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Marketing More Than a Rainbow

Posted on September 26, 12:26 a.m.
by Katie Gatti.

This June marked a monumental step forward for the LGBT community as same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide. The decision was made manifest across countless

platforms with a celebratory smattering of rainbow-colored everything — even the White House temporarily exchanged its plain spotlights for multicolored bulbs that cast an array of colors on its front.

June marked a milestone in the public relations realm as well: Ogilvy & Mather launched a dedicated LGBT practice called Ogilvy Pride. According to AdWeek, the LGBT community’s global spending power tops off at $3.7 trillion, making it a highly desirable demographic.

“The sheer number of brands willing to ‘go rainbow’ in the wake of same-sex marriage rulings is a growing trend,” Andrew Barratt, head of Ogilvy Pride, told AdWeek.

The anticipated growth of LGBT-specialized shops in the coming term is reminiscent of the attempt to reach multiracial groups in the late 20th century. Don’t expect the LGBT market to be as aggressively targeted, though — despite societal strides toward acceptance, some brands still fear the repercussions of marketing to LGBT consumers.

The introduction of Ogilvy Pride could be perceived as a highly specialized attempt at respecting diversity. When dealing with markets that are so closely connected with complex political issues, understanding the subtleties of the audience is essential.

“Don’t fake it. Get talent who understand the target, the nuances,” cautions IPG’s

Deutsch New York CEO Val DiFebo of the risks involved with a niche audience like the LGBT community. “Having a mediocre offering just for the sake of having it runs the risk of negatively impacting the agency’s business,” he told AdWeek.

When crafting campaigns or marketing products for a demographic like the LGBT community, sensitivity and authenticity are crucial. Although challenging, it’s important to keep a few things in mind if you’re trying to foster trust in a world permeated by increasing political correctness:

  • Be cautious not to subscribe to stereotypes or play on disrespectful caricatures. Poorly executed attempts at humor can alienate, especially if they rely on overly effeminate men or masculine women. These understandings of the LGBT community are anachronistic and offensive.
  • Although grouped together as one entity, it’s important not to oversimplify. Remember, many distinct groups comprise the LGBT community, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. A message tailored to one audience may not reach another as effectively.
  • If you’re going to launch a campaign leveled at the LGBT crowd, be confident. Retracting or changing your message due to criticism by conservative groups will be perceived as weak and off-putting to LGBT consumers, according to the Human Rights Campaign “Best Practices” manual.

Perhaps Ian Johnson, CEO of Out Now, captures it best in AdWeek: “Trust involves far more than turning a brand’s logo rainbow-colored for a tweet.”


  1. Post comment

    Katie, this a great blog!! Oversimplification is definitely something to avoid when addressing multiple audiences at once. Good thinking.

    Brittany Downey


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