With more money, and the willingness to spend it, homosexuals are being courted by America’s traditionally conservative corporations. What does the future hold for this marketing shift?
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In an attempt to boost their share in an increasingly fragmented and crowded consumer market, a growing number of Fortune 500 companies are targeting the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender (GLBT) demographic.
According to most promotion experts, the GLBT community stands at four to five percent of the total U.S. population. When compared to the niche markets of racial minorities, the GLBT market segment ranks third at $485 billion annual buying power, behind African-Americans and Hispanics, respectively.
Numerous studies reveal that…
• More than 60 percent of homosexuals in the U.S. are college graduates. They are twice as likely as heterosexuals to hold managerial positions, and are twice as likely to earn household incomes of more than $250,000 annually (@Plan).
• Homosexuals tend to have fewer dependents, leaving them with more money to spend.
• Inclined to indulge in certain luxuries, 79 percent are willing to pay a premium for quality products and services; 94 percent go out of their way to purchase from those who advertise specifically to them, via GLBT media (@Plan; Simmons; Greenfield).
America’s leaders are concluding that they can no longer ignore a $485 billion market of 15 million consumers willing to pay more for the best.
American Airlines, Viacom, Proctor & Gamble, Chase and IBM are among a growing number of Fortune 500 corporations competing for the brand loyalty of this emerging niche market. However, they are learning that simply running mainstream ads in homosexual magazines is not enough. Advertisers are finding that they have to “raise the bar” and produce ads that specifically appeal to the particular cares and desires of the GLBT demographic.
Though Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Toyota and other automakers are targeting the GLBT community, Subaru was among the first to do so. When it began to court the homosexual market in 1993, only 89,607 Subarus were sold in America. Ten years later, Subaru sold 186,819. To attract same-sex couples, the car manufacturer used the advertising slogan, “Different drivers, different roads, one car.”
Volkswagen of America, Inc. has perfected “gay vague” ads, in which the men appearing in them may or may not be a couple.
GMC—which has traditionally positioned its products as “tough” and “rugged”—uses product-placement to advertise its Yukon Denali on the popular television show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
Avis Rent A Car promotes its “A Card,” which offers incentives that appeal to the GLBT demographic, such as 20 percent off homosexual-oriented magazine subscriptions. The car rental agency also supports homosexual film festivals throughout the United States, listing them on a webpage for frequent travelers.
In one of its magazine ads, Avis portrays two middle-aged men in skiing outfits, embracing each other, with one man smiling as he receives a kiss on the cheek from the other man. The headline reads, “You’re A-list to us.” The copy announces that Avis has automatically included domestic partners as additional drivers for more than a decade—“No extra fees charged, no questions asked.”
The American Automobile Association (AAA) published a magazine ad that showed two couples driving in a convertible, with their arms raised, under the headline, “We’re out there with you.” The ad copy reads, “We have a long and proud tradition of supporting the LGBT community. AAA offers a wide range of products created especially with you in mind. AAA Travel’s 58 dedicated Vacation Specialists are committed to serving your interests and can plan lesbian- and gay-friendly vacations, and trips with family and friends. We also offer Insurance products, 24/7 Emergency Road Service and Membership benefits for you and your partner.”
In one of its advertisements, Atlantis Cruises showed six muscular young men lying in lawn chairs on the deck of a cruise ship. The headline read, “Our kind of family vacation.” Below, the ad announced that its “new all-gay cruises for 2006 are just what you and your friends are looking for…More gay and lesbian guests traveled for Atlantis in 2005 than any other company in the world. Isn’t it time you became a part of our family?”
Even politics has followed suit. For example, in 2001, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) published a full page ad listing reasons why homosexuals should vote Democrat. Since then, the DNC continues to court the homosexual vote, advertising in Advocate magazine, utilizing messages such as, “One out of three gay couples has children…Republicans believe they should be taken away.”
Society’s growing tolerance for the homosexual lifestyle is apparent. In 1996, only 21 Fortune 500 companies offered domestic partner health benefits; by 2002, more than 160 did so. Popular television programs, such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Will & Grace (now in its eighth season), continue to capture mainstream audiences, with little or no backlash. The California Supreme Court recently ruled that same-sex parents who separated have the same parental rights as heterosexuals. These and other trends are signs that homosexuality is on the road to becoming “the norm.”
With homosexual-specific advertising campaigns on the rise, society can expect to see GLBT-oriented television commercials in mainstream venues, such as during what was once called “the family hour.”
In a Fox News report, the editor-at-large at Advertising Age said that it is smarter and more cost-effective to target a demographic in its specific media. “The logical first step is not to buy 30 seconds on NBC. The logical first step is to put your ad in The Advocate. It’s a more efficient starting point. If that works, then who knows? Maybe you take things more broadly.”
Meanwhile, as mainstream attitudes and opinions succumb to the continuous calls for “tolerance” and “understanding,” those who speak against the homosexual lifestyle will be attacked and vilified for “preaching hatred.” Such voices are already becoming a shrinking minority.