Chances are you have seen some type of advertising targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. It has been happening for decades. These ads were mostly visibly through gay and lesbian publications like OUT, Curve or your local gay newspaper. But in the last few years companies have started running LGBT specific ads in mainstream marketing channels. A further evolution of this practice can be seen when companies feature a same-sex couple amongst opposite-sex couples in their ads. Sabra hummus, Chevrolet and Honey Maid are just a few of the companies that have included gay or lesbian couples (with and without children) in their campaigns showcasing a diverse array of families.
So why has the LGBT or LGBT-inclusive ad gone mainstream?
One answer is that it is a smart business decision. The combined buying power of the U.S. LGBT adult population for 2014 was estimated at $884 billion. The largest recorded disposable income of any niche market. The LGBT community also has a reputation for being fiercely loyal to brands that support their people and causes.
It is also the right thing to do. Companies that have a commitment to diversity and documented anti-discrimination policies consistently score higher on LGBT consumer surveys, are usually more sought after by job-seekers and enjoy more positive PR. When given the opportunity, companies have taken a public stance on LGBT rights.
Recently, The Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana would have allowed any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party. But when read between the lines, this meant any business could refuse service to same-sex couples or any LGBT people based on the owner or employee’s religious beliefs. The law was only on the books for one week, when outside pressure from major companies like Salesforce, Apple and Angie’s List contributed to it being significantly amended. Whether it’s a commitment to diversity, a business decision or both, targeting the LGBT community has increasingly become an integral part of marketing and business plans.
You want to reach the LGBT market but where do you start? Below are some important steps to take and tips to consider before embarking on this marketing strategy.
Practice what you preach
Does your business have a non-discrimination policy? Do your hiring and personnel practices include provisions for diversity and LGBT employees? Do you have LGBT-inclusive diversity training in place for your employees? This is especially important in the hospitality and tourism industry as well as any industry that relies heavily on customer service. Before you reach out, reach in and ensure these items are in place.
Segment your segments
It is important to identify your target audience within the LGBT community. Like any community, LGBT people are not a homogenous bunch with the same wants, needs and spending habits. Do you want to reach the millennial gay market or lesbian moms? Identify your best customer segment, create personas within that segment and determine their needs and goals. Then figure out where your brand and their needs and goals intersect. Targeting and focus will lead to improved ROI.
(Don’t) put a rainbow on it
Your creative needs to be creative. Don’t just take a current ad campaign and add a rainbow flag to it. Don’t replace the image of a heterosexual couple with a same-sex couple. Once you have identified the segment of the market you want to reach, make sure your creative speaks to that audience in an authentic, meaningful way.
Engagement not (just) advertising
While advertising will most likely be an important component to any LGBT marketing plan, it is equally important to engage with the LGBT community and demonstrate you are supportive. Attend, sponsor or support a local LGBT event such as a fundraiser gala or have a booth at a pride festival. Connect and network with the community. And don’t forget to let your LGBT customers know you are supporting a cause or event that is meaningful to them. This type of visibility coupled with an advertising campaign can make a greater impact and lead to a more holistic view of how your company is involved in the LGBT community.
Press your LGBT employees into action
If you have LGBT employees, they can be your best advocates. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools and if your employees are out & proud, ask them to say so. Arm them with talking points and let them speak from their hearts. They can become your best ambassadors.
Reaching the LGBT market can be intimidating and there is no one formula or golden rule to follow. Take these tips into consideration and you will definitely be moving in the right direction. To assist you further on this journey, it may be helpful to obtain some strategic guidance. GreenRubino has the expertise to help you be successful.