I don’t belong to the LGBT+ community, but if I did I can’t say I’d be too happy with M&S’s latest addition to their deli range. After oppression that’s lasted an eternity, the acceptance of those belonging within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer etc. community has progressed greatly. This is thanks in no small part to the tireless and admirable campaigning by advocates that selflessly fought for change and acceptance.
But the battle is far from won. Not only in the UK but across the world, the LGBT+ community continues to live at risk. According to Amnesty International, “a spate of violence against trans people has claimed the lives of at least 325 individuals” between October 2016 and September 2017 alone. Not to mention that one in five LGBT people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity within the last 12 months.
The rights of the LGBT+ are no joke, so why are we taking them as one?
The ‘LGBT Sandwich’, And Why It’s Fundamentally Flawed
Pride is an annual celebration of the LGBT+ community, their achievements, legal rights and self-acceptance. The events that take place up and down the country (and overseas too) also serve as demonstrations for legal rights such as same-sex marriage. Pride is a huge event, almost everybody has heard of it. Which is brilliant. What’s not brilliant, on the other hand, is using it as a profit-making-ploy.
“The BLT is one of our most loved sandwiches and we’re really excited to give it a delicious twist for our customers to enjoy while celebrating Pride season,” says an M&S spokesperson.
Excitement isn’t the word I’d describe to explain its reception, though. ‘Disgust’, ‘anger’ and ‘confusion’ are more fitting words that come to mind. In short, this campaign by M&S, which I’m sure somewhere had good intentions behind it, has come back to bite them. It’s generated masses of publicity, sure. But is it the right publicity? Absolutely not.
Across all the popular mediums: social media, the press and word of mouth; people are talking about the now-infamous ‘LGBT sandwich’. But not with the words of praise that I suppose M&S hoped for.
And joining the conversation, is me. Who tried not to talk about this for some time as talking about brands and their marketing efforts – unless it’s with commendation – is not something I typically like to do. However, there are so many points I can raise that highlight all the detrimental issues with this product, I couldn’t quite not talk about it.
Here’s everything I can identify that’s wrong with this so-called ‘LGBT sandwich’.
It Undermines The LGBT+ Community
Those who belong to the LGBT+ populace have long fought against persecution that one wouldn’t wish to imagine. To put things into context, it’s only been just over 50 years since it’s actually been legal to be gay in the UK, one of the most progressive countries in the world. In some corners of the globe, being homosexual is a crime that’s still punishable by death.
I might be a cynic, and I might be old beyond my years, but I truly think that having a brand use a sandwich to represent a community and a movement that means so so much, is just downright offensive. Not to mention, it alienates the LGBT+ community massively. Why should we single this group of people out?
To me (and this is just my personal opinion, of course), this is the opposite of equality – it’s positive discrimination and is utterly poor play. We can, and should be doing, better.
It’s Not Exclusive
Okay, so another point is that the LGBT+ movement is all about equality.
I’m not sure who really thought that this sandwich would ever be a good idea, but even then – was it not considered to make it exclusive to everybody? The bacon means that this automatically cannot be enjoyed by vegans, vegetarians and those belonging to certain religious groups.
It just seems a bit ironic, doesn’t it?
It Capitalises On Something That Shouldn’t Be Capitalised On
This is perhaps my biggest point of the whole debacle, and one I’ve mentioned a few times prior.
The LGBT+ movement is something that should never really be capitalised on (unless you’re an LGBT+ brand). Using equality to make a profit is unethical in my opinion. And if good PR is what you’re going after, one might argue you’re actually generating quite the opposite.
As a nation, we monetize pretty much everything. Let’s draw an ethical line in the sand and not try and profit from something as important as the LGBT+ community and Pride, eh?
It’s Not Exactly The Best Choice Of Delicacy
And above all else…
I mean, lettuce, guacamole, bacon and tomato doesn’t even sound particularly appetising, does it? If you’re going to do something as ridiculous as market your deli range by piggybacking off the LGBT+ movement, don’t offend them even more by making it something that quite frankly sounds horrendous.
It’s ‘Cheap Marketing’
Just because something has achieved mass coverage and widespread attention, doesn’t mean it’s a success.
I saw somebody call this clever markeing on Twitter. I don’t doubt that this was what they hoped to achieve with this stunt, but the reality is that it’s completely backfired on the brand. It’s all just a bit too transparent that rebranding a sandwich to align with Pride was a cheap shot at marketing, and it’s turned out to not do them any favours at all in the end.
Correct me if I’m wrong?
It Is Downright Offensive
Finally, just to finish off, I’m pretty sure I’ve covered this above but perhaps the most problematic thing about this whole fiasco is that it’s just offensive all around. I could ramble on for another 1000 words about why I believe this to be true, but let me take this to the opinions on Twitter (who’s are probably much more interesting than mine anyway).
“I identify as lesbian,” said one Twitter user. “[N]ot a f—ing lettuce. why don’t you make an ethnic minority or disability sandwich while you’re at it!!” – Emma Westwood.
“Gay sandwiches? Is there no cynical virtue-signalling depth struggling companies won’t now plunge to make a profit? Shame on you @marksandspencer, this is truly pathetic.” – Piers Morgan.
“Shame on the good folks over at @marksandspencer for turning our culture and identity into a sandwich. making an absolute mockery of lgbtq people #lgbtq #lgbt #queer #pride” – Robyn.
I’m not easily offended, trust me. However, I really think this takes the piss. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter.
Not to contradict the above, but I also don’t want to be seen as entirely slating this campaign or its intentions. I know M&S are donating a good chunk of profits to LGBT+ groups, which is amazing. However, I just think they could have promoted this so much better and with so much more intelligence. I don’t see the connection between sandwiches and LGBT+ rights (unless there’s something I’m missing?). To be honest, I just don’t really get it at all. For this, and for the reasons enstates above, I would argue that this is a cheap shot at marketing and an arguably tacky attempt at marketing. By all means, work with amazing causes such as the LGBT+ movement, but for your brand’s sake, do it sophisticatedly.