Depending on whom you ask, the U.S. gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered population encompasses approximately 16 million people. Despite the fact that this segment of the population has a buying power of nearly $800 billion, it remains largely untargeted by American businesses. Historically, the gay community has been either greatly misunderstood by marketers or ignored altogether.
Why is this? It’s hard to imagine why such a distinct, identifiable target market has escaped the crosshairs of marketing professionals for so long. A few entities within a few industries have made efforts at pursuing the gay market – airlines, hospitality, tourism, alcohol, and financial services come to mind – but by and large it remains an untapped market.
If targeted right, gay consumers could be a cash cow for American businesses. The opportunities are there. The gay community has its own magazines, newspapers, radio stations, and even television networks. Yet for some reason the gay population seems to perplex the American marketing community. In speaking to fellow marketing professionals any number of theories abound. “They’re too hard to target.” “Our product isn’t right for that market.” And my favorite: “I’m afraid we’ll alienate the rest of our customers if we start marketing to the gay community.”
Other demographics have whole agencies devoted to them – Asians, women, Hispanics, elderly – yet I can’t find evidence of a single noteworthy ad agency in the U.S. focusing on the GLBT community (note to self: start gay-oriented ad agency). I have come across foreign agencies targeted to homosexuals, and gay-targeted advertising efforts abound abroad. Yet for some reason, our community remains an enigma to U.S. marketers.
I’ve started this blog to begin a dialogue that should be happening in ad agencies and marketing departments across the nation. I intend to evaluate the good, the bad, and the ugly in gay-targeted marketing efforts, relay gay marketing news stories of note, and comment on what it takes to market to the GLBT community. Along the way, I hope to help American marketing professionals unlock the mystery that is the gay consumer.
What are your thoughts? Any ideas why more companies don’t target the gay community?