Monday, August 08, 2005

Driving Towards Gay Loyalty Rewards

Here's a great article from our friend Michael Wilke at Commercial Closet about what some car companies are doing to attract AND KEEP their gay customers. We fully agree with the very last line of the story: loyalty is the best way to earn loyalty.

Commercial Closet: Driving toward gay loyalty rewards
by Michael Wilke, Commercial Closet

Advertisers often vaunt the loyalty of the gay market, but few offer something back.

But as they get more savvy about gay marketing, Avis Rent A Car and Ford Motor Co. are starting to go beyond simple ad campaigns. They're now offering incentives to lure more green from gay wallets, including shopping discounts and donations to community organizations.

Avis Rent A Car System, which entered the market in 2003, created the unique "A Card" last year to create value and brand awareness. The red-and-white card carries a special code for 10 percent discounts at TLA Video, 20 percent off gay magazine subscriptions and more. It ties in with Avis' campaign tagline, "You're A-list to us," touting the company's lack of extra charge for domestic partner drivers.

Over 1.5 million A Cards have been distributed in magazines and at film festivals and events -- and they're used a lot. TLA Video enjoyed nearly $300,000 in sales from its relationship to the card in 2004.

Avis supports gay film festivals

"What we were looking for was a platform to create a relationship with the customer," explains Scott Deaver, executive vice president of marketing for Cendent Car Rental Group, which owns Avis and Budget Rent A Car. "In the wider world, we're realistic. We know that car rental's not the highest-interest category -- people don't break a sweat over it. That's not a great platform to build a relationship on, so we asked our ad agency to pick something that people think about more often, like entertainment."

So since 2003, Avis has directly supported gay film festivals across the country. Since the A Card requires no registration (meaning, there's no way to create a database to communicate directly with cardholders), Avis launched a sweepstakes for a "VIP Festival Pass" trip to the 2006 gay film festivals in Miami, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Avis also tracks traffic to a Web site ( to determine the effectiveness of its campaign. "A lot of corporate advertisers don't even have a page dedicated to the community," notes Jay Arnold, president of Impax Marketing in Philadelphia, which handles Avis' gay market account.

Avis also tried a donation program, in which $1 for every reported rental went to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in 2003. The effort failed, however, since few people were willing to fill out paperwork for such a low donation.

It's fortunate that Avis is well-established in the market: Its bigger rival, The Hertz Corp., quietly arrived this year. Hertz has not yet created dedicated ads or initiated a presence at major events, however.

Ford Motor brands' giveback offers to HRC, GLAAD

Ford Motor Co. began introducing its brands Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover to the gay market in a series of one roughly every six months, starting in January 2003. (Ford has not yet brought its own brand name out, and as yet there is no indication when it will.)

Building on a new sponsorship of the Human Rights Campaign, Jaguar began an annual giveback purchase offer program with $1,000 donations going to HRC for a purchase or lease. Less than a year later, Volvo followed with $500 donations; a few months thereafter, Land Rover jumped in at $1,000 a sale. Last year, the brands switched the donations for Volvo and Land Rover to GLAAD, while Volvo remained with HRC.

"The program is based on what LGBT people tell us they're looking for: companies that support us," says John Butler, senior strategist at Witeck-Combs Communications, the Washington D.C. firm that handles Ford's gay marketing.

The donation sizes reflect the cars' price differences, something Witeck-Combs tested with focus groups. "We had to figure it out -- what amount does it take to get consumers to do something?" says Butler, noting the failure of the Avis $1-to-GLAAD effort.

The program is working well. A Ford source reports that 2004 showed nearly three times as many redemptions as 2003, and that Volvo has done best of the brands. Both HRC and GLAAD report positive results. The idea is working so well that Ford and HRC are now exploring ways to apply the idea outside their original relationship.

Butler says the ability to measure market response is particularly relevant in the face of pressure from a
recent evangelical boycott threatrecent evangelical boycott threat against Ford. "I felt like we had a little jump of people turning in their purchase promotions" -- that is, supportive lesbians and gays responding to the threat -- Butler says.

A recent survey of 697 visitors to
CommercialCloset asked what they do when gay-friendly companies are boycotted. Most (65 percent) claimed to support the company with purchases. Another 21.8 percent said they simply cursed fundamentalists, while just 13.2 percent said they bothered to call or write to the targeted company with support.

As competitors crowd in and evangelicals attack, advertisers have a strong interest in creating trackable campaigns that show the fruits of their efforts while also giving back to the community. After all, loyalty is the best way to earn loyalty.

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