As I listened to a recent NPR segment
about advertisers shifting their focus to campaigns directly targeted at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, I couldn’t help but think about the recent surge of brands catering content and showcasing their support on social media as well.
According to the story, LGBT target marketing kicked off in the 1980s with brands such as Absolut advertising in gay publications, and evolved into stages of ambiguity during the ‘90s.
Now, social media gives brands an interesting, two-sided opportunity. On one side, brands are vulnerable to backlash on social media triggered anti-gay sentiment, and on the other, digital marketers are realizing that supporting the LGBT cause can generate a lot of positive attention. If they shy away, they are leaving out a key, money-spending chunk of the consumer audience.
Here are a few examples of LGBT marketing done well:
It was national news when the Dutch beer makers pulled support from Boston’s St. Patrick’s Parade
in light of a ban on gays marching openly. They followed that act with #LikeforLove, an Instagram social campaign for Gay Pride Month. The simple series of photos featured real, heterosexual and homosexual couples, colorful and positive messaging, and included a call-to-action
resulting in increased awareness and activity. The campaign enabled Heineken to set itself apart from the thousands of internationally distributed beers by openly supporting the LGBT community.
Lucky Charms' multi-channel Pride Month campaign was rooted in a video, but spurred posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Like Heineken, Lucky Charms used color, but played off of their name to celebrate societal differences. The cereal brand's call to action
encouraged individuals to share what makes them unique and why they feel lucky to be living in such a colorful world using the hashtag #LuckyToBe. The campaign resulted in thousands of submissions on multiple platforms, and GLAAD praised General Mills cereal for celebrating all types of families.
The hospitality industry is rushing to market to the LGBT community on every channel it can reach. One notable campaign that reached across traditional and social media was Marriot’s #LoveTravels. Its efforts included a hashtag social component, ads featuring openly gay NBA player Jason Collins, dedicated website space
, and aggregated content
. This effort is a fantastic showcase of connecting a segmented audience with traditional and social media. It also is one of the few I’ve seen that features a transgender individual.
One of the world's top wedding destination spots, the Hyatt Regency Maui launched a contest to give away a “dream wedding.” Pretty typical stuff, but the key was that the contest winner was selected by a combination of public voting and internal panel. The voters and panel chose a gay male couple (that had over 1,000 votes and comments) as the final winner, which coincided with recent Hawaii legislation legalizing gay marriage
. The result will do well to brand the destination resort as a top option for gay couples traveling to tie the knot.
Students Moving America.
This national, student nonprofit organization launched a social campaign
aimed at celebrating the act of “coming out” publicly. The primary goal was for users to share their stories to create a community of support and encouragement. While the organization is not limited to gay students, its embrace of a common situation in which young LGBT people find themselves clearly showcases its support and acceptance for gay students, opening the doors for new members as well as increasing its overall notoriety.
Social marketers should approach this type of marketing with a genuine desire to cultivate acceptance. Understandably, capitalism plays a role in the motivation to conduct campaigns specific to the LGBT community, but it does not mean the content and message doesn’t come from a positive and genuine place.
Brands are ready to stand up and show support, and that is a good thing.
Constance Aguilar oversees Strategic Communications at The Abbi Agency, a digital engagement firm in Reno and Las Vegas. You can follow her on Twitter @ConnieAguilar.