Copenhagen’s rising rainbow economy

By Erin Ewen and Hanzhang Xu  

Photo: Hanzhang Xu

Walking through the streets of Copenhagen, you will find rainbow flags flying.  
 
Rainbow stickers sit on shop windows, with businesses proudly proclaiming their support for Copenhagen’s diverse community.  
 
It’s easy to see why Copenhagen is widely regarded as one of the most LGBT+ friendly cities in the world.  

However, some argue that behind this colourful, LGBT+ inclusive façade, is only a marketing strategy focused on producing profit. 

Over the rainbow?  
Rainbow marketing, also known as rainbow capitalism or the rainbow economy, refers to companies branding their products with rainbow flags and colours.  
 
This allows corporations to show their support for the LGBT+ community. 

However, the growing rainbow economy has also raised legitimate issues for the community, including commercialisation and insensitivity. 
 
Are the motivations behind companies to support the LGBT+ community, or to simply create profit? 

Prideful marketing 

During Pride season, rainbow marketing becomes prevalent throughout the city. Copenhagen Pride, held annually in August, draws over 300,000 people to the streets to celebrate the diversity of Denmark’s capital city.  
 
Head of Communications for Copenhagen Pride, Thomas Rasmussen, acknowledges that increasing rainbow marketing carries potential harm with businesses and brands “attempting to make profits by catering to the LGBT+ community.”  

“It is of great importance that the marketing directed at the LGBT+ community is backed by action and real change,” Rasmussen said.  

Behind the branding 

The developing rainbow economy has become a global phenomenon.  
 
Skittles, Absolute Vodka, and even Carlsberg have contributed to the trend, branding their packaging with all the colours of the rainbow.

Photo: Erin Ewen

These companies also sponsor certain pride events, resulting in some organisations to critique these corporate affiliations.

Nørrebro Pride developed in response to the over-commercialisation of Copenhagen Pride and label themselves as an “anti-commercial grassroots-based organisation.”

They focus on celebrating Pride’s as a riot which has inspired liberation for LGBT+ people all over the world.

Copenhagen’s LGBT history 

Being one of the first nations to legalise same-sex marriage, Denmark is widely regarded as one of the world’s most tolerant countries. However, it wasn’t always like this.  
 
“While it might have been “bad business” to support LGBT+ equality 20 years ago it can be a very good business in Denmark today,” Rasmussen said.  

Using the rainbow Pride flag as a mere decoration has the potential to overlook the ongoing struggle of the LGBT+ community, not just in Denmark, but all over the world.  

According to Rasmussen, the people of the LGBT+ community are just as diverse as anyone else in the world.

Some advertisements and commercial acts tend to reinforce the stereotypes which falsely to represent the community.

Creative collaboration

While Copenhagen Pride acknowledges commercialisation as an issue, Rasmussen maintains that “close collaborations between LGBT+ organisations and companies create better and more inclusive workplaces.” 

One organisation striving for this is Rainbow Business Denmark.

Photo: Hanzhang Xu

Rainbow Business Denmark aims to highlight local businesses owned and run by queer people, catering to the diverse community of Copenhagen.

Businesses all over Copenhagen have been adopting rainbow stickers to show their support for the LGBT+ community.  

“The role that small business play is crucial,” said The World Tourism Organisation.

Small businesses adopting LGBT friendly certification “offers a local welcome that benefits from a shared LGBT identity and provides a degree of reassurance of acceptance to LGBT travelers from far away,” found the 2017 Global Report on LGBT Tourism.

Where to next?

Copenhagen continues to grow as an LGBT+ tourism center.

Visit Copenhagen now offers an LGBT Historical Walking Tour of the city, highlighting various historically significant sites throughout the city.  

Copenhagen will also host World Pride in 2021, to showcase the inclusive and diverse community.

Copenhagen’s LGBT history