Marketing to the LGBTQ Community: A New Beginning
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality in the United States, some businesses may be waking up this fall to the realization that they’ve been ignoring a powerful demographic. The number of U.S. LGBTQ families grew more than 80 percent from 2000 to 2010, and with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in favor of marriage equality, that growth should continue into 2020. In 2013, PEW Research released a statistic that there are approximately 170,000 same-sex married couples already in the country, which measured a time when only 13 states sanctioned the unions.
Already in the years previous to the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling, major brands began changing their tunes to a more inclusive one. Traditionally “wholesome companies” started with Pride-related messaging at specific times to highlight their positioning. The most notable example of this was Oreo’s rainbow cookie post on social media, which was a small part in a larger campaign to do creative cookie advertising daily. Oreo posted a cookie filled with rainbow icing with the date June 25 and simply the word “Pride.” That small moment garnered the brand a lot of attention and positive feedback from consumers who shared their worldview.
Inclusiveness has branched beyond a single social media post, however, and started to inform larger campaigns at major brands. Honey Maid’s “This is Wholesome” campaign included same-sex and interracial couples on a national level, and Wells Fargo featured a lesbian couple adopting a deaf child in a national campaign about financial planning. This year, Tylenol’s #HowWeFamily campaign explored diversity in modern family structure, which included LGBTQ people, and Lucky Charms and Allstate have both run Pride campaigns around diversity and inclusiveness. While some of these ads are tied to June (Pride Month), the fact of same-sex marriage’s legality has opened up the market for LGBTQ marketing yearlong.
With the Supreme Court’s stamp of approval, not only is the national dialogue moving towards an even more inclusive one, but it also opens up business opportunities for marketing to same-sex couples. Marketing wedding and family-related services to same-sex couples is not only progressive, it’s practical. LGBTQ households are valuable to capture because of their influence and buying power, and with new life events coming into the mainstream, capturing them during shifting moments is even more valuable to brands.
Inclusive marketing also helps encourage loyalty from an additional segment: Millennials. They have been the strongest demographic in support of marriage equality even before the Supreme Court took action. They lead the charge on changing social attitudes and place a premium on diversity and inclusion in their own lives, as well as in what they expect from the brands with which they interact. Oreo’s social media rainbow, for example, garnered loyalty and excitement among Millennials. While they might have already been Oreo consumers, now they were happy to follow the company on social media and share their appreciation with friends and families. If a brand is looking to revamp with a modern appeal, incorporating inclusiveness to their strategy speaks to a current and fresh view on its consumers and community.
In states where LGBTQ acceptance has long been the norm, local businesses have already engaged with the community as consumers. But for states that had previously opposed same-sex marriage — and are still bucking at the ruling — marketing to include LGBTQ consumers is a rockier road. Companies in these states need to ensure that they are not simply slapping a rainbow sticker on their current branding and moving on with business as usual. Inclusive marketing needs to be done with care, respect and honesty. That means if the company doesn’t truly want to serve the LGBTQ community, they shouldn’t be pandering to them just to bring in revenue and eyeballs. For local and regional businesses, they have an amazing opportunity to build brand relationships with the LGBTQ consumers they directly serve. Marketers need to understand that they may face bumps along the road as they start to incorporate this demographic, especially if they function in areas that had previously been exclusive to LGBTQ families. If local businesses and brands are genuine in their intention to be more inclusive, these bumps can and should be weathered.
Strategic changes to marketing strategies in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling can include simply stopping and finding ways to include a diversity of family structures and people in marketing materials. However, as these brands shift to start including LGBTQ diversity into their advertisements, they should be wary that this type of inclusiveness is not the same as LGBTQ-targeted advertising. While the former can sometimes be part of the latter, inclusive advertising speaks to a broad segment, while targeted advertising tells LGBTQ consumers that the brand knows and understands their specific community, not just how they fit into the greater marketing campaign. LGBTQ audiences are excited when a brand understands they are just one piece of the greater whole of a consumer base, but they also trust and buy into brands that can also demonstrate that they understand their unique attitudes and position.
In all, brands and businesses looking to take steps into LGBTQ-inclusive marketing in 2015 simply need to be sure they’re doing so with the correct intentions and with the same care they practice when looking to reach any diversity of groups. As LGBTQ couples and families grow in the U.S., they’re in need of many of the same services and companies as their straight counterparts, and finding brands and businesses that wish to include them rather than ignore them will be important to their consumer choices for years to come.