Suppliers survey

Activities in Gay Marketing

To verify the activity of the company in the area of Marketing the Rainbow, I asked “Does your organization target the LGBT market? (this includes listing in the Gay Yellow Pages, membership of the LG Chamber of Commerce etc.)” I split the results between the two groups.

-- Mainstream companies

Some 74% of mainstream participants answered “Not as a main target, but we do consider them”, while 12% even ticked the box “Yes, mostly”. 

Note: all names were retrieved via an advertisement in an LGBT publication (print or website) or sponsoring of an LGBT event. Yet 8% said “No, not really” and 2% said “Does not apply”. In other words: 10% of these companies denied targeting the gay and lesbian market. 

I also approached companies that had actively worked on equal rights and diversity (often a pre-cursor to gay marketing. This group received a different set of questions, but as the population is only 24 from 11 different branches in 8 countries, no significant conclusions can be drawn. 

Note: it is interesting to see how hard people try to be politically correct, even in this context. Some used the Comments box to say, for instance “stereotyping my team isn't something I do” (in case of Diversity), “We do not separate our costumers. Everyone is equal to us. So we do not judge people”, sometimes followed by something like “But I would say gay people are more kind on the phone.”

I asked “Why did you decide to target the LGBT market? (multiple answers possible)”. Most mentioned answers were “LGBT customer is affluent” (34%), “previous positive experience” (31%) and “research showed profitability” (30%). So: an assumption, followed by own experience and ‘scientific’ data (see below). 

Over one quarter of companies (28%) claimed to have “products/services particularly liked by gays (while only 16% said they had “a special LGBT product/service”). Around the same percentages mentioned “trends in the market” (26%), “personal affinity and expertise” (25% - in other words: the decision maker is gay), “for ideological or political reasons” (22%). 

Other reasons chosen were “LGBT customer is trendy” (19%), “we assumed it was an interesting group” (17%) .

Then followed an open question: “Can you name, from experience, a number of points in which way a gay consumer/client is different from others? (think: needs, desires, demands, consumer behaviour, decisions, loyalty, appreciation)” 

Almost 200 participants (42%) answered this question. The big winner was “Loyalty” (36%): LGBT customers seem to be very brand loyal, more so than straight clients. This is also showing when they choose a company which has supported the LGBT community through sponsoring or advertising. Subsequently, 13% says gays would more easily use recommendations (giving or receiving) when choosing a brand or company. Another 13% mentions a strong feeling for the community.

Note: a study by Harris Interactive/Witeck showed:

  • • 78% of LGBT people are extremely likely or very likely to consider brands that are known to provide equal workplace benefits for their employees, including LGBT workers. 
  • • 70% of LGBT people are likely to consider brands that support non-profits/causes important to LGBT consumers. 
  • • 69% of LGBT people say their purchases would be influenced by a buyer’s guide that shows companies with positive workplace policies towards LGBT employees. 
  • • 47% of L/G people say they would be very likely to remain loyal to a brand they believe to be very friendly and supportive even if costs more or less convenient. 

A Pew Research Center study adds:

  • • 51% say they have not bought a product or service because the company that provides it is not supportive of LGBT rights. 
  • • 49% says they have specifically bought a product or service because the company is supportive of LGBT rights.426 

Many respondents also felt that gay customers are stylish, creative, have good taste, eye for detail and design, and demand quality (27%), while 16% said they want comfort, luxury and service. 7% finds them discerning. 

Just under a quarter of respondents cite “more discretionary income” (23%), while 8% specify this with the qualification “dink” - 5% just says they make more money.

Some 17% feels that gays are trendy, fashionable, early adopters or progressive. To be recognized and appreciated in ads, or in shops / businesses is quoted by 15%, while the need for privacy, discretion and safety is mentioned by 7%.

Attributes like Body & Health Conscious, a Beautiful Home, More Educated, Environment Friendly, Active Lifestyle, Modern, Culture Minded are mentioned by only a few people. 

  • They are interested in a good physique, they value quality, have a higher income then average, are more active in networking. (not all but a big group of course we cant generalise a diverse group of people)
  • One point I have recognized is that the success of marketing to the LGBT market is more difficult to track as they are less likely to point out that they found your advertising in a gay publication, etc. As a marketer this is important to recognize so that this market isn't ignored or that advertising isn't discontinued because tracking is showing low.

If research was used, what was the source?

51% did not use research, 31% used their own, 15% used existing and 4% had research done in commission.

When asked if they were aware of any negative effects of their campaign, 10% said Yes. Most of these come down to complaints from “conservative” organizations, but the respondents were not worried about them. I guess they anticipated this in advance, and had decided that their own strategy was more important than possible collateral ‘bigotry’.

