“The gay market is an opportunity market with considerable spending power,” says Joe Landry, publisher of The Advocate, Out, and the Out Traveler magazines. “A 2004 analysis by Witeck-Combs Communications and MarketResearch.com estimates the market to ring in at around US$ 513 billion.”
According to the 2003 G/L census, the median combined household income of gay couples in the US is $65,000, with more than a fifth of respondents reporting a total combined income of $100,000 or more. “With this demographic, incomes are high because education levels are higher,” says Garber. “When you grow up knowing that you might not be protected by society, it’s motivation to be more self-reliant.” As only 13 percent of gay/lesbian couples have children under-18 years of age living at home, this amounts to a serious disposable income for brands to target and vie.
With an estimated 52 percent of gay/lesbian Internet users spending around $100 online monthly, the web is a vehicle that is proven effective in reaching them. “For the GLBT sector the Internet is huge,” informs Garber. “Fifty percent of the population live in urban areas but for the other half living in middle America, the best way to reach others is online. The average user clocks in at 23 hours a week.”
Proof positive of this is the recent success of a television campaign launched to promote a section of the US-based travel site, Orbitz. “Most companies go after the gay audience with national print ads,” says Jeff Marsh, director of marketing at Orbitz. “But you cannot reach millions with print. To reach a larger audience more efficiently, advertising on TV is an extraordinary opportunity.”
Creating a campaign that addresses the GLBT sector (and does a good job of it) has rewarded Orbitz with loyal consumers and better business. “Gays and lesbians represent some of our best customers,” claims Marsh. “Since running our TV ads, we’ve seen a 50 percent increase in traffic. When asked what brands consumers consider when booking their travel online, the percentage of gay users who spontaneously consider Orbitz is considerably higher.”
Landry gives kudos to a few other brands that do a commendable job of reaching the sector. “Absolut has been the most consistent marketer for the longest period of time. They also sponsor GLBT events. Subaru has been advertising for 10 years. They, too, sponsor GLBT events, and have hired (tennis player and lesbian) Martina Navratilova as a spokesperson for a national campaign.”
These brands reap the benefit of paying attention to a demographic that is so rarely addressed in the mainstream—loyalty. “There is no doubt that general marketing efforts are going to reach gays but if you are going to earn their loyalty, you have to be inclusive in messages,” states Marsh. “This means creative with accurate depiction of the gay community without being stereotypical or negative. If you are going to market, you need to market appropriately.”
“Research confirms that the G/L sector has an incredible sense of brand loyalty, depending on if the advertiser reaches out to them,” confirms Garber. “The way to reach this audience is in a sensitive, compelling and honest fashion. If your brand is going to reach out, it’s important to reach out publicly and show a true understanding of how to reach them.”
It’s also recommended that a brand looking to earn loyalty from this sector begin its practice at home by making sure its employees are on board and comfortable with their mission. “For any company to market to the gay community, you have to prepare for success,” advises Marsh. “It’s important to have an internal focus first before looking externally.”
“For a brand to win at this, it’s crucial they have their own housekeeping in order,” adds Garber. “It’s important to implement a full 360 degree approach.”
As publisher of three key G/L publications, Landry’s business centers around brands that are loyal to the gay sector. “Considering the affinity the gay and lesbian consumer has to brands that address them directly, it’s a wise business decision to include them as part of an overall marketing strategy,” he advises.
Garber concludes, “The mainstream is beginning to understand that it’s a global market. There is no magic behind it. Loyalty is a direct offshoot of an emotional connection. Consumerism for this group is a form of activism.”
With recent media focus on issues like gay marriage in the US, Garber is hopeful that the days of threatening brands with bomb threats are over. “Maybe five to six years ago there would have been a backlash. But as the mainstream is more embracing of the culture, there is considerably less energy spent against those who are vocally supportive. What I say to those companies is: ‘how can you tell they are [not] your client anyway?’ ”