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In China, members of the LGBTQ community face many social and legal challenges, with few avenues of support. ShanghaiPride is an unsanctioned non-profit group, advocating on behalf of the LGBTQ community since 2008. This group of local volunteers knows only too well that being LGBTQ in China can be a lonely experience. Being LGBTQ is not culturally accepted in China, by society or families. For the 10th Anniversary of ShanghaiPride, our brief was to go nationwide, gain media attention and give the movement the recognition it deserves, positioning the community as beacon of hope, empowerment and equality for all LGBTQ people. The objective was to find a common value that would resonate with people all over China and communicate our powerful message of inclusivity. We didn’t just want to connect with LGBTQ people, but also their friends and families so that LGBTQ could become more acceptable in Chinese society.


At the heart of the Rainbow Names campaign was a powerful visual symbol. A universal call-to-action for inclusivity. By turning the Chinese symbol for 10 (which is written as a + sign) into a rainbow and highlighting the existing shape within the character of every Chinese surname – we showed that everyone is connected. The Rainbow Names campaign unified Chinese people through their shared surnames, showing the place LGBTQ people had in every family. Once shared on social, our rainbow names helped garter support and normalize people’s views of LGBTQ as being an integral part of society, a fitting message on the 10th anniversary of Pride in China. It also kickstarted important conversations in provinces with less acceptance, clearing a path for positive change in the future. The fact that anyone could create their own Rainbow Name allowed everyone to become an active advocate, spreading the message through their networks.


Our research revealed that LGBTQ people saw members of their community as a second family. In China, nothing is more important than family. It is the central pillar of Chinese society and culture. It permeates every aspect of life from everyday relationships to business and social interactions. Our data also revealed that almost everyone in China is connected, with 85% of Chinese people sharing as few as 100 surnames. We created a visual device based on this insight that revealed the rainbow within every family, driving home our message of inclusivity in an emotionally impactful rather than confrontational way. By creating a universal symbol of hope and diversity, we gave members of the LGBTQ community and their supporters a visual way to show that no matter how different we may seem, we all belong to one family.


The Rainbow Names campaign ran across China over a two-week period, marking the 10th anniversary of Pride in China. By creating rainbow names from the Chinese symbol for 10 (written as a + sign) and highlighting the shape within the character of every Chinese surname, we created a powerful and shareable symbol that LGBTQ people could spread on social platforms such as WeChat and Weibo. A mobile site allowed anyone to customize their own family name with the rainbow + and share on social. Special pop-up events were held where attendees could meet other members of the LGBTQ family and print their names on posters. Through this simple yet powerful visual device, we told everyone about the 10th celebration of ShanghaiPride, creating a strong personal connection that all Chinese people could relate to, raised vital media attention and sent out a message of unity that we are all one family.


Despite a paid media blackout, Rainbow Names posters spread across social networks and garnered enormous coverage for the work of this small not-for profit group of volunteers. Despite operating under the radar, ShanghaiPride saw a 500% increase in media publishers covering the poster campaign compared to the previous year and they experienced a 50% increase in WeChat followers. The campaign evoked national pride on China’s attitude towards LQBTQ and changed the perception of non-LGBTQ people on their view of equal rights for LGBTQ. ShanghaiPride enabled parents to acknowledge and love their LGBTQ children by supporting them and their dreams. Lastly, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary, Rainbow Names posters gave the ShanghaiPride volunteer group the recognition it deserved, becoming a symbol of positive change across the country.

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