When you see a rainbow, what do you think of?
Rain and sunshine. Refraction of light. A pot of gold or the full spectrum of colour?
Or do you think of the LGBTQI+ community?
Many people throughout the world probably think of the LGBTQI+ community, and this is the genius of owning the rainbow. The LGBTQI+ community has appropriated this great and beloved natural wonder as its own symbol to express everything that their community represents.
The rainbow permeated the successful social media campaign which eventually legalised same-sex marriage in Australia. The campaign asked the public to do everything from contacting their local politician, to wearing rainbow coloured laces for a day, to hanging a rainbow flag out their window to show support for the cause. The campaign worked, and it was successful it could almost be taught to future activists as an example of how to harness social media for a social cause – and it was all underwritten by the rainbow motif.
How did this happen?
US artist Gilbert Baker popularised the rainbow flag as a symbol for the gay community as far back as 1978. The San Francisco artist was apparently urged to create a symbol of gay pride by Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States.
The different colours in the rainbow flag are associated with diversity and all have distinct meanings for people within the LGBTQI+ community. While the flag itself may have evolved since 1978, it is still a famous symbol of the LGBTQI+ community and a was a stroke of marketing genius on behalf of Baker.
Interestingly, the rainbow flag was also utilised to unite people during the Reformation, as far back as 1525. It was also suggested as a symbol of the Armenian Republic movement, the Cooperative movement, the Peace movement, Indigenous rights in the Andes, Basque nationalism, Jewish Autonomous Oblast and the Patriots of Russia political party. But how many people throughout the world would associate the rainbow flag with any of these movements? And how many of those people would automatically think of the LGBTQI+ movement?
It is a stroke of marketing genius. So much so that every time many people see a rainbow, they will consciously or subconsciously associate it with the LGBTQI+ community, just as people associate a yellow M with a certain fast-food restaurant. Better still, rainbows cost nothing and are thus free advertising.
Every time a local council paints a rainbow on a public staircase, people will think LGBTQI+
Every time a local council flies rainbow flags, people will think LGBTQI+
Every time the sun shines after rain, people will think LGBTQI+
Image: Mateus Campos Felipe