Top Brands For LGBTQ+ Consumers: Barnes & Noble, Cartoon Network, Vans

Image above: Cartoon Network's "Steven Universe" was among shows cited as providing LGBTQ+ representation.

LGTBQ+ consumers don’t stop paying attention to brands when July rolls around. A new report from Collage Group focuses on what brands can do to build better relationships with LGBTQ+ consumers year-round.

The second annual “Top Brands for LGBTQ+ Consumers” report looked at how 766 top brands performed with LGBTQ+ consumers across a series of studies from July 2023 and March 2024, more than doubling the number of brands represented in last year’s total of roughly 290.

Top-performing brands all “demonstrate sustained commitment to creating and maintaining safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people, cultivate a robust brand digital presence, and focus on community-building,” Katya Skogen, director of cultural insights at Collage Group, told Marketing Daily.



“Authentic brand connection and engagement with the LGBTQ+ community is not created overnight. It comes from following a deliberate strategy focused on sustained commitment to the community year-round, not just during Pride Month,” Skogen explained. “In fact, 55% of LGBTQ+ consumers say that brand outreach to their community often comes across as insincere. And the main reason for this skepticism is that such outreach often happens only during or around Pride Month.”

A section of the report focused on which brand’s performance differed the most for LGBTQ+ audiences, compared to audiences overall.  

Barnes & Nobles, which ranked 9th with LGBTQ+ audiences, 76 positions higher than its rank with non-LGBTQ+ audiences, was one such example. The report noted Barnes & Nobles’ creation of a welcoming environment in its stores, and its platforming of LGBTQ+ authors and stories -- including in curated book collections and in its social presence. Eighty-seven percent of LGBTQ+ respondents said they’d recommend the brand to others, which Skogen noted was “significantly higher than the norm.”

“LGBTQ+ Americans are digital media power users, they are highly engaged on social media and gravitate toward digital streaming content. Brands that provide a platform for diverse LGBTQ+ voices and inspire creative expression are able to cultivate and amplify positive memories and emotional connections with this segment,” Collage Group senior cultural strategist Heidi Khaled told Marketing Daily, pointing to Cartoon Network as particularly adept at driving engagement through such emotional connections.

Ninety-one percent of LGBTQ+ respondents reported having positive memories or past experiences associated with Cartoon Network, which the report attributed to its long tradition of featuring LGBTQ+ representation in its shows, including popular series such as “Adventure Time,” “The Clone Wars,” and “Steven Universe.”

Cartoon Network, which ranked 19th with LGBTQ+ audiences, was the only brand among the top 20 overall which was also among the most differentiated -- ranking 189 places higher with LGBTQ+ audiences.

Vans was the third brand included as a case study, with the report citing initiatives aligned with LGBTQ+ consumer values -- such as its “Foot the Bill” program supporting small businesses and “Vans Custom Culture” highlighting diminishing school art budgets and supporting the creativity of high school students through art and design inspiration; as well its focus on customization.

“One of the ways Vans earns this street cred is by leveraging its own cultural cachet to uplift the queer community within the action sports industry,” Khaled said. “The brand consistently invests in and celebrates the achievements of LGBTQ+ action sports organizations and individual athletes."

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