The LGBT community is more mainstream than ever, with marketers working hard to reach this educated, affluent group.
With issues such as same-sex marriage constantly in the news, and gay and lesbian characters featured regularly on TV, it is safe to say that the once marginalized LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community has become a part of the mainstream. Gays and lesbians participate in every level of mainstream society — whether they make up suburban families or are single city dwellers. It is no wonder that more and more marketers have caught on and look to reach this affluent group of consumers.
“More and more marketers have become open to reaching this audience because they tend to be high income, affluent, self-sufficient, early adopters with their finger on pulse looking for the newest and the best products,” says Rob Odri, client marketing manager at American List Counsel, which brokers LGBT mailing lists.
From a geographic standpoint, the highest concentration of the gay marketplace is still in and around major urban areas such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Miami. For this reason, the language in advertising creative tends to be urban and savvy. Absolut Vodka, Expedia and Levi’s have all run campaigns that target the savvy urban dweller with attractive creative, and have taken on gay and lesbian causes in their non-profit work.
“These types of companies attract the LGBT community because consumers realize that these companies are speaking to them,” adds Odri. “They donate to pro-LGBT causes and care about the community.” If a company doesn’t have a positive perception in the overall community, he points out, it is “going to have a challenge.”
As a whole, the LGBT community is very educated about brands and looks carefully at whether a brand accepts gays and lesbians. Rainbow Depot, an e-commerce retailer that sells gay-targeted products, prides itself as being gay-owned and operated. Rainbow Depot’s primary demographic tends to trend younger in age — gay or gay-curious people from their teens up to age 27. “All of our products are gay-friendly,” says Steve Sorensen, co-owner of Rainbow Depot. “Our customers are generally coming into their sexuality and looking for products to help identify themselves with the community, so it is important for them to know that they are dealing with a gay-friendly business.”
This sensitivity extends to privacy as well. When American List Counsel sells lists to catalogers and brands, it recommends that gay-specific material not be labeled on the outside of the mailer.
“There is a need for sensitivity in mailings that gay and lesbians receive in the home,” says Odri. “Many people want to enjoy their privacy, so marketers are containing mail pieces in an outer envelope, without announcing the fact that the recipient is gay.”
The gay community as a whole tends to be loyal customers and avid shoppers, but surprisingly, some marketers are not reaching out to this demographic, even if it is a key audience for their products.
“One of the challenges is working with companies who are saying gays and lesbians are not our consumer,” Odri remarks. “One major home décor cataloger that we work with had this attitude, which is a wrong assumption when you realize that this group is often into decorating their home, they have a higher income than other groups and more disposable income because many don’t have children.”
Still, while some brands are not leveraging the potential of the gay consumer, some gay brands are crossing the aisle and selling to straight people as well.
“If you paint yourself into a little niche, that’s all you’re going to have,” says Sorensen. “As the country becomes more accepting [of the LGBT community], you don’t have to just have rainbows around. There is something for everyone.”
Rainbow Depot sends newsletters twice a month to around 14,000 customers who have opted-in to find out about new products and specials, and receive exclusive coupons. During the week of November 17, the e-commerce brand sent out 20% off coupons to begin generating holiday traffic. The brand finds its audience pays more attention to digital than to print. “My customer is savvy and knows how to go online,” said Steve Sorensen, co-owner of Rainbow Depot.
Orbitz has purchased the keyword “gay travel” to help promote its special service that helps gays and lesbians book lifestyle-specific travel arrangements. Once a searcher clicks on the sponsored link, they find a featured destination, such as gay-friendly Curaçao, which has the largest International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association membership in the Caribbean. The page lets consumers shop for flights, hotels and rental cars and includes a special section for deals on gay-friendly destinations.
American List Counsel
American List Counsel was trying to promote the use of its LGBT-specific list among mailers and catalogers. A mailer sent in November focused on gay marriage, because California’s ruling on the issue was starting to become national news. Catalogers who had never purchased this kind of list before tested it, and 75% of those who tested found their sales increased.