M&S releases an LGBT sandwich that supports an LGBTQ charity

Something to be celebrated right? Hmmm… not so much it seems.

The supermarket released the BLT-plus-guacamole sandwich to raise money for the AKT (Albert Kennedy Trust), a charity dedicated to helping homeless LGBT+ youth.

In addition to the rainbow packaging, the highly visible use of the LGBT acronym, they also added these words to the pricing shelf in front of the product:

M&S Food is showing their support of the pride season and have this year launched a special LGBTQ+ sandwich – a twist on the traditional BLT.

Many vegan and Muslim LGBTQ people were up in arms on social media about this sandwich as it was not suitable to a proportion of the LGBTQ community.

Looking at the business decision

However the LBT sandwich is one of the most popular sandwiches amongst the general population and so by choosing this sandwich M&S were able to give visibility to LGBT through the clever sandwich name, and also ensure a large amount of money was raised for the LGBT charity.

This branding was not designed for just LGBTQ people to eat – it was designed for all M&S customers and to raise as much money as possible for their chosen LGBTQ charity. Whilst the response can be understood that many felt alienated from this campaign, this was far from pinkwashing and was a brand trying to do something good – attacking M&S will just mean that next year they will think twice and possibly not do anything.

The Albert Kennedy Trust replied to some of the negativity and said:

“akt is proud have the support of brands like marks and spencer, as without it, we couldn’t do what we do.”

Also in response to the social media storm, M&S added:

“We created this colourful sandwich to show our support for Pride – with crispy avocado and smoky bacon, it’s packed with flavour’.”

Normal price for a BLT sandwich:           £2.80

Price of the LGBT sandwich:        £3

M&S have committed to donate £10,000 to AKT, although this is a fixed amount and not linked to the sandwich sales (we have no idea how many were made, or how many were sold)

A brand making progress but still getting attacked?

Looking at the bigger picture. this isn’t the first time M&S has taken to releasing a special sandwich. In 2018 M&S released a Rainbow Sandwich, which also got attacked by the LGBT community but for a different reason.

In 2018 there was no affiliated LGBTQ charity. M&S had made the effort to try to to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues, but failed to hit the mark. When questioned, they did make a statement that in 2018 they were donating to several pride organisations.

“In 2018 we are making a £10,000 donation split across the 5 Pride organisations that we are marching at this year: Edinburgh, London, Belfast, Chester & Manchester.”

It is worth noting that these would be parade submission fees rather than a donation as such and has little benefit on the LGBT community.

So you can see that M&S looked at the 2018 branding and the feedback and they adjusted it for 2019. They also included their LGBT network members so this LGBT sandwich was approved by a large number of LGBTQ people who work for M&S!!

You have to ask yourself, are we attacking the right brands? Are we so used to having to fight for our rights, and being taken advantage of that we are not taking a step back before launching our campaign?!

Why we need to be careful about how we complain about pinkwashing

Why is this approach of attacking a brand or business online a problem?

For starters, they may not be getting it right, but at least they are trying, and the LGBTQ community is benefiting…

Also if we really kick up a stink and the publicity turns negative,  we as the LGBT community, and the LGBTQ charity will lose out from the financial support of a large UK organisation who was willing to give financial and visible support to us…

If a brand is not supporting, then it deserves to be called out – but if they are, shouldn’t we have a little compassion?

Follow the dedicated M&S LGBT Network on twitter: https://twitter.com/mandslgbtq