Advertising’s Rainbow Connection

insights on brands' LGBTQ+ allyship & its effects on consumers and the world

This June, a month usually brimming with Pride-ful events and celebrations of love, we witnessed a contentious news cycle, social media uproar, boycotts, and threats of in-store violence toward LGBTQ-inclusive brands and products. Segments of consumers were loud and proud in either their approval or dissent. Despite decades of pro-LGBTQ+ cultural and legislative progress, this reminds us there is still important work for marketers to do.

In our third annual report on customer experience with LGBTQ+ inclusive advertising with Do the WeRQ, a community increasing queer representation in marketing, we examined perspectives on boycotting and brand “wokeness” from 10,000+ people, a whopping 20% of  respondents reported that they are LGBTQ+ identifying.

Download Now: LGBTQ+ Advertising

Here, we’ll examine the cultural and economic influence of the fastest-growing minority group in the U.S., and dive into key takeaways from our new insights with Do the WeRQ. 

LGTBQ+ economic and cultural influence is undeniable

The LGBTQ+ community in the U.S. has grown (or come out) exponentially since the bravery of Marsha P. Johnson and others at the 1969 Stonewall Riots. According to Gallup, 7.1% of Americans identified as LGBTQ+ last year, including a remarkable 20% of Gen Z. TIME wrote that the Community has at least $3.7 trillion in spending power globally (colloquially referred to as “pink money”).  This is equivalent to being the 5th-largest GDP in the world.

LGBTQ+ Article Data_GDP-Table

In Mexico, $65 billion dollars in tourism, fashion, technology, entertainment, and banking was attributed to the LGBTQ+ community in 2017, due in large part to cultural and legal shifts, as well as increasing acceptance among younger generations (Forbes Mexico). Since 2017, Chinese businesses have embraced the “pink yuan'' as an LGBTQ-identifying market worth $300 billion dollars, rising with a younger, more liberal wave (The Guardian). In India, incremental LGBTQ+ representation began to hit advertising even earlier in 2013 (India Times). The overturning of Article 377 in 2018 and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act of 2019 propelled public openness and a burst of LGBTQ-focused movies and TV that had notable economic and social impacts. The importance of LGBTQ-inclusive advertising globally has only just begun.

LGBTQ+ consumers know they can impact brands' bottom lines

The exacting eyes of consumers watched this summer as venerable brands took stances and made products in support of LGBTQ+ issues. New and renewed brand partnerships propelled donations to LGBTQ+ charities (AP) and created new consumer experiences supporting the Community’s visibility (the Drum). However, what flooded the airwaves were negative reactions like boycotts, threats of violence, and swift spending shifts.

Brands who had established support but retracted under pressure felt fiscal consequences from folks on all sides. Our report shines a light on the nuances of consumer backlash. Notably, 79% of people identifying as LGBTQ+ said they are not likely to purchase a product if the brand takes a position they don’t believe in, while 57% of non-LGBTQ+ said the same. Although the exact social issues may vary between LGBTQ+ and straight groups, both firmly said that boycotting is a viable tactic to show disapproval of a brand’s stance on a social issue –  85% and 69% respectively. Additionally, 65% of LGBTQ+ respondents said they have paid more for an alternative product or gone out of their way to buy from a company that supports social issues they care about, while only 27% of non-LGBTQ+ said the same.

Consumers believe brands have social and political influence

Both LGBTQ+ and straight consumers agree that brands have political influence over LGBTQ+ rights in the U.S. (85% and 60% respectively, chart 1). An even higher percentage for both groups believe that brands have influence over cultural perceptions (91% and 69%, chart 2). Lastly, 97% of LGBTQ+ and 69% of straights say that it’s important for brands to be actively involved in protecting the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination (chart 3). When asked whether brands should get involved in social issues, there was less alignment; 69% of LGBTQ+ said that brands should be involved in some way, while only 36% of straights said they were the same; 20% responded “only if [it's] relevant."

LGBTQ+ Article Data_Societal-perceptionsLGBTQ+ Article Data_Political-InfluenceLGBTQ+ Article Data_Discrimination

So now what?

With DISQO’s consumer-sourced data and measurement, you can mine powerful, strategic insights to fortify your next LGBTQ+ inclusive campaign. Here are three takeaways for marketers:

  1. Even in LGBTQ-inclusive advertising, keep diversity and representation top-of-mind. According to our findings, most diversity YoY metrics within LGBTQ+ content declined in 2023 across all groups. So in your next LGBTQ-inclusive campaign, include trans & non-binary talent, people of color, and / or folks with disabilities. Most importantly, seek out authentically diverse talent rather than casting “passing” talent.
    LGBTQ+ Article Data
  2. Steadfast allyship benefits your bottom line. We’ve now witnessed the fiscal consequences of fair weather, or worse… backtracked allyship. Backtracking can also be seen as validation for detractors’ tactics, encouraging them to use them again next year. Quieter efforts like partnership renewals with LGBT Chambers of Commerce, while great, are not enough when the news is reporting that a brand or retailer has caved in to anti-LGBTQ+ segments. Robust, visible and well-tested messaging is needed to heal the damage done with the Community when they feel abandoned. As Forbes wrote in 2021, LGBTQ-friendly and -supportive businesses are more profitable and more desired places of employment. This illustrates that committed LGBTQ allyship is holistically advantageous for your business.
  3. Assure the Community of your allyship with sincerity. Be resounding in your allyship and express support in your marketing across all channels, all year-round.  In our findings, online, social media, and television placements remained the 3 most visible and penetrated channels for LGBTQ+ advertising for both identifying and non-identifying groups. Although, 37% of straight respondents said they believed that identity-specific ads should only be targeted to the Community rather than the general public, this is an opportunity for brands to fully embrace their social influence and keep step with the growing Community among younger generations.  

    Download the report now for more data-driven insights.

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