They represent an approximated 9,000,000 shoppers in the United States alone¹. Official statistics estimate that an average of 4% to 8% of the adult population share their sexual orientation².
But somehow companies still seem reluctant to market directly to homosexual shoppers. And some companies which did, suffered repercussions from other demographic groups.
In this article we will discuss when and how to best market to gay and lesbian shoppers*.
Some decades ago, homosexual individuals were punished for their sexual orientation. Even today, in most countries they are still persecuted and deprived from their rights. Yet, in our modern liberal societies, they increasingly obtain the same rights as heterosexual citizens. Today, in eleven countries gay marriage is accepted³.
So, why do only few companies directly market to this enormous shopper demographic? Maybe, because we aren’t as liberal as we thought.
In 2005, when Ford Company launched ads in gay magazines and supported events of the community, the American Family Association called for a boycott. According to the association, they “successfully” achieved a drop in sales and consequently pressured the automobile manufacturer to refrain from similar marketing activities⁴. In 2010, General Motors sued the organization of the Gay Day which produced a promotional video clip with barely dressed male pole dancers washing a Chevi Camaro. Although, GM was sponsoring the event, the company considered the video to be “tasteless“⁴.
Nevertheless, some car manufacturers have been more succesful. A recent full-page ad by GM to promote its new electronic car printed in the gay magazine Between The Lines was an instant success. Accordingly, the ad cost the car giant merely U$ 750 but turned viral and was clicked some eleven million times already⁵. The ad plays with the concept of the coming-out having the electric car at the center “confessing” to its gasoline-powered parents. Below, the text states “So, whatever revs your engine, we support you 100%“. By subtly and intelligently relating to the gay community, the ad became a huge success and received very positive comments from homosexual consumers.
The first car manufacturer to seriously market to the gay community was, according to a recent spiegel.de article, Japanese Subaru. The company teamed up as early as 2000 with lesbian tennis player Martina Navratilova and released some same-sex couple commercials to promote its Forester model. Moreover, according to a company’s spokesperson, “as first car manufacturer we provided employees living in a homosexual relationship with the same rights and entitlements as heterosexual ones“⁴. This strategy seems to pay off, as a gaywheels.com‘s survey ranked the brand as number one car manufacturer among gay consumers.
Homosexual shoppers are an interesting demographic group for various reasons. First, they represent approximately 5% of the adult population. Second, their average salary is 10% higher than that of heterosexual individuals (U$ 120,600 in 2011)⁵. Moreover, car manufacturers benefit from gay drivers as they demand modern and well-designed city cars which are low in consumption⁵. A spokesperson from Maritz research group was recently quoted in a German magazine: “If car manufacturers are looking for a young, affluent and well-educated clientele, gay and lesbian consumers are the right target“⁴.
So, how can your company successfully market to the gay community?
shoppernewsblog devised 5 tips to take into account:
1. Know your customers – Do you have a product that appeals to homosexual shoppers? What product attributes matter to them? And how are they different in their purchasing behavior?
Nevertheless, you also have to ask yourself: Does your customer base include a demographic group which might oppose to marketing directly to the gay community?
3. Find the right media – Advertise in media targeting homosexual consumers such as specialized magazines, TV shows or websites.
4. Be committed – Participate in events they organize to underline your interest and to learn more about them. Cherish their uniqueness!
5. Be a role model – Just as Subaru, treat your homosexual employees as any other employee. In the end, diversity adds value to your company!
We expect more and more companies to market directly to the gay community in the near future for the very demographics we mentioned above. Furthermore, as homosexuals become increasingly integrated in modern societies, companies have to fear less repercussions from conservative heterosexual consumers.
However, as the examples from the beginning of the article illustrated, it might still be a difficult decision as to how best address this specific demographic. But Subaru demonstrates, being seriously committed to the gay community will improve brand indicators and establish a loyal customer base by providing your company with a considerable first mover advantage.
So, when does your company finally start to appreciate their gay consumers?
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How does your company market to the gay community?
Share your experience with us by commenting below on this post!
*Throughout the article we refer merely to gay shoppers for reason of simplicity although lesbian shoppers are included likewise.
Same-sex marriage map – http://www.bondmag.net/LGBT/gayworld.php