The Coming Out of Brands

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Running a campaign targeted at gay consumers outside of targeted media goes beyond pure advertising, it’s a brand taking a public stance as advocates for equal rights. It demonstrates a company’s commitment to being fair and inclusive, building their reputation as a progressive brand.

Over the past decade, many corporations have shown increasing interest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) consumers. Brands started recognizing the attractiveness of the LGBT population as a consumer market in the 1990s, but recently, especially in the US, their marketing activities are starting to move from targeted campaigns in LGBT publications into other media channels.


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When General Mills’ Lucky Charms Cereal celebrated Pride Month with their #LuckyToBe campaign the company came out in support for the community. The press release stated: ‘We're celebrating Pride month with whimsical delight, magical charms, and two new rainbow marshmallows... If you're lucky enough to be different, we're celebrating you.’

The campaign encouraged people to share why they're ‘lucky to be’ on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the campaign’s hashtag and pulled the consumer generated content together on their LuckyToBe site on tumblr.

Watch the Lucky to be ad


 An authentic voice

The UK charity Stonewall published a guide on ‘How to market to gay consumers’ on their website, which is designed to help businesses to engage this substantial and potentially affluent market.

One of the main messages the charity wants to get across is that brands need to incorporate gay people into mainstream campaigns in a way that feels natural and doesn’t play on stereotypes. Campaigns that succeed in finding an authentic voice not only reach gay people, they also talk to their friends and families.


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Find your understanding

Expedia’s recent campaign uses a series of videos to explore the unique and personal possibilities that each trip we make holds for us. One of the commercials entitled ‘Find Your Understanding’ follows Artie Goldstein travelling across the US to attend his daughter's same-sex wedding.

While flipping through family photographs and preparing for his daughter’s big day Artie candidly talks about his feelings and his personal journey of acceptance. The film is genuine and touching, no wonder it won Ad Age’s biggest tear-jerker ad of the year.

Watch Expedia’s ad

One size doesn’t fit all

Companies often overlook the diversity of the LGBT segment itself: gay consumers come from different backgrounds, they are young, old, male, female, singles, couples and parents. UK nursery retailer Mamas & Papas features a diverse mix of modern family set ups in their ‘How we roll’ campaign, including pictures of single- and same-sex parents.

The brand stated on their website the wish to celebrate ‘the diversity and individualism that forms the modern family’. Olivia Robinson, creative director of the company, said in an article in the Guardian: ‘It is certainly not just a publicity stunt – it comes from a belief that parents are changing.’


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Controversy or connection?

Most companies do not want to provoke existing customers or gain publicity purely by causing controversy. Staying consistent isn’t always going to be easy, but it will show a brand’s investment in the matter and build long lasting relationships with gay consumers.

At the moment, responses to inclusive campaigns are going to be mixed, as Sarah Gavin, director for public relations and social media at Expedia, mentioned in a New York Times article: ‘There are a lot of folks who applaud us and a lot of folks who aren’t happy.’ But attitudes are changing and brands are starting to feel more comfortable in showing life as it is and including all their customers in their communication.

As always, the best marketing knows its audience. Brands that successfully connect with LGBT consumers take the time to identify both their values and beliefs; only a genuine understanding of the target market enables sincere and successful communication.

When companies get it right, they not only gain the business of LGBT consumers, they gain the loyalty of the community and connect with consumers who see the inclusion of gay people in a brand’s communication as a sign of a progressive and fair company.


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Key take-aways:
  • Successful campaigns reflect every part of their audience
  • The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender segment is diverse in itself
  • Understand the values and beliefs of all your consumers
  • Consistency and authenticity are the watch-words in building long-lasting relationships

To browse a selection of images representing diverse lifestyles, click here

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