How brands can engage with the LGBTQ+ community more effectively

05 June, 2019 Share socially

It’s June so let the rainbow flags fly…and the corporate gay-washing begin. Brands which promote their liberal principles briefly and suddenly for a month are easy to criticise but on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and against the current polarised political backdrop, corporate support for the gay community has never been more important - it just shouldn’t be at the expense of respect and genuine understanding of their audience. LGBTQ+ consumers represent a largely untapped global multi-trillion dollar market and they deserve more insightful adverts and meaningful brand activism.

In the US, according to Federal Tax Data, married same-sex couples tend to have higher incomes - the income of male couples in 2018 was more than 40 percent higher than that of straight couples and female couples. The spending power of the LGBTQ+ community is estimated to be $5.4 trillion globally which would mean if it were a country it would have the 4th-largest GDP in the world. Despite the obvious potential, very few brands beyond fashion, the arts, culture and travel have worked out how to capitalize on the huge potential buying power of the LGBTQ+ demographic.

The spending power of the LGBTQ+ community is estimated to be $5.4 trillion globally which would mean if it were a country it would have the 4th-largest GDP in the world

The community was originally targeted by fashion, luxury lifestyle brands through dedicated publications such as GQ, Attitude and Diva however as gay culture became more mainstream and accepted, the need for niche outlets has diminished. Over the last few years confidence has dramatically risen among queer supporting millennial and Gen Z consumers who are less shackled by traditional gender stereotypes and openly embrace gay culture resulting in more prominence across social channels which, in turn, has attracted the attention of advertisers. According to a recent YouGov survey 56% of younger consumers no longer identify in traditional gay/straight terms (incidentally 11% of over 60s say the same). The openly out or queer supporting younger demographic especially is a big opportunity for brands but marketers need to understand the nuances of representation as the LGBTQ+ community is diverse. Not everyone within the community has been or has felt adequately represented and having a homogenous view of the demographic is a costly mistake. Although progress has been made, there is still much to do. The diverse sections of the LGBTQ+ community need to see their lifestyles and experiences being reflected through authentic communications.

56% of younger consumers no longer identify in traditional gay/straight terms

How can brands make that happen?

1. Make it a long-term strategy

Don’t speak to LGBTQ+ consumers purely in Pride month – make it part of a long-term strategy. Pride is an ongoing initiative, so do your research and honour LGBTQ+ icons, mark other celebrations such as National Coming Out Day or Lesbian Visibility Day and partner with charities which continually champion diversity such as Stonewall.

2. Engage authentically

Don’t take a blanket approach. Take the time to listen, engage and understand the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community and present positive and authentic LGBTQ+ representations. This is vital because visibility leads to powerful role models, which have been notably absent for too long in brand-led communciations. Micro segmentation is needed for the macro impact that will unlock the spending power of this varied audience.

3. Ensure D&I is part of your business

Ensure your organization, and any agencies you partner with, are genuinely representative of the diverse world we live in rather than an exclusively ‘male, pale and stale’ line-up. Diverse and inclusive teams produce more innovative, more creative and ultimately more effective solutions to challenging briefs.

4. Back up your words with action

Make sure your brand and business is accountable through its actions both internally and externally. The Human Rights Commission compiles an index of the top Fortune 500 companies that support the community and have equal rights in place for their LGBTQ+ employees. Genuine support can reap huge returns - equality and openness, by every measure and all studies, lead to better performance outcomes in business.

    Queer culture has been commercialized for a long time but the full value of it certainly won’t be unlocked through tokenism. Widespread corporate support of LGBTQ+ during Pride month is by no means negative - but we need to go further. Full and complete LGBTQ+ acceptance must be genuinely promoted, understood and measured in all a brand’s actions in order to resonate and have the impact that will unlock positive change – both commercial and societal.

    We partnered with NYC Pride this year to develop an ownable identity to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.