Marketing the Rainbow

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Expedia said in 2004 - at a time they were Orbitz’ big competitor* - that it believed the concerns of gays and lesbians were not that different from the concerns of straight people. "Our research showed that the majority of gay and lesbian travelers travel the same way as other mainstream market segments," said Jason Reindorp, the Expedia spokesman.

A change...

But that stance changed, when they saw how successful the competition was in this field. In any case, they were lagging almost a decade behind when launching their gay portal in 2010, in association with IGLTA (already announced in 2008). The also added a blog with articles and highlights.

"At Expedia, this is in keeping with our mission to be the best place to book travel," said Tim MacDonald, senior vice president and general manager, Expedia.com. "This page will simplify and improve the shopping and booking experience for LGBT customers. It was based on research illustrating the difficulty in finding LGBT-welcoming hotels, and our solution was vetted by a group of LGBT professionals at Expedia and a roundtable of gay travel community members. IGLTA helped us determine the hotels that populate the store."


In 2012 they added a filter for gay-welcoming hotels in their main search tool, listed along with other options, such as "air conditioning" and "fitness equipment." Website Budgettravel.com jokingly observed: "If a hotel is truly gay-welcoming, it will probably have both air conditioning and fitness equipment." The site now allows visitors to search from about 500 GLBT-friendly hotels worldwide as well as events, festivals, and nightclubs.

Having said that, Orbitz’ gay website was more user-friendly, and you could click through to it from the Orbitz.com homepage (not anymor now). On the other hand, Expedia’s gay section is buried within Expedia.com.  A blogger observed: “Here’s a challenge:  start at the Expedia homepage and try to find the GLBT site.  It took me about 20 minutes to get there.”

Supporting "the cause"

In 2012 Expedia joined an ever-growing list of corporations expressing support for marriage equality in Washington state, and released a video clip with a same-sex wedding titled "Find Your Understanding." The clip was produced as part of the online travel company's ongoing "Find Yours" campaign, which focuses on why Americans make the journeys they do.  While most of the videos in the series received fewer than 10,000 views on YouTube, the Understanding one garnered more than 2.2 million views in two weeks time!

Business Insider wrote: "Gay-audience targeted campaigns are commonplace in advertising these days, and they already have their own set cliches. What makes this ad worthy of note is the fact that it's told entirely from the point of view of a member of a generation that, frankly, isn't entirely on board with the whole equal rights thing. The ad thus addresses its supporters and critics at the same time — which is what makes it so clever."

When same-sex marriage was legalized in 2015, they happily exclaimed #LoveWins in their social media accounts.

Negative effects

In a 2015 campaign you could win a “romantic getaway to Great Britain”. The series featured a number of couples, male and female, straight and gay, in different locations around London. The ad with two men, loosely embracing each other, was met with a storm of bile on Twitter - hatred and bigotry are so easy (and often uncensored) on social media...

* in 2015 they acquired Orbitz. Check the separate article. 

Case study: Expedia

Branche: Travel