“Don’t ask, don’t tell”, the controversial military policy will hopefully be resolved by 2011. In the interim, while a majority of Americans are finally recognizing the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community; savvy marketers are meeting today in Los Angeles for AdweekMedia's Gay & Lesbians Consumers Conference.
The acronym LGBT originated in the 1990’s, still ignites controversy. Members of the community view the lettering as an attempt to be politically correct or a categorization not truly representative of the issues pertaining to each individual group. Regardless, marketers, especially when targeting consumer groups, always tend to develop buckets that best describe their target audience – demographics like women 35 to 49, college educated, $70 thousand plus income etc. AdweekMedia’s two day Gay & Lesbians Consumers Conference is another convenient bucket created to help businesses across a broad range of industries target the $700 billion gay and lesbian market.
IKEA back in 1994 was the first company that actively targeted gay consumers, when they aired a commercial depicting two men shopping for furniture. Soon after IKEA’s strategic move, it was estimated that 36% of Fortune 100 companies began advertising directly to the gay and lesbian market. Extrapolating data from multiple sources, advertising expenditures targeting LGBT, today are in the neighborhood of $300 million (gay print media, LOGO gay network, B2B, digital, etc.). However, critics argue that targeting gays and lesbians is not an indication of social acceptance, but an attempt to tap into an affluent market. Some research nuggets that advertisers and network executives are spotting – gays and lesbians index over twice as likely to be professionals or managers with an average household income of $85 thousand plus.
Here is the irony of directly targeting the LGBT community. A study released earlier in the year by SF based Community Marketing Inc., revealed that purchase decisions were impacted more by what you do, not by what you say. Only twenty-two percent of the respondents indicated that advertising in LGBT newspapers and magazines influenced their buying behavior in comparison to forty-five percent by a company’s social policies – non-discrimination in hiring or recognition of domestic partners. Top tier companies perceived to be gay-friendly identified in a consumer study (Prime Access/Planet Out Inc.) are Bravo Network, Apple, Levi’s, Absolut, Starbucks to name a few.
As a marketing geek, I always find product positioning, especially when it comes to identifying the target audience challenging. I plan to review the outcome of AdWeekMedia’s conference. For me, when it comes to addressing the needs of the LGBT community, it is not about a company’s advertising, but more about its overall corporate policy. If a company decides to advertise specifically to the LGBT community, then it needs to get its messaging correct, a lesson McDonald’s is now learning, thanks to its controversial French TV ad, "Come as your are."