By Doug Gorman, Trends Analyst, GWI
With Pride Month coming to an end, we’ve seen many brands go all out to paint themselves as allies to the LGBTQ+ community. Rainbow logos were all over social media, and many brands, especially within the fashion and cosmetics industries, released rainbow products, pledging to forward large portions of the proceeds from these goods to LGBTQ+ organizations.
Even still, the reception of these initiatives has been varied. The LGBTQ+ community has been quick to call out brands they accuse of being performative or “rainbow-washing”. Companies that are quick to vocalize their support for the community, but slow to take real actions that benefit them may be struggling from a lack of understanding about what makes up the LGBTQ+ community and what their values are.
The LGBTQ+ community is rich and diverse.
One of the most important things to remember when attempting to promote Pride successfully is the fact the LGBTQ+ community may be one of the most diverse groups of consumers out there.
This group encapsulates both men and women, as well as those who identify as neither. It covers all age groups, all races and ethnicities, all income segments and all political ideologies. As a result, it’s important to look beyond gender or sexuality alone to avoid stereotyping this group.
Using data from GWI USA, we can see just how rich and diverse the LGBTQ+ community truly is, and the wide range of attitudes within the group, which run counter to how they’re typically perceived.
For example, while it’s true that the LGBTQ+ community is more likely than the average American to consider their political views as liberal, 36% don’t consider themselves to be either politically left or right, and a further 10% list their political views as conservative.
Additionally, while the LGBTQ+ community is more likely than average to describe themselves as open-minded and tolerant, there are very large segments within this community who do not consider themselves as such. For instance, over 6 in 10 asexual Americans don’t consider themselves to be particularly tolerant, and well over one-third of non-binary or gender-fluid Americans don’t think of themselves as open-minded.
This audience is more diverse than you might expect. Gender and sexuality are merely aspects of an individual’s personality, so campaigns set up to speak to stereotypes will miss valuable segments and you risk making your audience feel excluded.
At GWI we recommend being guided by the data, looking for the natural patterns, the surprising insights rather than sticking insistently to what you think it should look like. Inevitably some of the results will confirm your assumptions, but some of them will surprise you, and it’s in the surprising parts that you have scope to improve your planning or your marketing plan, for example.
LGBTQ+ identification affects how consumers interact with brands.
With the passing of marriage equality acts in many western nations, and the representation of gay, bisexual, and transgender adults becoming more commonplace across modern media, younger generations are far more comfortable coming out compared to their parent’s generation at the same age.
As a result, we’re seeing much higher rates of LGBTQ+ identification among Gen Zs and millennials.
Some marketers are utilizing this fact to market to the LGBTQ+ community in the same way they market to younger age groups, and this data-driven strategy has shown great success on social media.
In the U.S., not only do LGBTQ+ consumers spend nearly half an hour more per day than the average American on social media, they also have a much better perception of social media companies and of the brands who operate on these platforms.
Even when comparing LGBTQ+ Gen Zs and millennials to the rest of their age groups, we find these consumers are much more likely to say they discover brands through both paid and organic posts on social media.
This is due, in large part, to the unique way members of the LGBTQ+ community use social media.
Compared to the average American, they’re much less likely to say they use social media to keep in touch with friends and family, yet they’re far more likely to say social media helps them feel more connected to people.
LGBTQ+ Americans are nearly 75% more likely than average to say they‘ve posted comments online, which they would never say in real life.
Together these facts suggest that LGBTQ+ consumers are using social media as a sort of “safe space”. Social media gives them the opportunity to customize what (and who) they see, and so they feel more comfortable being themselves in these forums than they do in their daily lives.
Consequently, brands looking to reach the LGBTQ+ community on these platforms need to make sure they’re acting as a positive force on social media.
The importance of being authentic in supporting the LGBTQ+ community
For the most part, LGBTQ+ Americans are largely in agreement on the values that are most important to them.
They’re united in their expectations that brands promote issues like diversity, inclusion, social responsibility and eco-friendliness, and just like their response to performative LGBTQ+ support, this group is very adamant that brands be genuine in their CSR initiatives.
35% of the LGBTQ+ community say they want brands to be authentic, and there exists a very real risk of backlash to performative marketing.
LGBTQ+ Americans are already more than 40% more likely than average to say they don’t trust big brands and corporations at all, and they’re nearly 15% less likely than average to say they stay loyal to the brands they like.
A good deal of this trust can be regained through CSR initiatives that have very little to do with gay or transgender topics, as we’ve seen that social responsibility and sustainability are just as important as diversity and inclusion to the LGBTQ+ community.
Pride month might be coming to an end, but the need for better diversity and inclusivity isn’t. Representing diversity first means understanding it better. So brands should focus on making this a priority in all they do, from recruitment to obtaining new customers.