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Wednesday
Mar272013

Corporations Paint Their Brands Red for LGBT Rights

Anheuser-Busch(NEW YORK) -- Thousands of people are taking to social media to voice their personal support for gay marriage, and individuals are not the only ones supporting the cause. Corporations and public figures are using their brands to ride the trend this week as the Supreme Court argues two pieces of landmark legislation regarding same-sex marriage.

Political supporters of the gay rights initiatives have donned icons based on the Human Rights Campaign equality symbol with shades of red instead of blue and yellow on their personal Facebook pages.

Governors Martin O'Malley of Maryland, Jack Merkell or Delaware, Peter Shumlin of Vermont and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire -- all from states that allow gay marriage -- changed their profile pictures during the Proposition 8 and DOMA arguments. New Jersey politicians Cory Booker and Frank Lautenberg also joined the cause, changing their avatars on Twitter.

As politicians and consumers alike have altered their social media pages, so did brand names such as Absolut Vodka, Expedia, Amazon and Bud Light.

"It's neat to see that this is not just individuals taking part in voicing their support. Major American brands are getting on board and throwing their support around LBTG and marriage equality, too," said Charlie Joughin, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign said.

On Tuesday, two vodka brands, Absolut and Smirnoff, led the charge in what might be called "equality branding." Absolut Vodka vowed "Absolut Support" in an ad Tuesday and their competitor claimed "Every Pairing Is Perfect," displaying an ad with three different red drink pairings.

Bud Light altered the standard Human Rights Campaign equal sign to make it a little more brand friendly, by replacing the equal sign lines with Bud Light beer cans.

This is not the first time that Bud Light has publicly announced its support for gay rights. In fact they have sponsored a number of Gay Pride festivals across the U.S. This past June, Bud Light hosted Bud Boyz at Chicago's Pride festival, a gay, male modeling contest.

The hit HBO TV series, True Blood created a personalized equality symbol donning vampire fangs on their Facebook fan page.

Equality branding has not only been limited to social media. Companies are using television advertising to broaden their support for marriage equality, too. Recently Amazon released a television ad for their reading tablet, the Kindle, which shows straight and gay couples bonding on vacation.

Expedia ran a commercial that tells the story of a man's journey through the same-sex wedding of his daughter who lives across the country. It tells of his struggle and ultimate acceptance of his daughter as a lesbian.

"You come to terms with it and you say this is the very natural order of things in your life and it's supposed to be this way," the man in the commercial says.

Expedia's competitor, Orbitz has taken the love even further, creating Orbitz Gay Travel, an LGBT-friendly brand with a "perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index and the GLAAD Advertising Award for LGBT-inclusive advertising," according to the company's Facebook page.Kenneth Cole, Target and JC Penney created gay-inclusive advertising. A Target ad promotes wedding registration for same-sex couples with the slogan "Be Yourself, Together."

Similarly, a Kenneth Cole ad shows a male couple holding hands and a statistic that reads, "52% of Americans think same-sex marriages don't deserve a good reception. Are you putting us on?"

Joughlin said that many of these companies have been supporters of marriage equality long before their red logo was posted to the Internet.

He continued, "This is not something new that these companies are jumping onto as a part of the bandwagon. Most of these are companies and groups have been long-time supporters."

According to the Harvard Business Review, this type of advertising is a profitable business strategy for these companies. It boosts employee recruitment and retention and meets marketplace demands.

Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, said, "America's corporations learned long ago that equality is just good business and it's the right thing to do" when he announced his support for marriage equality in a Human Rights Campaign public service announcement earlier this year.

But support for the cause does alienate some people as well. Last year, a boycott was launched by the National Organization for Marriage when Starbucks announced its support for Washington's state's referendum backing gay marriage. And recently a shareholder of the coffee giant complained to CEO Howard Schultz that the company had lost customers because of its support for gay marriage.

Schultz countered that argument responding, "Not every decision is an economic decision. Despite the fact that you recite statistics that are narrow in time, we did provide a 38 percent shareholder return over the last year."

"I don't know how many things you invest in, but I would suspect not many things, companies, products, investments have returned 38 percent over the last 12 months. Having said that, it is not an economic decision to me," he said. "The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity. Of all kinds."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio