Pride. To find out what your unicorn name is visit

BEQ Pride: For the record, our unicorn names are Darling Milkshake and Rainbow Buttercup.

BP: Welcome to the herd!

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Business Equality Pride (BEQPride) is the first publication from the BEQ family of national print and digital magazines exclusively addressing the needs of LGBTQ small-to-medium sized businesses, entrepreneurs and professionals.