SUMMARY Brand managers were not convinced that their gay and lesbian niche marketing efforts were paying off – either financially or societally.
The guts to
insert an unambiguou sly gay ad into an unambiguou sly straight publication, is, in some respects, the canary in the coalmine.
The second exciting development is the unlikely launch of a purpose designed LGBTQA store brand by Canadian telecom company
The Death of LGBT (LGBTTIQQ2SA*) Marketing is Fabulously Exaggerated
n the wake of the recent economic downtown (recession) serious questions were asked about the future of gay marketing. Clearly as brands and marketers tightened their belts, the first item to receive the chop, was the LGBT segment “experiment.” The big question is, will these small niche-segment endeavors be revived at the end of the troubles, or will they simply disappear into the black hole of “been there, done that”?
his was not an abstract discussion. Brand managers were not convinced that their gay and lesbian niche marketing efforts were paying off – either financially or societally. What had been a very low cost, easy to reach, identifiable segment had dispersed into the greater (and more welcoming) society. Gaybourhoods are morphing into gentrified, expensive hoods for thirty something trendoids; a reliable, focused, print media landscape all but melted into the fragmented and unpredictable online world; and, the final blow, children of the new millenium hardly see a difference between straight and gay. However, we are beginning to see a stirring of an entirely different, and quite frankly much more laudable manifestation of inclusiveness in marketing. It was obvious all along that to the degree that
marketers were not prepared to adapt their product or service to fit uniquely and relevantly into the existential lifestyle of gay and lesbian people, they would inevitably fail. In the last week I have seen two entirely different organizations address these issues in courageous, but strategically intelligent ways.
he first is a gay ad for Harrahs New Orleans. The ad itself, which is attached, is a dismal piece of creative – no idea, no art direction, no nothing! In fact, creatively, the ad is typical of brands that were not quite convinced that connecting to LGBT consumers would be worth the cost of a well designed ad (i.e. most advertisers in the pre-recession era). But it’s not the ad that’s important – it’s where the ad appeared: the December
* Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer/Questioning, 2 Spirited, Allies
he second exciting development is the unlikely launch of a purpose designed LGBTQA (their designation) store brand by Canadian telecom company, Telus. The brand, called CAYA (“Come As You Are” – hello!), opened its flagship store in Vancouver last week. “Caya is a store inspired by and built for Canada’s vibrant LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer + Allies) community,” says their website. And they “… don’t just offer our customers the latest in technology, mobile products, entertainment and accessories—we do it with style and a commitment to community.”
...there is an extremely important
It’s a mobile phone store, for heaven’s sake.
the way the thing and the brand are experienced by LGBT people ”
issue of Toronto Life Magazine. This publication is unarguably the premier Lifestyle magazine in Toronto, with a claimed readership of 750,000 upscale Torontonians. The fact that Harrahs invested in this publication as a connection to affluent gay Torontonians is probably a no brainer (if they read anything, they read Toronto Life). The guts to insert an unambiguously gay ad into an unambiguously straight publication, is, in some respects, the canary in the coalmine.
But they have understood that, even though there is no intrinsic difference in the thing they sell that suggests a special LGBT approach to selling it, there is an extremely important difference in the way the thing and the brand are experienced by LGBT people that related specifically to their gayness and the way they view and experience the world. Not only has Telus launched a flagship store, they are in the process of building a second store — also in Vancouver. This is the thinking we have been advocating for many years. Gay and lesbian people are different because they are gay and lesbian, not because they are richer (they’re not), more educated (most are
not), more fashion conscious or more sex obsessed. And if you start from this simple truism, exciting approaches to the market place will reveal themselves.
But, and I’m taking
a flyer here,
it has allowed truly innovative, courageous, meaningful and strategically sound marketing to
We have often used the example of retail banking. On the surface gays don’t bank differently from straights. But, under the surface, the story is very different – the structure of financial service products does not fit the way gay men handle their financial affairs, for instance. A smart bank would move beyond the patronizing support of community events and equally patronizing ad in local gay publications, and develop a banking experience that actually offers the service and product mix that would actually dove -tail with their lives. Instead, the most innovative thinking we have seen in Toronto is a bank that opened a branch in the (dying) gay village to cater to LGBT customers by opening on Sundays (because, apparently gay people bank on
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Sundays more than straight people).
ack to the question: did the recession kill gay marketing? Yes and no. With any luck it killed the strategically illiterate, creatively absurd, patronizing approach to the market that relied on stereotypes to try to capture attention, for no apparent commercial reason. But, and I’m taking a flyer here, it has allowed truly innovative, courageous, meaningful and strategically sound marketing to emerge. Which is, as they say, a beautiful thing.
Laurence Bernstein is the founder and managing partner of Protean Strategies/The Bay Charles Consulting Group Limited. He has been a leading proponent of the “new order of differentiation” and has written and lectured on the subject of experiential branding and intrinsic/extrinsic research methodologies in Canada, the US and China. Since 2000 Laurence and Protean Strategies have been involved in helping brands connect with LGBT customers in Canada, US and Europe. He is a noted speaker on the subject and has written and published numerous articles about diversity and the LGBT marketplace Laurence attended the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and Cornell University in Ithaca , New York