Why you should covet Canada’s LGBT market

June 20, 2012  |  Evra Taylor  |  Comments

The numbers, demographics and spending power of Canada’s often-overlooked LGBT consumer, from Marketing‘s upcoming inaugural “Connecting With the LGBT Community” conference (happening next Tuesday in Toronto).

“Cuz my haters are my motivators.” It was the anthem of the day and the battle cry for what took place in New York City on Feb. 11, 2012.

That day, much of the battlefield was mapped out at 901 Avenue Of The Americas at 2 p.m. The usual push and shove of scurrying pedestrians on crowded Manhattan streets was replaced by a sea of police and security guards. The armed presence was in anticipation of a “pink revolt” backing the internationally publicized decision by JCPenney to appoint Ellen DeGeneres as the retailer’s spokesperson. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) supporters donned pink outfits to signal their support for both Ellen and JCPenney, the normally staid big-revenue chain that had stuck its nose out for the LGBT cause despite the ardent protest of the anti-gay One Million Moms organization. Onlookers cheered—no doubt some jeered—and held cellphones high to capture the action.

It’s seminal situations like this that tell the story of the LGBT community in North America—its challenges and victories. Brands that channel the LGBT experience into their messaging and initiatives can get an increasingly vocal and powerful—both socially and economically—consumer advocating on their behalf.

But there are as many pitfalls as payoffs.

Why market to the LGBT community? Laurence Bernstein, managing partner of Protean Strategies, a Toronto firm that conducts research and develops business strategies for global companies in the LGBT market, says marketing to this community makes good business sense for two fundamental reasons. “First, it’s an identifiable niche market for certain categories where it’s possible to get a competitive advantage—the travel industry, for example,” he says. Travel is a category that can be isolated and contextualized in terms of marketing to a straight or a gay couple, whereas there are no real differences between the reasons a gay or straight couple would buy a car.

Second, says Bernstein, marketing to the LGBT community is increasingly an important part of corporate diversity initiatives. “Internal initiatives, often referred to as employee associations—in the LGBT world, GALAs, which stands for gay and lesbian associations—are intended to create a positive environment for all employees.”

Bernstein points out that these associations spearhead LGBT-directed marketing programs within their organizations, in some cases separate from the marketing department. This commitment to “getting your house in order first” builds a rich pool of perspectives and ideas from which to develop LGBT outreach. “One could be forgiven for not being quite clear as to whether these initiatives are PR exercises or LGBT marketing initiatives,” says Bernstein.

Another reason to covet the LGBT sector is its sheer size—larger than any other identifiable market segment in Canada. However, the numbers game is tough to play with any precision. A person may identify as part of an LGBT segment for their travel purchase, but not when they buy their groceries. Still, one can’t deny the economic impact of LGBT consumers in Canada: according to Protean Strategies, their total before-tax income amounts to roughly $98 billion, equating to approximately 7.2% of the GDP. This is of some significance as the estimate of the number of LGBTs as a percentage of the total population is slightly under 6%. The LGBT population punches above its weight by approximately 22% (taking into account such factors as having fewer dependents). What this means is that the average LGBT person has 22% more spending power than the average Canadian.

Want to connect with Canada’s LGBT community? Don’t miss Marketing‘s inaugural “Connecting With the LGBT Community” conference (happening next Tuesday in Toronto).

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