LGBT Consumers Look to Companies to Fill Void of Public Policy

According to recent research, gay males and lesbians place different levels of importance on gay-oriented marketing activities. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are vulnerable to pervasive discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation, education, and medical care due to a lack of legal protection. In contrast to the public sphere, over the past decade, many corporations have shown an increasing willingness to move ahead of public policy in affording equal rights to LGBT employees. In additional to creating internal corporate policies that seek to avoid discrimination and provide equal benefits for LGBT employees, many corporations have recognized the attractiveness of the LGBT population as a consumer market and spend billions of dollars each year targeting members of the LGBT population in the marketplace.

The LGBT consumer marketing is currently estimated to have an overall buying power of over $835 billion. While corporations can be quickly labeled as pursuing the “gay dollar,” the social visibility gained from corporate attention may be seen by some LGBT individuals as pivotal to the fight for societal rights. Hence, many LGBT consumers embrace the power of their spending by rewarding companies that are considered “gay-friendly” in terms of their corporate policies and their marketing activities. The most commonly employed “gay-friendly” activities include the provision of domestic partner benefits, corporate financial support of gay causes, company identification as gay-friendly in its marketing communications, and advertising in both gay and mainstream media.

However, despite some ardent claims from agencies specializing in reaching the LGBT consumer of the efficacy of “gay-friendly” corporate activities, to date, the topic has received little attention in the academic literature. As a result, companies that are interested in targeting LGBT consumers have little to guide their expenditure decisions among a variety of gay-oriented corporate activities, both internal and external. Given the noteworthy amount that corporations are spending on LGBT promotional activity, this research is designed to clarify the relative value of such expenditures to gay consumers when assessing a company’s gay-friendliness. The analysis appears in the Spring 2013 special issue of the American Marketing Association‘s Journal of Public Policy and Marketing .

According to author Gillian Oakenfull, Associate Professor of Marketing at Miami University, this research identifies important market differences between gay males and lesbians, based on demographics and social identity, that can better inform corporations’ promotional expenditure and segmentation decisions when approaching the gay consumer market.

The findings of this research suggest that it is important that companies avoid a treatment of gay consumers as a group with monolithic preferences and perceptions. An individual’s sex and identity with the gay community have a significant impact on perceptions of the gay-friendliness of various corporate activities.


SOURCE American Marketing Association


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