LGBT Marketing Done Right

  1. Jill Andrews
  2. June 8, 2017 9:09 am

LGBT Marketing Done Right


If you are trying to market your service or product to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, you need to start with genuinely respecting them. They get a lot of flak in life for simply existing. For most people who fall under the umbrella of LGBT, shopping is a political act. Thus, LGBT marketing needs to be viewed as an attempt to be an ally in good faith to a political cause and not merely a means to make more money.

You may think that the world is an enlightened place and people in this community are not oppressed like they once were, but you would be wrong. In the U.S., there are 29 states where an employee can be fired from their job for being gay. There are also 32 states where it is legal to fire someone for being transgender.

This means that for the LGBT community, they are living in essentially a polite war zone. Although there are no bombs dropping from the sky, they are not safe and their lives can come unraveled on a moment’s notice. Being insensitive to this fact will not only fail to gain you customers, it will actively alienate this community and gain you enemies who will be disinclined to be forgiving of any missteps you may have made along the way.

Respect Starts at “Home”

If you are new to this space, you may not know it, but it is common in this community to keep track of internal policies of big companies and to shop accordingly. The Human Rights Campaign puts out a guide called the Buying for Workplace Equality. This guide is one that many LBGT people or their allies have on hand. They often check it before making purchasing decisions.

The guide rates companies based on their answers to a survey called the Corporate Equality Index. The questionnaire asks about the company’s LGBT spousal benefits, human resource practices, transgender benefits, non-discrimination policies and more. These details are used to score them and the results are published in a pocket-sized guide that can easily be kept in a purse or glove box. Thus, if a company with a poor rating, like Exxon Mobil, tries to run a campaign that makes them look LBGT friendly, members of the community and their allies can call BS in a heartbeat by checking their rating.

So, first do your homework. Find out if your company has policies that work well for this community. If it does not, trying to market to this community will be about like trying to make a cow pie tasty by putting icing on it. You might fool a few people briefly, but the hue and cry that will follow will absolutely not be worth it. First, get your house in order and make sure your internal policies would pass muster for treating such people with genuine respect as whole human beings.

After Your House is in Order

After you make sure that your hiring practices and all other internal practices are genuinely LGBT friendly, you can take the next step in LGBT marketing. This next step is about removing obvious exclusion from your print materials.

You may think you need to try to be inclusive, but this is not necessarily as effective as you may think. Putting a picture of a gay couple on the cover of your brochure may do nothing if you continue to use heteronormative language. Common expressions like “Jack and Jill bathroom” or “his and hers closets” may not sound like a problem to you, but the LGBT community will react to them like they have been kicked in the stomach. They will know better that you are not really open having them around.

So start by rooting out exclusionary language. Gender neutral language is a great place to start and also yields dividends in being female-friendly. With a little rephrasing and practice, it is not hard to use gender neutral terms like parent instead of mom or dad. Saying “one parent or the other” winds up not excluding gay couples who have children. In contrast, saying “mom or dad” assumes a heterosexual couple.

The LGBT community is very sensitive to any hint that you will be hostile to who they are. Scrubbing your marketing materials of such language will make it more likely that they will at least open the brochure. You cannot make a sale if you cannot even get your foot in the door.