Target, a longtime supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, announced Wednesday that they will pull some items from their Pride collection after threats from some members of the public.
The statement explains:
Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior. Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.
According to reporting from the Associated Press:
- Customers knocked down displays, threatened workers and posted videos to social media.
- False rumors spread that an adult swimsuit designed for trans women was being targeted to children, further fanning the flames.
- The Pride collections were moved to the back of the store in some locations, while other items were entirely removed from shelves.
There are nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills sent in front of state legislatures since the beginning of 2023, many of them targeting transgender people, the AP reported.
Some people are comparing Target’s Pride Month campaign to Bud Light’s failed promotion with transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Conservative organization Young America’s Foundation tweeted that “Target deserves the Bud Light treatment,” in response to boycotting the company. Parent company Anheuser-Busch locations faced threats, too.
Target deserves the Bud Light treatment pic.twitter.com/XHFiWiy3YR
— YAF (@yaf) May 24, 2023
The LGBTQ+ response
In a CBS News article, Kelly Ferguson, a leader for the Rainbow Center in California, decried Target’s response.
“When it’s inconvenient for the company, they’re going to withdraw–quietly–in certain areas or certain products. That’s very, very disappointing to see,” Ferguson said.
California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted that Target CEO Brian Cornell is “selling out the LGBTQ+ community to extremists is a real profile in courage” and it “doesn’t stop here.”
CEO of Target Brian Cornell selling out the LGBTQ+ community to extremists is a real profile in courage.
This isn’t just a couple stores in the South. There is a systematic attack on the gay community happening across the country.
Wake up America.
This doesn’t stop here.… https://t.co/1vRgukaT0g
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) May 24, 2023
“You’re black? You’re Asian. You’re Jewish? You’re a woman. You’re next.”
Why it matters: Target sent a message that’s resonating strongly with both those angry over the collection and those who embrace it. By removing the items in the name of protecting its workers from harassment, the store told its LGBTQ+ stakeholders that their needs, feelings and representation could easily be shuffled to the back, too.
While Target is a big proponent of Pride Month and has been a huge example of what a successful campaign looks like, this year has set them back — and sends a cautionary tale to other organizations. Expect to see emboldened anti-LGTBQ+ protesters after they’ve succeeded in cowing two massive corporations.
Target is still trying to please all its stakeholders: keeping Pride collections, but literally hiding them away or getting rid of items deemed too controversial. In the process, they please no one and harm the decade-plus of support they’ve shown for the queer community. Yes, the safety of store employees is paramount — and the statement is light on details about security measures other than moving and removing merch. But these moves will serve to make LGBTQ+ shoppers feel less safe in Target stores for years to come.
With just days before Pride Month, your brand needs to prepare. Review your Pride Month comms plan and ensure you have a crisis plan in place should you become a target of anti-LGTBQ+ activists. Prepare your employees for that possibility. And know where you really stand. Are you an ally? Or was it all rainbow-washing, ready to be swept away at the first sign of rain?
- While 58% of Americans know about ChatGPT, just 14% have dabbled in it, according to a Pew Research Center survey from March. Those who worked with it found it “at least somewhat useful.” If you haven’t tried it yet, you’re not too late to be on the cutting edge. Check out these case studies on generative AI in PR.
- HBO Max is undergoing a controversial rebrand to simply Max. Peacock, NBC’s streaming service, landed a blow with a cheeky tweet and fun social media interactions that helped position it as a fun, young brand willing to ruffle feathers.
- Tina Turner, a legendary rock ‘n’ roll superstar and bold singer who overcame abuse, died at 83 years old. Her life and legacy will be remembered as “simply the best.” Dozens of celebrities took to social media to remember her work, her life and her friendship.
Sherri Kolade is a writer at Ragan Communications. When she is not with her family, she enjoys watching Alfred Hitchcock-style films, reading and building an authentically curated life that includes more than occasionally finding something deliciously fried. Follow her on LinkedIn. Have a great PR story idea? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 Responses to “The Daily Scoop: Target removes some Pride items after threats to employees. The fallout is intense.”
PR Daily News Feed