Gay friendly brands - as seen by LGBT

When asked to name 5 “gay friendly brands” (without help), I received 1,262 entries from the gay participants with a total of 4,156 names.

Strangely enough there are no clear winners: the brand mentioned most often is only named by some 5% of the participants. In total, there must be around 500 different brands on the list. Even huge blue chip brands, like Apple, who would be an easy choice for many, don’t score more than 5%.

Note: the geographical spread of the group was wide, so it could well be that a brand only operates in one country (Best Buy), or has only really given attention to the gay or lesbian consumer in one market (American Airlines).

If there is a winner, it would be Absolut Vodka, with 208 mentions (of which 75 as a 1st choice). This is a clear reward for their decades of support of the community, relentless advertising in LGBT media and sponsoring of LGBT events. See Case Study.

Other high ranking brands are: Apple (206), American Airlines (137, by far the most recognized gay friendly airline), Subaru (136, or 3.3% - oddly enough misspelled in 25% of the cases) and IKEA (100).

Note: see also "Apple's coming out..."

An ‘honorable mention’ goes to Levi’s (92), Aussiebum (88, the Australian brand that conquered the gay world), IBM (67), Disney (66), Budweiser (62), Google (61), KLM (58 - probably due to the high percentage of Dutch participants), Calvin Klein and Ford (both 54), Lufthansa (52), Virgin (51), Target (49), Starbucks (47),  Abercrombie & Fitch (45, in many different spellings), Wells Fargo (50), Coca Cola (40), American Express (31), The Gap (30), TD Bank (28), Volvo (27), Best Buy (27) and Volkswagen (25).

Two notable ones are Progressive Insurance and Kimpton Hotels (both 21): not major players but dedicated marketing efforts have established their name as gay friendly. 

A few more airlines companies are mentioned, all more or less visibly involved in the LGBT community, but for instance United only 11 times, Continental 15, SAS 4 and Icelandair 1.

Remarkable is that some major brands, although listed, are not suggested as often as could be expected on the basis of their commitment to the LGBT community, and relevant advertising efforts: Microsoft (29), Miller (28), Orbitz (36), Pepsi (18, clearly losing out to Coke), 2xist (13 compared to Aussiebum’s 88), Ben & Jerry’s (12) and JC Penny’s with Ellen Degeneres as spokesperson, yet with only 5 listings: apparently the use of a lesbian icon does not give a direct association as a ‘gay brand’, in spite of the massive publicity this received 

Gay friendly brands - as seen by heteros

The straight group also answered this question and gave 186 entries, with a total of 450 names.

Frontrunners are: Apple (46 times, or 11% - more than twice as high as the winner in the gay group, and twice as often as Apple’s listing in that group), Levi’s (20) and Subaru (17), while other frequent  occurrences are Disney (11), Bravo (10), Calvin Klein (10), only then followed by Absolut (9, or 2% - less than half the percentage from the gay group), Dolce & Gabbana (9), Abercrombie & Fitch (8 or 1.8%, compared to only 0.1% in the gay group), Durex (8 or 1.8%, compared to 0.4% in the other group, and compared to only 1 listing for Trojan - which had 3 in the gay group), Benetton (7), American Apparel (6 - against 10 in the gay group), only then followed by American Airlines (5 or 1.1%, as opposed to 137 and 3.3%).

Finally, multiple results occurred for Google, Armani and Gap (all 6), 5 listings for IKEA (1.2% compared to 2.4%), Starbucks, Whole Foods and Jean Paul Gaultier, 4 for Target, Virgin, Volkswagen, Prada, Diesel and Hugo Boss, while Carnival Cruises gets 3 (Celebrity Cruises only 2), as do Proctor & Gamble, Ford, Heineken, MAC, Versace and Nivea, while finally Pepsi is mentioned twice.

Notable are the low rankings of brands that do score high in the gay group: Coca Cola, McDonald’s (3 entries), Budweiser, Microsoft, Miller Beer, TD Bank (2), IBM, Kimpton Hotels, Macy’s, Volvo, Wells Fargo, Aussiebum, Ben & Jerry’s, Best Buy (1).


1. The (open) question generates a vast variety in response.

2. In spite of gay marketing efforts and recognized affinity with the target group, including employee benefits, there seem to be no brands that jump out as “gay”.