In fact, it goes even further: they are strong in their beliefs and the value(s) of the LGBT market, and do not want to do business with those who opposed those values:

  • I was thrilled to be "rejected" by a super conservative "values based" website who wanted me to list my business with them until I asked them if their values included marriage for all and that supported all types of families.
  • I was un-invited from a "values based" therapy referral service. Didn't bother me one bit.
  • If there would be any, I wouldn't care.
  • If someone refused to do business with me because I advertised to the gay community, they are not a client I would want to have.

It could be that the marketing leads to ‘false’ expectations:

  • The only confusion (which isn't negative) is that my clients will occasionally request to have an LGBT therapist, which I am not, so if this is important to them they'll usually address it during the initial contact and I'll refer elsewhere if it's imperative that the therapist be part of the LGBT community.

Some resistance was internal:

  • We had some very negative feedback from some employees in our company who disagreed with the marketing campaign, but those criticisms were squashed pretty quickly.
  • Only the fear of upper-management that it would have a negative impact. They have realized that gay money is just as green as straight money.

-- LGBT Owned and Operated companies


The “LGBT owned and operated” businesses got a slightly different set of questions, assuming they would more easily target (just) the LGBT market: 15% only worked with LGBT customers, 37% mainly with the LGBT market, but also with mainstream customers, 27% mainly with the mainstream market and 15% only with straight clients. About 19% indicated to focus on both markets equally.


Note: the largest LGBT Chamber of Commerce in the USA, observed: “we would probably never use the word ‘mainstream’. We represent over 1,000 LGBT and "Allied" businesses... that term seems more accurate.”


The service to the “community” often is one grown from assumed loyalty, rather than a (potential) commercial success. A number of LGBT companies stated that they find the LGBT customer to be “flaky”.


Others observed:

  • “Since I am still growing, I have started in the LGBT community, because the connection makes sales really, really easy”
  • “We aim at both markets, but only advertise in the LGBT market, not the mainstream”
  • “Our main clients are Gays and Jews, with a lot of straight clients making up the rest of our market. At the end of the day, we prefer to serve Gays the most, because we can relate and communicate much better.”
  • “I started out focusing on the LGBT Market. Then realized that I was missing about 90% of the rest of the market. So I have stopped focusing on the LGBT market. However, the only advertising that I do is in the Community Yellow pages, which is a LGBT publication. That ad pays for itself every year, which is why I keep it.”
  • “We are gay and thought we would attract some gay clientele. We advertised to a great extent and only get a limited amount of gays & lesbians. I would say we get about 99% straight and maybe 1% gay & lesbian clientele.”
  • “We target the gay community primarily thru advertising in promotional materials for upcoming events. I do this out of a sense of responsibility and support rather than hoping for a return. We do have a lot of gay clients however they usually come to us thru our mainstream advertising.”
  • “Being openly gay 30 years ago meant that mainstream businesses were unlikely to become our clients.”
  • “After being in business for a number of years, realized that there was no one else in my business that was marketing the lgbt community.”


When I asked “What were the reasons to establish your company? (multiple answers possible)”, I got following responses that can be divided into two groups: commercial or personal/gay related. The latter seems to be much more important than the former:

  • 50% quotes “personal affinity and expertise” as the reason, while
  • 34% lists “comfort: LGBT customers prefer to come to LGBT suppliers”, and
  • 23% chooses for each “demand from the community”, “to create visibility”, “social reasons: by and for LGBT” and “Pride”.
  • 21% names “ideological or political reasons” and “community building (power in numbers)”.
  • Also, 16% says “”we have a product especially for LGBT.”
  • Finally, they say “it is more pleasant (10%) or easier (12%) to work with LGBT customers”.


Only 26% says “commercial reasons: target group is affluent”, while 15% mentions “trends in the market”, “products/services were not (easily) available (16%) or more expensive (3%) elsewhere.”


If research was used, what was the source?

49% did not use research, 35% used their own, 14% used existing and 2% had research done in commission.


When asked if they were aware of any negative effects of their campaign, 10% said YES:

  • Most of these people answered that they did not want to do business with “bigots” anyway.
  • Some noticed that gays would expect to receive “more than just the normal products or services”, i.e. were canvassing for sex.
  • Seen as a negative, but in fact a positive effect was that competitors also entered this field, based on the success of their campaign.
  • Some were subsequently “branded” as a gay label – not so much in a discriminatory sense, but more in a “then it is not for us” kind of way.
  • In a few cases, for instance real estate, the clients worried that an LGBT marketing approach would exclude mainstream customers.
  • There were boycotts by ‘conservative’ organizations, but none with real success.
  • A few negative e-mails, phone calls and a site hack were mentioned.