“Brands have to start loosening up, and start to delight their mature consumers.”

The lesbian and gay audience is an uncharted audience and often not considered as part of campaign targeting.  Many misconceptions still exist resulting in flawed marketing campaigns towards this audience.  The lesbian and gay audience embodies a broad and vigorous variety of preference.  It is time to identify with this market and encapsulate the power they behold to advocate your brand.  Marketers have to loosen up to understand this market, to make cultured decisions about their strategies and deploy inclusive tactics.

Various global surveys have shown that gay men and lesbians own more homes and cars, travel extensively locally and internationally, spend more on luxury items, and have the largest amount of disposable income of any niche market.  Based on global research, the gay and lesbian audience approximately represents 10% of the general population.  In South Africa there are over 4.8 million living in South Africa.  By overlooking this market brands neglect a large segment of influential consumers.

Even though this audience is categorised as one market, there still is differentiating factors.  Just as there is no one South African market we speak to, each niche market in our country constitutes of various demographics and attitudes.  But as with any other marketing strategy one needs to consider demographics, attitudes and behavioural targeting.

According to research conducted by the ABNSA, 45% of gays and lesbians are always irritated by ads in mainstream media depicting gay people as camp or overtly flamboyant stereotypes.  Many brands project these assumed stereotypes in their advertising campaigns, but do not succeed in creating an emotional connection with their gay and lesbian consumers.

There are many types of personalities in this audience with idiosyncratic interests.  Should your brand appeal to them, they will more than likely recommend your brand and become true brand custodians.  Matt Alderton from Logolepsy Custom Content and Communications in the USA has identified three key attitudes why this audience is a brand’s dream customer.  These are affluence, education and loyalty.  In a South African context these three are supported with the following data:

  1. Affluent: The median monthly income for a gay/lesbian household is R30,000.
  2. Educated: Some 34 percent of gays and lesbians have a degree/diploma and 75 percent occupy management level positions.
  3. Loyal: Approximately 63 percent of gays and lesbians consider themselves to be brand loyal.

The gay and lesbian audience has a purchasing behaviour that changes regularly according the specific needs and influences.  But know for sure that if you take notice of them, they will take notice of your brand. The ABNSA Consumer Profile reveals some key demographic insights from the gay and lesbian audiences as proof of the influence this market has:

  • 95%                  Own a car
  • 86%                  Enjoy buying the latest electronic gadgets
  • 85%                  Under 50 years old
  • 77%                  Own residential properties
  • 74%                  Are avid consumers of luxury goods
  • 69%                  Consider themselves image conscious
  • 66%                  Go for regular wellness and beauty therapy treatments


There are numerous global and local brands that have implemented specific targeted communication messages successfully.  One of these is the Spur Steak Ranches.  They have build on their proposition of being a family restaurant and added a dash of “pink” to have a targeted message to the other “family”.

Macy’s, one of the largest department-store chains in the USA celebrates a message of inclusivity by celebrating pride and promoting their registry to same sex couples.  According to Corliss Fong, Vice President of Diversity Strategies, they don’t look at diversity inclusion as being a political statement.

Barclays Bank in London is another example of doing extensive research about lesbian and gay attitudes toward banking, product awareness and general preferences.  Based on these results, they have developed a successful strategic lesbian and gay marketing approach – with an ongoing focus on staff support and sponsorships.

US ice-cream brand Ben and Jerry’s partnered with same-sex marriage campaigners Freedom to Marry to rename their Chubby Hubby flavour to Hubby Hubby.  This was done in celebration of same-sex marriage legalisation in Vermont.

In a brand’s approach to develop effective marketing tactics, the following should be considered:

Research:  To engage this audience effectively, marketers should leverage the correct touch points.  Where they frequent, the content they follow, the people they connect with and the level of their engagement should be included in the research.  With proper habitual research brands will be able to indentify valuable opportunities.

Social Media:  In recent research by Harris Interactive, 2,412 U.S. adults (aged 18 and over), LGBTI community is more active on social networks than heterosexuals.  Not only are they actively involved on Facebook and Twitter, they also read blogs – and as a result most likely to be receptive to social media marketing.  Cosmedia Consulting has done research, which confirms similar trends in the UK and South Africa.

Subtlety:  Don’t make stereotypical assumptions about the tonality of the communication.  Although this audience is a mature audience open to brands that push the boundaries.  Become a “Brand Butler” by serving this audience by focusing on their daily lives.

Support diversity:  Gays and lesbians are traditionally known for setting trends.  By engaging them marketers gain entrance into the larger and more mainstream markets.

In South Africa, we have seen social progress with brands that are in tune with their consumers.  They understand the value of relationships.  They implement meaningful marketing campaigns by adding value to their consumers.  In turn, our gay and lesbian audience expect brand messages to be forthright, have fervour and sometimes push the boundaries.   Brands that understand this have earned trust over years.  So now it’s time for brands to move with the culture, loosen up a bit, and yes, have some fun in the process.

About the Author Wayne Flemming

As a strategic marketing purist progressive global experience, Wayne believes in simplistic and uncomplicated thinking Described as ‘talented and hard working’, Wayne, with an incredible business understanding is an expert at translating business requirements and integrating brand communication to engage consumers in brand conversations and experiences

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