When will advertisers start targeting the LGBTI communities?

LGBTI Gay Pride Marketing OMR
LGBTI Gay Pride Marketing OMR

Roughly six million people in Germany identify as a member of the LGBTI community: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersexual. The high-spending and shop-happy segment is incredibly interesting for marketers and advertisers—and yet only a handful of brands have campaigns aimed at the LGBTI community directly. Just in time for CSD day, OMR is taking a look at effective ways of reaching the target group and unlocking its enormous potential.

“The social acceptance of gays and lesbians is becoming more and more a matter of course—and more and more companies are recognizing the potential in gay marketing,” says Marco Steinert. Marco is the founder of Berlin-based digital advertiser Netzdenker, which has developed, implemented and delivered online campaigns for homosexual target groups since 2009, while also providing advertisers with insights on gay marketing. Based on reach, Netzdenker says it is the largest online advertiser for LGBTI publishers in the DACH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) region.

Marco Steinert Netzdenker LGBTI Pride OMR

Marco Steinert

It’s no surprise that LGBTI-friendly companies have a positive image in the especially young target group. According to a 2014 Google survey, 45 percent of consumers under 34 said there is a strong chance that they would buy again from an LGBTI-friendly company and over half would choose to purchase from companies that openly support equality than those that do not. The increasing societal acceptance that homosexuals enjoy is also creating a situation where marketers and advertisers fail to regularly target the LGBTI-community separately. Steinert calls it’s “squandered potential,” because it is a “vibrant, travel- and shop-happy target group.”

Hipper, cooler and online’ier: the LGBTI communities in the US, UK and Germany

What Steinert has observed in his role at Netzdenker has been affirmed in a recent survey: 66% of all LGBs feel their lifestyle is not adequately represented in advertising. The survey, conducted by market researcher Yougov, states that the target group is young and primarily male, while another Yougov study conducted just on the German LGB community shows that the target group primarily comes in contact with advertising online instead of on TV like the majority of the German population. While both studies indicate that the target group is ideal for online marketers and advertisers as the LGB communities in the US, UK and Germany are more likely to search for products on their phones, while LGBs in Germany go as far as saying that linear TV belongs to the past.

The survey points out that LGBTIs do not possess above average wealth, as is erroneously reported frequently. They do, however, say that “their style is expensive” and they are social multipliers—LGBs are more frequently asked by friends and acquaintances for advice before they purchase a product. The study also pointed out that they are seen as trendsetters and like to stand out. They are among the first in their circle of friends that, for example, discover a new musical artist. LGBs are also seen as progressive and environmentally conscious, and are almost twice as likely to be vegan than average.

Is the best match for gay males a dating app?

According to Steinert, there are three paths emerging in gay marketing to reach the target group digitally in the long-term. “While Facebook knows a great deal about an individual’s sexual orientation and ads can be targeted to reach this target group, the best way to reach gays under 30 while minimizing advertising wastage is on dating apps such as Grindr, Planet Romeo or Hornet. LGBTI news portals and blogs are now primarily accessed via social media and less frequently via direct searches. Exacerbating the issue is that many advertisers refuse to advertise in dating apps as a matter of policy, meaning agency-side media planners are unable to include them in their marketing mix. A huge mistake according to Steinert, as “many apps, like Hornet, have created a top-quality environment for brands and advertisers.”

How Grindr is promoting its current advertising product.

The hottest gay dating apps: Grindr, Hornet—and Instagram?

At the moment, Grindr is the world’s largest gay-dating app and according to company figures has over 3 million daily users. One of its driving KPIs is its radar function, that shows you registered Grindr users in your vicinity, who are currently online. At gay parties that leads to the ever-increasing practice where users don’t speak to each other directly, but write each other on Grindr first to test the waters and see if the other person is interested in a face-to-face chat. Advertising on Grindr is similar to Facebook, in that even without any detailed targeting it makes a lot of sense due to the intensity that Grindr is used by the gay community.

