The public’s acceptance of LGBTQ equality has surged faster than any progressive attitude shift toward a minority group, per polling in recent years. This shift has rewritten the playbook for advertisers approaching the LGBTQ market.
What was once seen as a niche market is now a valuable segment courted by major national brands.
The LGBTQ market is large, loyal and influential. The American LGBTQ demographic represents about 16 million consumers, with buying power estimated at $884 million. And they’re loyal: 70% of LGBTQ adults say that they would pay a premium for a brand that supports LGBTQ, and 78% said they would switch to such a brand.
Think about that: Millions of consumers and billions of dollars hinge on a brand’s relationship to the LGBTQ community. That’s not counting the many Americans who, regardless of sexual orientation, feel more favorably towards brands perceived as LBGTQ friendly.
Millennials in particular are progressive and overwhelmingly support LGBTQ equality. It pays to make sure your brand has the right message and tone.
Here are some things for brands to consider as they approach this lucrative market:
Speak with LGBTQs, not about LGBTQs
Brands have had great PR success by including LGBTQ people in their mainstream campaigns (Coke’s Super Bowl ad, Chevy’ Olymics ads.) Of course, your ads should include people who represent the diversity of your customer base . However, simply showing gay couples in ads does not speak directly to the LGBTQ community and its needs.
If you really want gay customers, craft your message specifically to the needs of LGBTQs and get it in front of them where they congregate, physically and virtually. Some noteworthy examples: Honey Maid t urned complaints about LGBTQ inclusion in their ads into a heart-tugging viral video that clearly showed that the company was on the side of love and equality.
Marriott’s #LoveTravels campaign beautifully included gay families and trans models, while reaching people in LGBTQ media online, print and in OOH in predominantly LGBTQ neighborhoods.
Creative, Creative, Creative
If you have a small budget, reach out to your LGBTQ employee group. Kimpton's ads feature their own employees as models. The creative around an LGBTQ campaign should support focused messaging, not simply feature only straight couples in LGBTQ-targeted campaigns. You will not stand out from the crowd by using generic creative and messaging.
Ray Ban’s “Never Hide” campaign featured two men holding hands and the tagline "Never Hide." The company’s creative was unequivocally geared toward and LGBTQ audience and left nothing to interpretation.
Companies hoping to reach this market need to walk the walk. Does your company embrace diversity and inclusion? Does your company highlight sexual orientation and gender identity in its Equal Employment opportunity handbook and training? Do you offer equal health benefits to LGBTQ and straight employees/families? Are managers trained to ensure non-discrimination? Do you expect the same of contractors?
If you can't answer yes to at least one of these questions, LGBTQ consumers will quickly ascertain this, which will affect your brand image, no matter what you put in ads. Focus on improving your policies before trying to market to this audience.
Some companies have joined the political fight against discriminatory laws or used their platforms to advocate for equality. Starbucks was in front of the fight for marriage equality in its home state of Washington.
Salesforce took a stand by protesting Indiana’s discriminatory RFRA law and put pressure on the governor there. Walmart has done positive work in Arkansas. You don’t necessarily need to go this far, but at the very least, ask whether your company is doing all it can for your own LGBTQ family.
Measure your corporation's readiness with HRC's "Corporate Responsibility Index," which scores companies on LGBTQ friendliness. If you have a high score, brag about it. If you have a low score, work on improving it, and go into the market with your eyes open.
Say it Loud and Proud
Showing support forLGTBQ causes once carried risk, but now reaching out to this vibrant and affluent population has zero downside.