Post-‘Call Me Caitlyn’: What happens now?

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There truly have been few news stories more captivating than the Caitlyn Jenner story, at least that I can remember. The first time we heard her story was in the 20/20 interview with Diane Sawyer back in April. Sawyer interviewed Bruce Jenner, who told America he would be transitioning to the woman he always felt he was come the end of Spring. Then, on June 1st, Vanity Fair released the now-famous “Call Me Caitlyn” cover that finally introduced her to us all.

The feedback CCaitlyn-Jenneraitlyn has received is particularly interesting. We live in a time where the media, particularly the tabloid media the Jenner-Kardashian clan is accustomed to, is notoriously cruel to its subjects. But the majority of people seem really united on this: Caitlyn Jenner is being unapologetically herself and it’s awesome.

So, while this may seem like a “cultural tipping point” on our acceptance of people that seem different than us, the advertising industry still needs to be careful. Whether due to the wishes of Caitlyn herself, or advertisers, most big brands have kept quiet on whether they plan to approach her for endorsements. And it might be for good reason. We may have reached a point where an overwhelming majority of Americans are supportive of Caitlyn Jenner, but it’s still easy for a campaign to go wrong. The reality is this is this is a lot of individuals first exposure to a transgender person, and knowing which pronoun to use can sometimes be tricky.

For those brands who decide to take the leap with Caitlyn Jenner as an endorser, here’s what they’ll need to get it right:

  1. Authenticity – Of course having Caitlyn Jenner’s name attached to your brand is publicity. But this kind of partnership will require authenticity beyond that. For a lot of people, Caitlyn’s story is also deeply personal and sensitive for them, as well. If brands are in it just for the publicity boost, or even worse – to poke fun, it won’t go over well.
  2. Deeper connection – Makeup brands, female-oriented clothing stores and even female-oriented workout gear are obvious choices for Caitlyn. For it to not seem like brands in these categories are jumping on a bandwagon, they’ll need to have a certain edge, progressive attitude and history of supporting causes such as this. Brands like MAC – with a long legacy in the LGBT community, fit the bill.
  3. Conscientiousness – For whichever brand (if any) sign on Caitlyn Jenner, knowing exactly how they are portraying her and exactly what they are saying at all times will be key. This is too much of a hot button topic and too personal for many people for a brand to slip up at any time.

Caitlyn Jenner as an endorser is certainly not about capitalizing on the hot news story of the day. For many people, whether part of the LGBT community themselves or not, she is a powerful beacon for being yourself, and has the ability to start conversations about things our society desperately needs to talk about. Sensitivity will be key for the brands aligning themselves with Caitlyn Jenner. But for Caitlyn, a great endorsement could bring an even higher profile to one of the most inspiring figures in recent memory.

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