Market Focus: Gays and Lesbians
A Valuable Consumer Niche
Diversity defines today’s social landscape. More than ever we are aware of our neighbors’ multicultural and multifaceted lifestyles. And as marketers, you have a far better understanding of the value of reaching out to niche groups. For more than a decade, gay and lesbian consumers have gained importance as a valuable market, one that boasts brand loyalty and commands impressive buying power. Luckily, direct marketing is one of the best ways to connect with this diverse group, offering both the personalization and privacy that appeal to this niche customer base.
Getting an accurate measure of the size of the gay and lesbian market can be tricky. However, Shawn Thomson, cofounder and creative director of New York City-based Osmosis Medialab Inc., an advertising agency specializing in reaching the gay and lesbian market, places the gay and lesbian community at approximately 6 percent to 10 percent of the total population, or somewhere between 16 million and 27 million in the United States.
Moreover, the gay and lesbian community boasts approximately $485 billion in spending power.
Just like any other segment of the population, this is a diverse group, encompassing a broad spectrum
of interests and consumer needs. However, there are some traits that gay and lesbian consumers share. They are: affluent, highly-educated, sophisticated, brand aware, product loyal and trendsetting. Gay and lesbian households also tend to have fewer children and more disposable income.
Industries currently targeting this market include travel, finance, insurance, entertainment and luxury automotive, just to name a few. High-end fashion and housewares catalogs also do well with gay and lesbian lists, as do nonprofits.
The community also tends to be technologically savvy. “From studies, we see that gays and lesbians are early adopters. They had DVDs and flat-screen TVs earlier than other markets,” says John Knoebel, president of list brokerage firm Triangle Marketing Services, New York City. This makes this audience ripe for Internet and e-mail marketing, as well.
Prospecting names also can come from up to 18 different magazine subscriber lists and the donor files of some 20 different civil rights and legal organizations, as well as travel-related and adult product lists.
When marketing to the gay and lesbian consumer, it’s essential to be for the community and of the community, both in your pitch and creative. “Gay men and women prefer to see themselves in advertising, and response rates improve when messaging is tailored for the gay audience,” says Shawn Thomson. “Marketers must always be very careful to approach gay men and women with the utmost sincerity,” he adds. “In other words, ‘Don’t just market to me, but also support the causes that are important to me.’”
David Rosen, editor in chief of InsightOut, a gay and lesbian book club launched in 2001, agrees. “From day one, we felt it was very important to give back to the community, to help sponsor author readings and events whenever we can. That has helped us gain credibility and really get a share of the heart, as well as the wallet.”
The look of any direct marketing effort also should reflect an understanding of the community. Rosen notes InsightOut, “wanted to project a lively, vibrant, fun, witty and upscale look, because we feel the book market is very savvy and responds to quality.”
Vincent Andaloro, CEO of Rainbow-Pak, an agency that offers FSI, door hanger and cooperative direct mail programs, agrees. “We’re looking to be colorful with a softer tone to the message that says, ‘This is for you. This is about you.’”
Marketers targeting the gay and lesbian market also must strike the right creative balance of another sort. A package must be engaging, but it also must maintain the privacy of its customers. Rosen notes that’s always a challenge; “How far can we literally push the envelope, and what kind of images can we have that will be shorthand to tell everyone, ‘Hey, this is for you,’ without ‘outing’ them?” InsightOut’s latest envelope creative features a striking male profile looking into the words “intense,” “mesmerizing” and “powerful.” Jon Pogact, head of Brewster, N.Y.-based Metamorphics Media, a division of Mal Dunn and Associates that specializes in list brokerage and management for the gay market, says, “Mailers should keep their outer envelopes branded to keep open rates steady; however, without mention to sexual preference or implication.”
The Way to Go
Currently, direct mail and print advertising in the gay press are the most effective methods to reach gay consumers. The Internet is another key avenue to get your word out. However, as social acceptance grows, don’t be surprised if you see more marketers on the TV and radio airwaves. But the most important thing to remember when reaching out to this market is quality. Be creative, be honest and above all, have a good product.