Pride season is here. Tens of thousands of ATMs across the country will sport rainbow adornments, Target and H&M will devote sections of their stores to a panoply of rainbow trinkets and garments, companies from nearly every business segment in America will wish the LGBT community a “Happy Pride.”

Rainbow flags will be festooned across storefronts nationwide and then disappear.

What many companies fail to realize is this annual ritual known as “rainbow washing” can have unintended negative consequences. Pride is 24/7/365 and companies that relegate their LGBT outreach to one month a year are often perceived as pandering and tokenistic.

What forward-thinking marketers understand is the need for brands to talk to the LGBT consumer on a year-round basis.  So time to move off of the Pride-month-only strategy.

A $1 trillion spending engine, LGBT consumers are recognized as having the highest discretionary household income, estimated to be 23% above the national average. Recent surveys say that a whopping 20% of trendsetting millennials ages 25-34 identify as LGBTQ. The math speaks for itself.

The LGBT segment is not homogenous or monolithic. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, creating the need for nuanced outreach efforts. Fully, 61% of respondents in a recent poll found that diversity in marketing and advertising was highly important, positively impacting a brand’s bottom line.  All aspects of marketing messaging can be customized and delivered to segments and subsegments of the LGBT consumer sector through multiple mediums.

LGBT consumers are highly enthusiastic, recognized as the earliest adopters and greatest influencers representing disproportionate control of a brand’s profitability. Brands should develop emotional connections. Qualitative research shows that “positive image enforcement” leads to positive purchasing decisions. Oreo’s “Proud Parent” outreach and commercial is an of-the-moment illustration, making this connection. This community responds favorably to the perception of being treated equally, as friends or family, rather than as outsiders.

Savvy marketers must carefully navigate a fine line, necessitating tactile communication, devoid of stereotypes, while staying laser-focused on-brand messaging. LGBT relatable lexicon and imagery should be employed, wherever possible, to create a stronger bond between a brand and this consumer. This consumer understands sincerity and authenticity.

Not to be underestimated is the power and outsize impact of social media “influencers” on brand building and purchasing decisions. LGBT influencers have surged on all main platforms, including Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Over 92% of ages 18-34 respond that they seek recommendations from a trusted source. Choosing relatable influencers that connect with consumers on emotional levels is key. Impactful LGBT “champion,” Tyler Oakley, reaching over 7.5 million followers, connects daily with core consumers’ values and aspirations.

The pandemic has forced companies to be creative in their marketing outreach. For example, many alcohol companies are hosting online happy hours and dance events with prominent DJs. A prime example is Jack Daniel’s drag queen hosted virtual entertainment parties.

Recently, companies such as Budweiser, Walgreens, IBM and Microsoft, to name a few, have launched consumer-specific campaigns representing the “world around us.” Geico’s affectionate portrayal of a male couple is another example of how these slice-of-life moments are all-encompassing, reflecting a melting pot of the USA.

Sponsorships are also highly effective ways to bond with the LGBT consumer. Molson Coors’ Vizzy Hard Seltzer’s $1 million sponsorship of the Human Rights Campaign is extremely visible, as is Kellogg’s collaboration with GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) on its “Together with Pride” cereal launch.

When Pride season comes to an end, farsighted companies will cease the 11-month hibernation, and will use 2021 to create a holistic approach to the LGBT consumer, talking to them throughout the year. One thing will become crystal clear: these visionary companies will jump over the rainbow into a pot of gold!


Andrew Isen has over 30 years of experience in brand engagement with LGBTQ consumers and has helped over 1,000 companies successfully target these consumers and create valuable relationships. His expertise in all elements of marketing from concept to execution and his strategic perspective on the past, present and future of the LGBTQ community has made him a leading authority and sought-after expert in the evolving field of LGBTQ marketing.  Andrew is the founder and president of the award-winning marketing firm WinMarkconcepts.com.

Andrew has been named a member of “Out 100” by OUT Magazine and is regularly quoted in national media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and PBS, about trends and marketing best practices in the LGBTQ segment.


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