Lives, Styles and Trends of today’s LGBT Consumers
Christine Lehtonen is an award-winning marketer and founder of Asterix Group a full-service branding agency. Chris and her team handle strategy, brand experience design and consumer engagement programs for leading brands. Her work is focused on transforming consumer-to-brand relationships through a deep understanding of culture, market dynamics, and trends.
Chris brings considerable expertise engaging LGBT, LOHAS, millennial and women consumers. She has led transformative LGBT research, marketing strategy and advertising for a host of companies including AAA, MyPartner.com, Olivia and WaMu. She regularly travels and presents new insights on creating effective and engaging campaigns and long-term relationships with consumers.
In this presentation Asterix Group founder and brand strategist Christine Lehtonen presented a unique look at today’s US Lesbian and Gay consumers. This research is among some of the first of its kind. Her study only focuses on Gay men and Lesbian women, and not the LGBT community as a whole, and when asked why she replied “because it allowed for a clearer set of results, and it helped us to narrow our research down to specific segments.” She also said she hopes to someday add to her research by including a more detailed perspective, something that paints a clear picture of the whole LGBT community.
Until that time comes she shares insights, segment research and social shifts that make this segment increasingly important to understand and attract. Ms. Lehtonen discussed the dynamics that are shaping LGBT values, and lives. As well as strategies and best practices for connecting and engaging with this influential segment. Ms. Lehtonen discussed actionable steps that can help marketers form authentic relationships and ultimately gain more loyal LGBT consumers. It is also very important for the reader to note that the stigma placed on being homosexual has made this type of research very challenging. Some homosexuals do not feel safe enough to divulge their sexual preference. Until every member of the LGBT community feels safe enough to “come out” this data will be always be incomplete.
If you haven’t read my blog titled Barack Obama Honored as National Hero? By Melissa Adams at http://www.dynamicbizblog.blogspot.com then take a look at it when you have a chance it will bring you up to speed on the debate about Gay Marriage and where the President of the United States stands on this issue. I also would like to mention my post on the fact that the “Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional”, according to the federal appeals court.
Of course that is not the end of the debate and there is still a long way to go before members of the LGBT community feels like we are completely equal to other citizens of this great country of ours. America is making so many strides in the right direction and as our culture shifts, corporate America should try to build relationships with the LGBT community.
Ms. Lehtonen says the LGBT community makes up roughly 10% of the U.S. consumer market. According to the U.S. Census Bureau: Those who live in households but who were not related to the householder were identified as housemates/roommates, roomers or boarders, and unmarried partners of the householder.
This latter group includes people who initially identified themselves as being same-sex spouses of the householder. So from this chart you can see there are 7,744,711 people in the U.S. who consider themselves to be members of the LGBT community. In Ms. Lehtonen’s presentation she pointed out research that shows that the total buying power of the adult U.S. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and transgender population is projected at $743 Billion (Source: Witeck-Combs Communications and MarketResearch.com). Why should businesses care about the LGBT community and the issues that are important to its members? Ms. Lehtonen explains “today consumers are sending a message to businesses that they are watching to see if they understand and honor issues important to them including support for LGBT Americans.” She went on to point out that there is a “positive tidal wave” of business support for LGBT inclusion.
We can see this positive wave in all areas from businesses that offer benefits to domestic partners to extending workplace protections to transgendered workers. Sometimes the tidal waves are the size of a tsunami like President Barack Obama saying he is not against gay marriage.
Ms. Lehtonen also pointed out a long and growing list of corporations that direct marketing and sponsorship at LGBT organization and individuals. This is evident when we look at the List of the best places to work for LGBT equality on the Human Rights Campaign website www.hrc.org . This list consist of organizations like Wells Fargo, Absolute Vodka, Macy’s, Miller Brewing company and Apple of course the list is long and the relationships run deep. Some businesses have been “Gay Friendly” before it was seen as socially responsible. In the 21st Century organizations must think outside of the box when it comes to building strong relationships with customers. I always ask my clients, “How well do you know your customers?” When you think of growing our business look to your customers social dynamics. At the risk of sounding like a Sociology professor (that’s my partner Cecilia Stanton’s Profession) I will say culture is important when it comes to defining your target market. Culture is the complex system of meaning and behavior that defines the way of life for a given group or society (Anderson & Taylor).
In any society, culture defines what is perceived as: Beautiful-Ugly Right- Wrong Good- Bad The LGBT community has a culture of its own and as business owners it is our jobs to understand the culture of our customers. Ms. Lehtonen did a great job of pointing out some of the social dynamics of the LGBT community. One fact that I found interesting is the fact that 18-24 year olds have the highest degree of out-ness. What does this mean for your organization? It means that if you think of the members of LGBT community as a culture then you are getting a clearer definition of a target market that is:
- Brand loyal
As a member of the LGBT community I must say this is true I have been using the same staple brands for years not only food but clothing and even household cleaning products.
- Easy to reach (present in 99.3% of all counties in the U.S.(US Census)
I found this data interesting because this means that there is even a gay community in Alaska (Alaska Pride.
