It's the time of year again for Pride Month, a celebration for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. All during the month of June, there will be parades, events, and tons of rainbows as the LGBT community and their allies put their pride on full display.

Increasingly, brands are working to show their support for this historically underserved community. Many will participate in and sponsor local pride parades. Others will put out Pride-themed merchandise, like rainbow-colored cookies, shirts, and bags.

But before your company gets caught up in the euphoria of Pride fever, make sure you're not committing the cardinal rule of engaging with a marginalized community: showing up only during during a celebration for such a community, in this case Pride Month, with a superficial show of support.

People who are part of communities that have traditionally been underserved or ignored can quickly see when brands are being sincere, and when they are just trying to cash in. No one wants to be exploited, or paid attention to just because it is popular or politically correct to do so during a particular month.

Your customers, particularly diverse ones, want to spend their hard-earned dollars with brands that demonstrate they are interested in building a long-term relationship with them and their community.

Here's how smart brands are engaging with the LGBT community all year long, in a way that complements what they do during Pride Month.

1. Be a vocal ally.

Social media makes it so you can communicate your values clearly as you interact with customers on a regular basis. Thus when organizers of a "Straight Pride Parade" in Boston expressed their interest on Twitter in having Axe participate with a float, the brand, known for being a fierce ally of the LGBT community, quickly noted where it was placing its support:

And when someone expressed their disappointment with the brand for not supporting the Straight Pride Parade, the brand quickly clapped back:

Being a supporter of a community means doing so at all times, and especially in those seemingly quiet, low-profile moments when you have an opportunity to stand for what you believe in -- even when there's nothing financially to gain from it.

Don't be afraid to speak up formally in support of the customers you serve, both proactively and reactively.

2. Show your support on relevant causes important to the community. 

Find ways to demonstrate that you've got a pulse on issues that are important to the community all year long. And then incorporate them into your marketing.

Ben & Jerry's ice cream rebranded two of its flavors in support of same-sex marriage. Chubby Hubby was renamed Hubby Hubby, when same-sex marriage was legalized in Vermont. And their apple pie flavored ice cream was reborn as Apple-y Ever After when same-sex marriage was on the table in the U.K.

And when Australia didn't legalize same-sex marriage, the brand took a stand by refusing to sell same-flavor double scoops in stores in the country.

3. Be representative in your promotional campaigns.

If you want to welcome the LGBT community as customers, include them in your marketing.

Shaving brand Harry's incorporates them in their marketing campaigns not running during Pride Month. Harry's was praised by the LGBT community for including a transgender man with scars from top surgery in a spot, along with the voiceover, "You can shave to feel like you."

The more you show your support for and commitment to advancing causes that are important to the customers you're serving, including representation and social initiatives, the more you'll be able to demonstrate to them that they do belong with you. 

Business is about belonging. And you'll do a better job of proving that LGBT customers belong with your brand when you make a concerted effort to extend yourself to them all year long, rather than just one month out of the year.

Published on: Jun 10, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.