OUT Publisher on LGBT Marketing Post-SCOTUS
In an historic ruling handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States on June 26, 2015, marriage equality became the law of the land. With same-sex couples now afforded equal marriage rights, Fortune 500 companies have increased their efforts to target their marketing and advertising to the LGBT community. Earlier this year, Tiffany & Co. debuted its “Will You” campaign featuring a same-sex couple. More recently, a Wells Fargo ad featured a lesbian couple adopting a daughter and the Maytag man tweeted his support for LGBT equality.
As LGBT Pride Month concluded at the end of June, numerous other companies joined the ranks of those creating inclusive marketing and advertising imagery. Here’s how the advertising landscape has changed during my 25 years working in LGBT media:
An Evolution in Imagery Targeting the LGBT Community
In the mid-’90s, marketers were interested in targeting the LGBT segment, but didn’t want to be totally “out” about it. There were a series of campaigns that launched, which I now call “gay vague.” Typically, it was less about showing same-sex relationships and more about subtle references to LGBT culture, such as rainbow colored paraphernalia that the LGBT audience would easily recognize. This kept brands a bit insulated from the mainstream market when engaging the LGBT segment.
Although it may sound cowardly today, in retrospect it was quite empowering at the time. In large part, brands targeting this market were from the travel, alcohol and automotive segments. Clearly, the marketplace has opened up much further to include nearly all consumer product goods and services with a very direct approach. Most LGBT consumers today respond in a stronger fashion to brands that take a bold approach and speak directly to who they are as people and as a diverse community.
On the History of Same-Sex Couples in Mainstream Ad Campaigns
Ikea launched the first television campaign featuring a gay couple in the mid-1990s. They were mainstream in appearance; average guys who were sure not to offend. Portraying a gay couple in their daily life was pretty radical at the time. Fast-forward to recent years, and there are many great examples of brands simply reflecting what the landscape of the American people looks like today, including same-sex couples and families.
Why Companies Are Seeing the LGBT Community as an Important Advertising Target
The LGBT segment is ripe for marketing opportunities as the cultural and political landscape has evolved in recent years. Studies have shown that the average age of “coming out” has dropped dramatically as the level of acceptance in the country has continued to trend upward. This means a continually growing LGBT population that skews slightly younger. In addition, it has been shown that this segment is incredibly loyal to brands that support the LGBT community and speak directly to them as valued consumers.
The recent Supreme Court decision granting marriage equality nationwide has moved the community miles ahead on the road to full equality. It has opened the door for same-sex couples everywhere to start planning weddings and honeymoons, plan for their futures, build families and grow as a consumer segment. With the vast majority of Millennials, as an example, in support of LGBT equality, being inclusive in advertising also speaks to inclusive brand values to the wider mainstream audience.
On the Purchasing Power of the LGBT Market
According to Harris Interactive and Witeck Communications, who conducted their last survey in 2013, the purchasing power of the LGBT market is $830 billion. Clearly, as the market continues to grow, the purchasing power will follow suit. With marriage equality now the law of the land, we will also see a change in the next generation, as they find their place as members of the LGBT community in a stronger manner. This makes the market the ideal audience for marketing and advertising that is created directly for them in a real and authentic manner.
Related story: How to Be a Welcome Marketer at LGBT Weddings