- Demographic crosses all ages and regions and other segments
This is important information because Ms. Lehtonen pointed out that research shows that most of the members of the LGBT community come to a “realization” at age 15. So if you’ve been watching Glee and you love Chris Colfer’s character Kurt Hummel then you already know this. To drive this point in she talked about what she calls the “Graying of the Gays”. As we saw earlier in the figure from the U.S. Census there are 769,490 people who identify as Gay or Lesbian between the ages of 45 and 64 living in the U.S., and 162,898 people who identify as Gay or Lesbian who are over the age of 65 years and over living in the U.S.
- Trend toward marriage and forming families
This is evident when we see members of the LGBT community, their supporters and their allies turning up at the ballots around the country fighting for gay marriage rights.
- Those with children likely to say, “My family is the most important thing in my life” (source: Real World Lesbians and Gays).
Again I must say as a member of the LGBT community this is true I value family. I will say that sometimes family members are not so quick to accept their LGBT children, siblings etc., so we make our own families. Today more people are accepting of their gay children.
However I do need to add that an article in the Sunday St. Paul Pioneer Press on June 10, 2012, by Rebecca Trounson of the Los Angeles Times titled Gay Teens Less Likely to be Happy, says “it’s not easy growing up gay in American, despite the nation’s increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage and other issues of gay equality”.
The survey was done by the Human Rights Campaign and they interviewed 10,000 gay and lesbian young people. The study says “Many LGBT kids are more likely to be “out” at school than they are with their families” (Rebecca Trounson). Ms. Lehtonen’s said “there is no one gay market” and she was very emphatic when she said “Gays and Lesbians form a community of distinct segments that together represent a broad and dynamic variety of interest, sensitivities, preferences and priorities.” What this means is that all Gays and Lesbians are not exactly the same but similarities to appear in LGBT buying behavior and those things are:
- Conscientious consumers
- Brand Fans
- Early Adopters
- Influential trendsetters
- Active in community
- High in Charitable contributions
Ms. Lehtonen identified (5) five distinct Lesbian and Gay Segments, they have fun names and are clearly defined for a complete look at the full definition of each segment download the pdf version from my website http://www.transform-u-academy.com : 5 Gay and Lesbian segments
Super Gays Highest in OUTNESS Highly affiliated & supportive of LGBT communities. Educated & sophisticated activists (most likely male).
|Main Street Painted Gay|
Gay Mainstream Complex, yet simple, full-time workers who acknowledge the great impact of “coming out.” Consume a mix of mainstream and gay media, but most into gay movies & pop music.
Habitaters Serious, responsible, down-to-earth, & older (most likely female); in stable relationships and most concerned about children & HIV issues. Live in suburbs of big cities, own homes, and maintain shared financial accounts, particularly mortgages. Nesters: watch the most TV: particularly love life, food, & relationships. Regard domestic partner benefits offered by companies as the most important corporate relationship builder.
Party People Youngest to “come out”; although being gay is a big part of their identity, few think “coming out” had a great impact on their life. Cutting edge, youthful, & risk-taking party-goers who typically live in urban areas. Lowest in education & most likely into R&B/Hip-Hop/Reggae music & luxury cars. Spend most money on travel, fashion and personal pampering.
Closeted Almost completely in the closet with lowest gay identity. Older, traditional & introverted sideliners Likely single, living in small towns/rural areas, hanging out with straight friends and not affiliated with LGBT organizations. Mostly consume mainstream media and surfing straight websites. Source Christine Lehtonen
I also liked hearing Ms. Lehtonen say “Members of the LGBT community are trendsetters with the ability to boost marketer’s bottom lines or break them”. Keep that in mind when you are thinking of bringing a new product to the market. Could marketing a product directly to LGBT community mean instant adaptability? What does it mean if the LGBT community gives you’re product a thumbs down? Is that a chance businesses want to take?
So you’re asking how I ask my customers if they are Gay. You don’t ask you support the LGBT community and offer an inclusive workplace and the word will get out. Members of the LGBT community utilize word of mouth and we talk about it all “the good”, “the bad” or “the homophobic” service. Another thing to keep in mind is 81% of Americans do not care if a company whose products they use also promotes them to gays (Christine Lehtonen).
Here are just a few ways you can show your gay customers that you support them Reach out publicly to Sponsor a LGBT non-profit organization in your town, Advertise in some of the LGBT publications that are available all over the world. Show members of the LGBT community in your advertisements as part of a diverse community.
Until members of the LGBT community are excepted into mainstream, businesses will not be able to tap into the $743 billion dollar total buying power of a community of trendsetter, who are digitally and socially savvy, style and design fanatics, who travel extensively, and frequently. The LGBT community is full of people, with strong family values and an entrepreneurial edge who consider themselves natural leaders.
Stanton Adams Consulting, LLC. is proud to stand for marriage equality, our company is owned and operated by two women who are not only out and proud members of the LGBT community but both Melissa Adams and Cecilia Stanton marched sided by side in pride parades in the late 80’s and early 90’s in New York City. To learn more about how your organization can start building strong relationships with the LGBT community go to http://www.stantonadams.com