Firm News

Inclusive Marketing for Queer Audiences

May 18, 2017

Some advice on how to market to LGBT+ audiences without forcing it.

Let’s face it: queer audiences aren’t exactly the biggest or most visible audience that comes to advertisers’ minds. However, with LGBT+ culture and struggles entering the mainstream conscious, more and more companies are beginning to release ads that cater exclusively to queer communities. While these ads are a positive thing in theory (representation is important!), more often than not these efforts to cater to the LGBT+ community can come off as forced or tossed in. With that in mind, here are a few recommendations on how to authentically advertise to queer audiences from an actual queer person:

Make Sure You Have a Reason to Include Them

One of the biggest mistakes that advertisers make when attempting to appeal to LGBT+ audiences is that more often than not the inclusion of queer persons or messaging feels out of place or forced. A great example of this can be seen in the recent press campaign for the new Beauty and the Beast movie. The director mentioned in an interview that the character of LeFou was gay, and that he had an “exclusively gay moment” in the film, and as a result the film was heralded for its inclusivity. However, once the film was released it was revealed that the moment had been played up for attention: the scene in question was barely a scene at all and mostly occurred in the background, and was deemed largely unnecessary. The key take-away from this incident is that advertisers shouldn’t play up LGBT+ angles if there isn’t a significant reason to. In the case of Beauty and the Beast, LeFou’s sexuality was significantly played up as a method of drumming up interest; it was barely featured in the final product and didn’t make much sense in the grand scope of the film. Make sure that when including LGBT+ persons and angles that you have a legitimate reason to be including them beyond an attempt to gain some cheap buzz, or else you run the risk of coming off as opportunistic.

Make Sure Your Messaging Helps Our Cause

One of the best examples of utilizing LBGT+ people in an ad in recent memory is the Campbell’s Soup Star Wars ad. In the ad, a gay couple can be seen interacting with their young child. The reason this ad is so successful as an ad featuring LGBT+ people is that it presents the family as being a normal family; no attention is paid to the fact that the parents are a gay couple. The ad is a prime example of something that advances the LGBT+ cause; by presenting the couple as normal, it helps to reinforce the idea that LGBT+ people are the same as everyone else. Too often ads will include LGBT+ to simply meet a diversity quota; brands want to reach the audiences without the baggage. However, in order to successfully market to LGBT+ people you need to not only understand their struggles but also promote them in an organic way. By simply using LGBT+ as props, you’ll alienate the audience and come off as opportunistic; instead, learn what we’re fighting for and attempt to promote that in an honest and organic way.

Don’t Use LGBT+ As Props

Similar to my first suggestion, when including or making ads for LGBT+ people be sure that you’re including them for an organic reason. Some ads featuring LGBT+ people can come across as showboating, or being inclusive for reasons other than the advancement of LGBT+ people (like the Beauty and the Beast example). A good example of an ad not doing this is Coke’s recent “Pool Boy” ad. The ad is a hilarious send up of the “hot pool boy trope” that features a brother and a sister fighting over the same sexy pool boy, only to be beaten out by their mother. Similar to the Campbell’s ad, the Coke ad promotes LGBT+ people as normal. Additionally, it makes sense to include the young gay man; why wouldn’t he be lusting after the sexy pool boy? My final suggestion is an accumulation of the first two: LGBT+ are not props to be used in ads in order to reach an audience that is becoming more and more mainstream. If you don’t have legitimate reasons for including them or advertising to them, then don’t. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t try; simply make sure you’re attempting for the right reasons.

Jack Nester is a Social Media Coordinator at Bond Moroch.  

Photo Credit: "City Hall" by Tom Hilton, licensed under CC 2.0