Brands are failing to represent LGBT people in mainstream marketing campaigns

Brands that are inclusive of the LGBT community are more likely to be perceived as welcoming of other minority groups too but LGBT representation is still “noticeably lower” than other areas of diversity, says Stonewall’s Joey Hambidge.

Lloyds same sex couple proposal
Lloyds Bank featured a same sex proposal in its brand campaign earlier this year

While brands are getting better at promoting cultural, age and gender diversity in marketing and advertising, there is still a lack of representation for the LGBT community, according to Joey Hambidge, client account manager at LGBT organisation Stonewall, who claims it is “noticeably lower”.

“While campaigns around Pride season are encouraging and to be applauded, consistent year-round communication with the LGBT community and featuring LGBT people within mainstream campaigns sends a strong message of inclusion and support,” he says.

Hambidge singles out Lloyds Bank for advancing LGBT diversity both internally and through its brand communications.

“Lloyds Bank springs to mind due to its recent mainstream commercial featuring a male same-sex couple’s proposal,” he says. “It has also made huge strides in improving LGBT diversity and inclusion in the workplace and was number two in Stonewall’s Top 100 LGBT Employers 2016.”

Creating an environment that is inclusive of the LGBT community will help brands attract and retain talent too “and not just the talent from that particular diversity strand,” adds Hambidge.

“Many young people entering the industry have grown up with an inclusive mentality. Their social circles can be mixed and varied so they are looking for companies that reflect these values. So even if someone may not identify as being LGBT themselves, finding an LGBT-inclusive employer is often important to them.”

“Even if someone may not identify as being LGBT themselves, finding an LGBT-inclusive employer is often important.”

Joey Hambidge, client account manager, Stonewall

Hambidge adds that employees from other minority backgrounds often think if a business is visibly doing a lot for LGBT people, it is likely to also be more welcoming towards other minority groups.

“Diverse workforces produce positive and creative environments, so there’s a real business benefit to employing lesbian, gay, bi and trans staff. We also know that people perform better when they can be themselves so creating an inclusive environment for those LGBT staff members is also essential,” he adds.

Set up an LGBT network to improve inclusivity

Pride in London 2016 Credit Andy Tyler
Pride in London 2016. Photo credit Andy Tyler.

The type of support people need at work can vary greatly but having a strong LGBT network group creates a central hub for employees and is key to promoting inclusion within the business.

“These groups allow people to network and also find mentors, should this be what they want,” he says. “They also provide an array of positive role models, who are vital when it comes to inspiring others and helping them to believe there are no barriers to what they can achieve.”

He adds: “I believe LGBT people within the industry are looking for ways they can make a difference and not only improve LGBT diversity and inclusion in the workplace but also in the output of marketing campaigns.”

If there is no existing LGBT network group within a company, Hambidge urges people to set one up and for business leaders to provide adequate resources to do so.

“The group will do so much work in raising awareness around sexual orientation and gender identity issues, as well as acting as a valuable resource for your business.” Young people have a more inclusive mentality so brands need to do more to promote these values, because even if someone doesn’t identify as LGBT themselves it could impact their perception of the brand, says Stonewall’s Joey Hambidge.

READ MORE: The next in Marketing Week’s diversity series is on LGBT representation in marketing