Brands can show pride at being gay-friendly

We all know about the pink pound, but why are advertisers reluctant to use gay media to get it?

There is something about gay culture that has always fascinated me – perhaps it is the fun-loving flamboyance of many gay men, or the outspoken confidence of many gay women, that appeals to me, and that I feel I could learn from.

So when I attended the Westminster Media Forum on the LGBT community and the media a few weeks ago, I knew I would come away with some intriguing insights, but I didn’t realise just how interesting it would be – and what an interesting story it could make for brands who begin to build relationships with this community.

Of course there are brands who are at the forefront of this and have made gay messaging an integral part of their brand strategy – the marketing teams at Visit Britain and London 2012 Olympics have both revealed plans to specifically target this demographic in upcoming activity, while Lloyds TSB did so earlier this year.

But I was surprised to hear prominent gay media platforms such as Gaydar and MPG (publisher of Diva, Pink Paper and Gay Times) say they still faced a challenge at convincing big brands to advertise, despite the valuable data they have around a sizeable, receptive audience.

Gaydar commercial director Mark Mangla told the audience at the Westminster Forum: “We are up against a similar problem that (Kim Watson, MPG managing director of media and marketing) mentioned earlier…Gaydar Radio is a very respectable gay niche radio station with a very high listenership but advertisers can’t see the definition between (Gaydar Radio and Gaydar’s dating site).

“Very often we come up against young, straight media buyers who are just not interested, even though it might be a direct fit for the brand. Considering the size of our audience, you would think that they would be fighting to knock the door down, but they see the word ’gay’ in the title and they don’t want to know.”

Indeed, Gaydar carried out a survey of its audience in conjunction with Outright Research so it could put its money where its mouth is. It found that on its dating platform, 80% of its 2.2 million UK users were classed in an ABC1 demographic. 71% are 18 to 35 years old. Gaydar Girls has 250,000 UK users, 50% of whom log in at least once a day.

This audience is skewed more towards older, professional women, 58,000 of whom live in London. Meanwhile, Gaydar Radio attracts 500,000 unique listeners a week, with an average weekly listening time of 10 hours.

A captive, affluent audience across the three platforms – in short, brands need to get Gaydar and its counterparts on their radar.

And as with any consumer, brands need to do their research before putting something out there at a risk of turning consumers away rather than fostering brand loyalty.

I spoke with MPG’s Watson later and she mentioned brands who got it right – Brompton Bikes and the strapline ’Made in London with pride’ – and those who got it wrong – Wild Turkey whiskey, with the strapline, ’too good to gobble’. “That was a bit much,” she said.

Enough to make brand advocates into brand enemies. For more insights on appealing to the gay consumer, see my feature in the November 11 issue of Marketing Week.

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