US Insights

Avoiding the Pride Charade

Rob Callender

Associate Head of Polycultural & Inclusivity Insights

Brands 05.31.2018 / 12:00


The LGBT marketplace represents some $1 trillion in spending power.

On the eve of June’s Pride Month, members of the LGBTQ+ community will be front-and-center in all kinds of advertising campaigns. That’s just good strategy: In 2016, Bloomberg sized the LGBT marketplace at roughly $1 trillion—about the same as ethnic and racial groups that generate much more marketing attention.

But we believe the opportunity is greater still: a significant proportion of the consumer marketplace outwardly identifies as straight, but lives outside the bounds of strict heterosexuality. These individuals (whom we call Q+ or sexually fluid) have attitudes, behaviors and consumption patterns more aligned with the LGBT community than with the straight population where they’re misplaced.


But reaching out to this huge and underrepresented group requires expert-level insight. LGBTQ+ consumers are savvy and LGBTQ+ issues are nuanced. Brands that try to “pinkwash” risk alienating the very people they’re trying to reach.

Why is this so critical for your business?

We’ve said that LGBTQ+ consumers often value reinvention over convention. In the workplace, this manifests as a tendency to over-index on questions measuring creativity and problem solving. In a marketplace driven by disruption, these employees could make all the difference.

Try New Things Chart

Our work on inclusivity, as well as on purpose, also demonstrate that businesses which internalize their customers’ priorities and values are far more likely to build authentic consumer connections. But brands have work to do here: As we’ve previously noted, many of this group’s experiences with discrimination (shopping, eating at restaurants, working or applying for employment) have explicit brand connections.

A minority of LGBT employees are open about their identities at work—far lower than the percentage who are proudly open to families and friends. If workers can’t share their different perspectives, they can’t use their experiences to help brands innovate and communicate with new audiences.

Job Security Chart

Companies are finally starting to get the message—at least based on the skyrocketing number of companies achieving perfect scores on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

Significantly more LGBTQ+ consumers report owning their own business or anticipating that they someday will. Brands who can’t make a place for these employees may be losing valuable talent and seeding new, disruptive competition.

Who's Doing it Right?

Coca-Cola has received a perfect score on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index for 12 years running. The brand’s wide-ranging understanding of the LGBTQ+ community shines through in its “Pool Boy” ad, which we’ve mentioned before as a strong messaging example. Based on inclusivity, the spot is a classic tale of sibling rivalry—with a twist. The ad puts family dynamics front-and-center, as brother and sister compete for a visitor’s attention.

Target, another brand with a perfect CEI score, hasn’t been shy about pushing boundaries. In 2015, the chain supported extending 1964 Civil Rights Act protections to cover orientation and gender identity. The brand has also earmarked $20 million to construct single-occupancy restrooms with an eye toward giving trans patrons one less thing to worry about in their stores. More recently, Target has made it easier to search for gender-neutral clothing and toys.

Source: Kantar Consulting

Editor's Notes

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