Monday, July 11, 2005

Under the GLBT Microscope

Today, Spain’s first ever legally-recognized same-sex marriage took place. Two men, who have been a couple for 30 years, took their vows in a city council room in the Madrid suburb of Tres Cantos.

Meanwhile, here in America, we’ve seen a great deal of back-and-forth motion on the issue of gay marriage. Some states are embracing the idea of recognizing gay unions, mostly calling them “civil unions” rather than “marriage.” On the flip side of the coin, other states have outlawed them through voter referendums and constitutional amendments.

Where does that leave the American gay consumer? For one, they’re left with a mix of hope and disappointment.

As a result, however, gays and lesbians are increasingly paying attention to the corporate behavior of the brands that they use. A company that shows its support of the gay community, whether through anti-discrimination policies and same sex benefits and/or sponsorships of GLBT-related events, can make huge gains in attracting this fiercely loyal group to their products. Likewise, a brand that expresses an opposing view stands to lose this consumer base for a long time…and believe us, the GLBT community has a very long collective memory.

And what about those gay agnostic companies somewhere in the middle? They may not lose their existing gay customers, but they certainly won’t put themselves in a position to tap this $615 billion market either.

Something to consider:
What are your company’s policies toward its GLBT employees? If it’s anything shy of a written anti-discrimination policy and same-sex partner benefits, there’s definite room for improvement. Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s leading gay rights organization, just published its “State of the Workplace for LGBT Americans” report. It can be accessed online at

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Politics & GLBT Marketing

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind for supporters of gay and lesbian rights. Canada and Spain passed laws granting full rights of marriage to its gay citizens, and the United Church of Christ has endorsed same-sex marriage, making it the largest Christian denomination to do so.

What does that mean for brands looking to burn themselves into the minds of GLBT consumers? If they’re willing to take a stand, it means a lot. There’s no better way for a brand to say “we value you as a customer” than to first say “we value you as a person.”

Here are three recent examples, two good and one bad, of companies that have gotten involved in the public dialogue about gay rights and same-sex marriage:

On June 22nd, Nike, one of the world’s most recognizable shoe brands, announced its support of two Oregon GLBT civil rights bills: legislation to create civil unions and an antidiscrimination bill. Gay rights groups from the statewide Basic Rights Oregon to the national Human Rights Campaign publicly praised Nike in the media and to their tens of thousands of collective members for the company’s support of the legislation.

During last year’s elections, Pete Coors was running for one of Colorado’s seats in the US Senate on a conservative platform, including the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would amend the U.S. Constitution to limit marriage in this country to one man and one woman. In a show of support for its GLBT consumers, we suggested that Coors Brewing Co. announce publicly that they, as a company, do not support the Federal Marriage Amendment. The company, which has been battling misconceptions and untruths since the 1970s about its relationship with the GLBT community, was the only major U.S. company to do so. From a marketing and public relations perspective, it gave us another opportunity to showcase the Coors Brewing Co.’s decades-long allegiance to its gay and lesbian consumers.

Unfortunately, not all companies have been so wise when wading into the political waters. Microsoft flip-flopped on a gay rights bill up for a vote earlier this year in the Washington State Legislature. First, the company publicly supported the bill. Then, after a meeting with a Seattle evangelist who threatened a national boycott, the company withdrew its support of the legislation. The bill lost by a single vote in the state’s Senate (the House had already passed it). A few weeks later, Microsoft did an about-face and said that it would publicly support similar future legislation, but not before its image was bruised in the eyes of gay consumers.