Many marketers and PR pros are preparing for brand activations ahead of National Pride Month to engage LGBTQ consumers.
However, the message is a difficult needle to thread for organizations looking to embrace a community that hasn’t always been celebrated in the U.S. Though many consumers report wanting their favorite organizations to take a stand on cultural issues, organizations can come across as crassly opportunistic if their message misses the mark.
If you are planning on engaging LGBTQ consumers, start by reaching them through their preferred channels.
What the statistics say
A new study from YouGov reveals that LGBTQ people are less likely to be found watching primetime television but are highly likely to consume online magazines. Out of the average American population, 17% read an online magazine each month, but 40% of LGBTQ folks go online to read articles in Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and more.
However, don’t make the mistake of thinking LGBTQ consumers read only targeted publications like Out Magazine. Some 69% report reading that LGBTQ-themed pub, but a robust 90% read The New Yorker.
These audiences are also big fans of streaming platforms such as Hulu and YouTube.
The report states:
Self-identified lesbian, gay or bisexual individuals were more likely to say that they had watched streaming video in their home over the last month than the average American (70% of lesbian, gay or bisexual individuals said they watched streaming video over the last 30 days compared with 59% of the nationally representative sample).
This group was more likely than the average American to have a paid account on Hulu (18% vs 12%), to have a paid account on Netflix (37% vs. 31%), and slightly more likely to have a paid YouTube account (4% vs 2%).
They’re also far more likely to use Netflix (29% vs. 23%), YouTube (12% vs. 9%) and Hulu (7% vs 6%) as a way to catch up on missed shows. And they spend more time on Hulu and YouTube than the average American — this group reports watching both platforms with more frequency than the nationally representative sample.
One venue that advertisers and communicators should heavily consider for LGBTQ activations is mass transit. One-third (33%) of LGBTQ respondents reported seeing an advertisement on the outside of a bus, and 23% reported seeing messages on bus shelters or at bus stops, compared with the total population, which reports 28% and 19% respectively.
What LGBTQ consumers want to hear
Organizations looking to engage LGBTQ consumers should know that targeted messages can come across as gratuitous.
On Twitter, many users are already complaining about brand messages looking to target LGBTQ people.
Pride marketing is all the rage! And frankly It is a turn off for some of us because 20 years ago many of these same companies that are today waiving the flag likely wouldn't promote us because we were homos. Now they realise they can cash in on us. Puke… pic.twitter.com/mvVMLm0TV0
— drex (@drex) June 5, 2019
If you were wondering “how are the corporations of Times Square coopting pride?” I have an answer pic.twitter.com/H3dBRbQLSm
— chris person (@Papapishu) June 4, 2019
Big companies when it turns into pride month pic.twitter.com/6k7j9fPhLS
— 𝒸𝑜𝓁𝓉𝑜𝓃🌹 (@IcyCavs) June 4, 2019
I sincerely don’t know who made this, but lol pic.twitter.com/8kHjQz4w4Q
— Chris Stedman (@ChrisDStedman) June 5, 2019
Companies that change their icon to a rainbow for pride month but still do nothing to protect LGBTQ and marginalized people from targeted harassment or hate speech… pic.twitter.com/YAlxrVqeoX
— Yume Warlock 🔜 e3, bitches! (@yumewarlock) June 5, 2019
big companies: *make their logos rainbow during pride month* pic.twitter.com/rL2T45jzOY
— gee (@lumosevans) June 5, 2019
Some consumers say marketing messages are irksome, yet effective.
Me: Companies using Pride to sell you rainbow printed or colored shit you don’t need to further line their pockets is trash. Capitalism won’t liberate us.
Also me: *Notify Me✅* pic.twitter.com/OuFLQ08lLk
— MC Hammer & Sickle ☭ (@fwmj) June 4, 2019
me: im not going to buy random things today at target just because they’re rainbow, its just corporations using pride to make money
also me: omg the mouthwash is gay i need it pic.twitter.com/ZCHT4fgrTi
— geni🦈 (@rainylavndr) June 4, 2019
Others are thankful for inclusion in corporate messaging efforts.
The corporate shoulder to the wheel is welcome. Obviously, it sends a message. (As does smart LGBTQ-inclusive marketing and advertising.)
But, I believe, one of the unexpected gifts of this kind of advocacy is that it helps people more quickly find the heart of inclusion work: seeing and sharing the fear of others.
When someone casually kneels down to set a rainbow flag alight in front of a gay bar (see below) it’s an annoying act of minor vandalism for some. For others, it’s a death threat. For some, debates about same-sex marriage is a bunch of political noise and a distraction from more important issues. For others, it’s the right to care for dying spouses, be acknowledged as parents, access essential benefits, and be accepted in the world unconditionally.
Understanding this distinction is the crux of the work.
Avoiding empty rhetoric
To understand the kinds of messages that are doing well versus statements that ring hollow, communicators need look no further than the national spotlight. President Donald Trump tried to offer a celebratory message for Pride Month, but many in the LGBTQ community weren’t having it.
RuPaul “had one thing to say” about the president’s call to “stand in solidarity with the many LGBT people” on Twitter: “Actions speak louder than tweets,” the iconic American drag queen, TV personality, actor and singer said on “The View.”
…Last week, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway defended Trump’s record on the issue, saying “He’s the first president to start as president for approving of gay marriage. That’s something that he should be lauded for.”
Trump’s tweet came one week after his administration published a proposed rule that would remove discrimination protections in health care for transgender patients. The administration also began implementing a new policy that allows adoption agencies to deny LGBTQ couples the same day.
On the topic of taking action instead of just relying on messaging: Bombas, which specializes in performance socks, is making a big donation to shelters that serve at-risk LGBTQ youth.
The Human Rights Campaign reports that LGBTQ teens are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than their straight or cisgender peers. Forty percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, even though LGBTQ people comprise 10% of the general population.
To raise awareness of this statistic as well as to directly improve the lives of queer homeless youth in a small way, Bombas is giving 40% of the socks they donate to shelters that directly serve LGBTQ homeless youth in the United States. And that’s not just donations as a results of their Pride line, that’s 40% of all donations Bombas makes this month up to one million pairs of socks. So even if the rainbow socks aren’t to your taste, you can be sure that any purchase you make from Bombas through June 30 is directly benefiting queer youth.
This Pride Month, I invite you to take a deeper look into the rainbow-painted products and offerings to see what contributions (if any) the companies behind them are making to LGBTQ causes. If they’re anything like Bombas, you can feel confident in your purchase.
Other companies have made a splash in nonmonetary ways, such as Gillette’s transgender ad.
How are you creating messages for Pride Month, PR Daily readers?