In contrast to Grindr, Hornet has positioned itself as a higher class gay app. Founded in 2011 by German startup serial entrepreneur Christof Wittig in San Francisco, Wittig made headlines recently with Hornet as he announced the release of “the LGBT Token,” a LGBT bitcoin currency together with Berlin blockchain tech startup OST. Hornet describes itself as “the world’s premier gay social network” and has 25 million global users and 1 million daily active users. The app has three main functions: users can connect via their “Guys” profiles or at “Places,” nearby LGBT locations. And with “Stories,” a portal with over 25 new articles, published daily in eight languages by apparent award-winning international content creators from the LGBT scene, the app provides additional own media. As the content is entirely curated by a team of in-house editors, Hornet is able to market itself to advertisers as “the only mobile-first, brand-safe, social network solution that directly delivers premium native content and a targeted LGBTQ+ audience to top spending brands.”

Pride Hashtag Instagram Gay LGBTI OMR

Hashtags like “#pride” are displayed in rainbows on Instagram.

Steinert also sees Instagram gaining in use as a dating app amongst gays, who keep their profiles open, fill it with selfies and search for and find each other via hashtags. The Facebook image platform also increases visibility of gay-friendly hashtags like #lgbt, #pride, #pride2018, #gay, #queer and #lovewins by automatically displaying them in the colors of the rainbow and even added rainbow stickers and filters for Pride month for Stories. No wonder then that if you search for these hashtags on Instagram, you’ll be delivered current LGBTI-related ads promptly.

Don’t stage a normal LGBTI day as something unique

While there are some major brands, like Calvin Klein, who ran their mainstream ads of Justin Bieber and Kendal Jenner in the 2016 spring campaign on gay platforms, Steinert still sees a heightened degree of appreciation in the community when advertisers create ads specifically for the community. The trend now, according to Steinert is Advertorials portraying homosexual realities as “as normal” as possible. Some best-practice examples, he says, include a motif by travel portal Dertour depicting two ladies walking along a beach, arm in arm, and an ad by Germany’s national train company, Deutsche Bahn, showing a man following his boyfriend, a professional soccer player, to his match in a high-speed train.

Another example of an LGBTI-friendly ad is the lesbian couple and their baby promoting the family card to Deutsche Telekom last year, while travel agent Thomas Cook ran this ad, showing a normal gay family. Steinert says that advertorials like these receive just as much positive resonance in the community as general equality and diversity acceptance campaigns featuring rainbow colors. “Brand statements with motifs depicting the normalcy of LGBTI daily life and gays having fun using the promoted product remain very effective,” says Steinert.

What does not work in the community is when such rainbow campaigns are only ran in mainstream media channels without addressing the LGBTI target group directly in their campaigns. “That is received more as lip service, as a cowardice non-stance, contrived to show the world how liberal and open the company is,” says Steinert.

Strategic planning for online and offline campaigns during pride festival season

The unofficial pride season runs from May to October. There are now thousands of Christopher Street Day parades, pride festivals, parades and parties around the world, where millions from the LGBTI community convene under the motto “Show your Pride.” In Germany, for example, CSD parades and pride events aren’t just limited to the big-city streets of Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne. This past Sunday alone, July 22, there were CSD parades in Frankfurt, Mönchengladbach, Trier, Rostock and Leipzig, while 350,000 people were in the Berlin neighborhood Schöneberg to celebrate the “lesbisch-schwule Stadtteilfest” the gay lesbian neighborhood fest. 

Over the next couple of weekends, CSD parades will be held in Hamburg and in Berlin. Steinert has observed how German advertisers in Germany fail to incorporate the LGBTI mass events than brands abroad do, where online LGBTI ad campaigns are extended offline—like Netflix and Vodafone did at World Pride in Madrid 2018. “There is significant untapped potential for brand representation in a very attractive target group.”

Netflix World Pride Madrid 2018 LGBTI Marketing OMR

Netflix poster during Madrid Pride 2018 (Image: Marco Steinert).

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