Victoria’s Secret didn’t look very good after Ed Razek, chief marketing officer of its parent company L Brands, stated in an interview that the lingerie company doesn’t need to include transgender models in its famous fashion show because it’s meant to be a “fantasy.” And yet transgender videos, and the entire gender identity conversation as a whole, are dominating social.
Take Nikita Dragun, for example. The trans YouTuber looked fantastic as she preened and posed through her very own angelic, self-made ad wearing Victoria’s Secret. She directly called out Victoria’s Secret on Twitter, and the video has since been viewed more than 10.5M times on Twitter and 13.6M times on Instagram.
dear Victoria’s Secret,
you said trans women can’t sell the “fantasy” so here i am as a TRANS WOMAN selling the FANTASY! 👼🏻 pic.twitter.com/rKQHp7SLNq
— Mama Dragun (@NikitaDragun) December 5, 2018
The backlash toward Victoria’s Secret was so severe that Razek later apologized, but in the process, the company missed out on an easy marketing win: why not bring their own voice into the gender identity conversation?
Rather than simply apologizing to Dragun and others, the company was set up to produce their own video content that would show that the brand was far more forward-thinking than one errant executive’s words might imply.
As viewers continue to resonate with and seek out content from transgender creators like Dragun, this presents a major opportunity for brands. Here’s how…
The Rise of Gender Acceptance in Society and on Social
Transgender and nonbinary people make up a minority of the population: 0.6% or 1.4 million people in America identify as transgender or gender nonconforming. But their increased acceptance is far more widespread than that.
A majority of Americans said they support equal rights for all regardless of gender identity. According to an Ipsos study, this trend is global, too: a strong majority of people in every country surveyed said they would like their government to do more to protect the rights of transgender people.
Pop culture is driving the conversation and leading to increased acceptance, and this is apparent in social video as well. For example, official video content from the gender role-defying reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race has generated 151.1M views on YouTube and 47.5M views on Facebook in the past year alone.
Additionally, one video of Kim Nam-joon, the heartthrob leader of Korean hit music group BTS (Bangtan Boys), advocating for gender identity acceptance has 6.4M views and has been shared, liked, and commented on more than 1.6M times.
“I want to hear your voice & your conviction I want to hear your voice & your conviction. No matter who you are, your gender, skin colour, gender identity. Find your name & find your voice. Speak Yourself” – Kim Namjoon #BTSxUnitedNations @BTS_twt pic.twitter.com/JccP5DbtrB
— ℓ (busy) (@stussyjimin) September 24, 2018
From Lady Gaga’s smash hit “Born This Way” to the success of A-list transgender actresses like Laverne Cox, a diversity of gender identities are making their way into the entertainment mainstream, and viewers are clamoring for more.
User-Generated Transgender Videos Power the Identity Conversation
While public opinion is strongly in favor of supporting transgender and gender-nonconforming people and their rights, it wasn’t always this way. It’s likely for that reason why today’s top-ranking transgender videos are almost entirely user-generated.
One example is an English speaker’s tweet about a Filipino commercial for Pantene hair products that promotes acceptance of the transgender community. With 4.6M views, the video found a devoted audience well outside the Philippines.
The video, which shows a gorgeous woman and her past self, an unhappy young boy, struck an emotional chord with viewers, who shared the video on Twitter, Facebook, and other networks.
HAVE Y’ALL SEEN THE PANTENE PHILIPPINES COMMERCIAL IN HONOR OF TRANSGENDER AWARENESS WEEK I’M IN TEARS pic.twitter.com/XXz0EIcK2I
— max (@horribleached) December 7, 2018
The objective should be obvious here for both Procter & Gamble (which owns the Pantene brand) and the aforementioned Victoria’s Secret: take a cue from independent creators.
Both of these brands, and similar ones that address beauty and appearance, can capitalize on viewers’ interest in consuming accepting, positive messages about gender nonconformity through promotions and collaboration as they produce their own transgender videos and content.
Today, consumers want brands to stand for something. According to a recent Edelman study on consumer-brand relationships, 64% of survey takers were found to be “belief-driven buyers” who said they wanted to see brands weigh in on important issues. And a people-pleasing brand was found to be less engaging than one that makes a statement about an issue viewers care about.
Take Gilette’s “We Believe” video ad, which tackled toxic masculinity head on — and generated 937K engagements. Whether consumers agreed or disagreed with Gilette’s stance on this social issue wasn’t the point. It was clear viewers were more than ready to debate the issue and eager to gather around a brand with a higher purpose beyond simply selling its stuff.
Whether brands participate or not, customers are already having their own conversations about gender, transgender rights, and nonbinary identity. The audience is already there: people are currently interested enough in this topic to comment, share, and like social videos on a viral scale.
Now it’s up to forward-thinking brands to follow that lead.
Related Read: Creating Content with Purpose: A Chat with Brave Bison