Welcome in the Gaybourhood: lessons from Marketing’s first LGBT conference

The stereotypical gay couple—two guys, double income, no kids—is just that: a stereotype. The faster Canadian marketers realize that the LGBT group is not homogeneous, the faster they can improve their targeting to this lucrative community. It was one of the main messages from presenters at Tuesday’s inaugural Connecting with the LGBT Community conference in […]

The stereotypical gay couple—two guys, double income, no kids—is just that: a stereotype.

The faster Canadian marketers realize that the LGBT group is not homogeneous, the faster they can improve their targeting to this lucrative community. It was one of the main messages from presenters at Tuesday’s inaugural Connecting with the LGBT Community conference in Toronto.

Produced by Marketing in partnership with Pride Toronto, the event featured a presentation by Laurence Bernstein, managing partner at Protean Strategies. Bernstein commented on the importance of shunning stereotypes and backed it up with one particular eye-opening figure. He said the size of the size of the LGBT market in Canada is $90 to $100 billion dollars—or about 7.2% of Canada’s GDP. (This dollar figure refers to pre-tax earnings, not disposable income, he added.)

He said this group of Canadians is “punching above their weight in terms of economic power.”

Nigel Pleasants, VP strategic partnerships at Environics Analytics, delved into data from Environics Analytics’ “Gaybourhood” study, a proprietary data set that uses known, measured data on the Canadian male gay market, including data from gay print vehicles and gay hotlines. The data sets in the survey are from Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver and Calgary; in neigbourhoods in those cities where 10% or more of the population is gay, the data shows the median age is 39.8.

The Gaybourhoods study also features usage and expenditure on several different categories, from travel to financial services to fitness and pets. On the living arrangement front, for example, Pleasants said the gay market is twice as likely to rent rather than own in the four previously mentioned markets.

And, compared with the total Canadian population in those four markets, this group is three times as likely to take a leisure trip, and also about three times as likely to consume wine and to have an Amex card. They are also 2.5 times as likely to have purchased home electronics in the past 12 months.

Pleasants said the Gaybourhood study can give marketers some ideas to reach the LGBT market, and other presenters offered their own tips to do so.

Bernstein, for example, said marketers should be aware that the “two guys, double income, no kids” paradigm is shifting. He said the reality is that lesbians constitute 40% to 50% of the market, not all gay households have two incomes and more of them include kids today.

When marketing these products and services to the gay community, marketers can’t simply add a rainbow to their logo and hope the rest will take care of itself. To develop a strategy to engage the gay and lesbian community, marketers need to first establish their gay and lesbian “creds.” Authenticity is key since, as Bernstein said, “LGBT people are distinctly more comfortable dealing with companies they believe are gay friendly.”

Connie Bonello, global business development executive at IBM Canada, later added that it’s important to build a gay-friendly culture at your own organization before going to market with ad campaigns that target them.

Micahel Bach, director of diversity, equality and inclusion at KPMG Management Services LP, put it blunty: “If you attempt to advertise to the LGBT but don’t have your house in order, we’ll see through it.”

He said marketers targeting the gay community in their ads can use a subtle approach to send their message of support to consumers. He used an Orbitz commercial in which one of the actors is wearing a T-shirt with a Human Rights Campaign logo as an example of the more subtle, yet effective, approach. “[The LGBT community] has eyes like a hawk on that sort of thing,” he said.

Closing keynote speaker and business journalist Michael Wilke referenced the good, the bad and the outright homophobic when it comes to TV spots that feature—or, in some cases, mock—the LGBT community. He’s tired of spots that put down “the insufficient man” by presenting how masculine a man should be. And using negative stereotypes around gays and lesbians for a punch line is also poor practice.

He said marketers can be a little more subtle, to create better ads. He pointed to this as an example:

As Wilke summed up, “We’re more than just a punchline; we’re also the bottom line.”

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