How to target the diverse LGBT community?

July 13, 2012

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Hi all,

In my last post I pointed out why it is favorable to consider the LGBT community as an own marketing segment. But actually, before thinking about the economic advantages of a target group we should take one step back and think about one essential question which comes up when we talk about the LGBT community: Is it actually possible to consider this diverse group consisting of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders with quite different socio-economical characteristics as one target group? And as a consequence of this diversity is it possible to address them with the same messages?  

Although the LGBT community is considered as one group based on their sexual identity it is evident that they differ in demographic characteristics such as age, level of education and income. In my last post I wrote that some market researches attribute the LGBT community a lot of favorable qualities, for example that they have a higher disposable income and a higher education than the average. The challenge is that a group of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders is inherently very diverse so that it appears unlikely that they have similar interests and desires.

I do think, however, that it is possible to consider the LGBT community as one target group regardless of their diversity. This is because I strongly believe  that in light of three reasons which unite the LGBT community demographic aspects can be neglected to a good extent in marleting communications.:

First of all, they share the experience of their “coming out” as a very important turning point. This “event” has many positive and/or negative consequences. Making the identity known to the public is a demonstration of self-confidence. This demonstration of self-confidence is called “gay pride”. Of course, there are many homosexuals who haven't had their coming out yet (and won't ever have) or just had it in some areas of their social live. But irrespective of the reasons for which they are not or only partly “outed”, the minimum requirement for my assumption is that they must have an “inner coming out” to feel as a part of the LGBT community. The step out of the closet is just the result of this inner process and in front of whom they are coming out is extremely dependent from the social environment.

The second sociological experience is public discrimination: Every LGBT person is at least aware of potential discrimination and homophobia by certain members or groups of the society even though they did not experience it directly. Homophobia is still a big issue in modern societies as several studies show. In 2008 a representative survey of the “Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency” of Germany examined that 46 per cent of the population is feeling provoked by a gay couple kissing in public. Open or covered discrimination of LGBT members is the result of these homophobic tendencies. Especially at school homophobia is a big problem. In a British survey 55 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual high school students say that they experienced homophobic bullying in school and 60 per cent who suffered under homophobic bullying tell that teacher who got aware of it never intervened.

Another experience is the potential social exclusion from some areas of public life. Gays or lesbians are excluded from several formal institutions of the society such as (same sex) marriage, tax equalization or the right of adoption. Clearly, that depends on the country and its progress of gay rights in legislation. Even if they are living in mostly tolerant societies which have totally equalized gay rights completely there are still certain parts of public live where LGBT members are excluded or get the feeling that they are less welcome than straight people. Social exclusion and discrimination are both a result of homophobia among certain groups or people.  

This awareness of these social experiences of discrimination creates a deep sense of community among the members of the LGBT community as well as a deep self-confidence of their own identity. For marketing this means that gays rather feel addressed by advertising which reflects their life conditions as an expression of their “gay pride”. This can be done by symbols, e.g. an ad which shows a same sex couple or labeling of products as “queer, gay or homosexual friendly”. That this way of marketing is successful shows a survey from Harris interactive about brand loyalty among members of the LGBT community: In this study 47 percent say that they preferred purchasing a company’s products or services when they have seen an advertisement which had been obviously addressed to a gay audience. Another result of the three psychological reasons I described above is that gays and lesbians feel rather attracted by brands and locations that are perceived as gay friendly or which are promoting themselves as it. To empathize my argument I want again quote from the Harris interactive study I mentioned above: 71 per cent are more likely to remain loyal to a brand if they believe that the brand is very friendly and supportive to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community even when the product is more expensive than a comparable product of a competitive company.

In the end I want to limit my thesis from the beginning a little bit because we have to keep in mind that the LGBT community still has diverse characteristics and interests. These three sociological experiences I described only impact on the way gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders perceive advertisement and how marketing strategists should address them properly. If a marketing campaign wants to reach the LGBT community it should consider these advices by defining the advertising messages. We cannot say that every member of the LGBT community is interested in the same products or services because the decision of what to purchase is beside the factor of sexual orientation and the sociological consequences linked with it dependent from a row of different characteristics.

What do you think about my thoughts? Do you agree that social reality of the LGBT member formed the affinity of be addressed by marketing or do you think that it is not possible to consider this diverse group as one single target group. Anyway, I am looking forward to your feedback.