Growing consumer awareness of societal issues is forcing more brands to take a closer look at their own company’s practices, like exactly what and who they stand for. 

Consumers, including those belonging to LGBTQ+ community, are calling out brands who misinterpret what’s appropriate, fail to represent diversity or use tokenism in their advertising.

With more than $1 trillion dollars of buying power in the U.S. alone, LGBTQ+ consumers will most likely come out in force when the country reopens for business…or will they?

Our research shows just 12% of the LGBTQ+ community in the U.S. feel represented in the advertising they see.

This points to a big disconnect between the good brands think they’re doing versus how their efforts are perceived by the very people they’re trying to reach. 

To appeal to LGBTQ+ consumers appropriately, accurately, and with purpose, brands need to dig deeper. 

Our new GWI USA data set features a wealth of insight into the communities that are underrepresented. And while it’s never enough to bunch hugely diverse people into one homogenous group, there are some top line insights we can reveal into these consumers that brands could be overlooking.

Here are a few.

1. They take an active stance on issues that matter to them. 

In the LGBTQ+ community, 2 in 5 say they’re outspoken about the issues they care about, and we know these issues centre around mental health, identity and being accepted. 

64% of LGBTQ+ identifiers think it’s ok for people to say when they’re struggling, while 59% think we should be more open about mental health

If you compare this group to the average U.S. citizen, you could say their ideals are progressive:

  • They’re 33% more likely to say it’s important to feel accepted by others (roughly 1 in 3 say this).
  • They’re much less likely to say they believe in traditions (29%) versus the overall American population (42%). 
  • They’re 83% more likely to say traditional gender roles are outdated, with almost 1 in 2 agreeing with this statement.

But their ideals aren’t theirs alone. The LGBTQ+ community is bolstered by around a quarter of all U.S. consumers who say they want brands to prioritize equality and diversity in everything they do, with Gen Z and millennials most in support of this. 

In fact, when making lasting change, it literally pays to do what’s right: almost a fifth of the U.S. internet population say seeing a brand show support for equality and diversity would make them choose it over another. 

Key takeaway: take a stand on an important issue and stick to it.

2. They describe themselves as creative, outgoing, and image-conscious.

When asked how they see themselves, the three most used adjectives by LGBTQ+ consumers are ‘open-minded’, ‘loyal’ and ‘respectful’. 

They also describe themselves as creative, outgoing, and image-conscious people; being 84% more likely than average to be interested in urban art, 70% more likely to be interested in clubbing and 25% more likely to be interested in fashion clothing.

What’s more, our research shows they’re 46% more likely than average to say they’re influenced by what’s cool/trendy and 39% more likely to say they want their lifestyle to impress others.

Nearly 1 in 2 LGBTQ+ individuals like or love to stand out in a crowd. 

When it comes to image, we can see this group looks to influencers as go-to sources of inspiration, with members in the LGBTQ+ community 67% more likely to say they’re interested in influencers than the average U.S citizen.

Key takeaway: bake their interests and sources of inspiration into your content to increase your brand’s appeal. 

3. They have less trust in big brands and corporations. 

Shifting Pride celebrations online in the wake of coronavirus isn’t a means to an end, but social media companies show the benefits that can be derived from making inclusion efforts.

Compared to 59% of all U.S. consumers, 63% of the LGBTQ+ community trust social media companies at least a little. Though not a huge difference, being a marginalized group, we would expect members to be less (not more) trusting of social media.

Many social platforms are starting to recognize their responsibilities toward making their online environment a safer space for this community to thrive in.

Recently, with campaigners urging the government to make the practice illegal, Instagram and Facebook teamed up to categorically ban the promotion of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ services that so callously go against LGBTQ+ individuals right to maintain their own sexual identity. 

However, the outlook for big brands is less positive:

69% of those in the LBGTQ+ consumer segment trust big brands, versus 77% of the rest of the U.S. online population.

This group wants brands to go beyond making surface level changes, and be the spark behind meaningful and impactful change.

In particular, brands are being urged to take action to help prevent the spread of potential discrimination and hate campaigns targeted toward this group. There’s dire need for more supportive and informative environments, especially when it relates to education around sexuality, as long as scientifically inaccurate and discriminatory claims exist on the internet.  

To build trust among these individuals, social media companies and brands alike need to champion inclusivity by implementing measures that encourage them to interact, while acknowledging and validating their presence. 

Key takeaway: creating a welcoming and supportive environment online will give this group more reason to trust your brand.

4. They go online to meet new people and express themselves.

Interacting with others online is a key way for LGBTQ+ members to socialise while expanding their social circle.

Among their reasons for using social media, the one that stands out the most is to meet new people and make new contacts (they’re 75% more likely than the average U.S. citizen to say this). 

In addition, members of this community are 43% more likely than average to say one of their main reasons for using social media is to find things relevant to their interests. 

While LGBTQ+ consumers seek out things that interest them online, they’re largely contributors themselves – much more than the average American consumer. 

This group skews at the opposite end for passively consuming content.

In the last month, they’re twice as likely to have contributed to a community or blogging service. They’re also 54% more likely to leave reviews of brands or products on forums and community sites.  

Key takeaway: social media is an ideal place to engage with this audience as well as ask for their feedback. 

5. Brands that listen to their input and demonstrate social responsibility top their list.

While the majority want brands to be reliable, trustworthy, friendly, and smart, they’re equally looking for ways to engage in two-way conversation and forge a connection with those brands they admire.

But there are other important factors that give us more clues into the mindset of these consumers. 

Among LGBTQ+ consumers, when compared to the wider U.S. population: 

  • They’re 58% more likely to say they want brands to be inclusive. 
  • They’re 55% more likely to say they want brands to be bold.
  • They’re more likely to want brands to be socially responsible, reduce their environmental impact, and support diversity and equality in the workplace.

And when it comes to their behaviors as consumers, they’re keen to help shape products and services to cater to their individuality.

They’re also 30% more likely than the average American to want brands to offer customizable or personalized products, and 45% more likely to say they want brands to run customer communities/forums.  

This tells us they want a say in the stuff they buy.

This audience is also far more likely to interact with brands on at least a monthly basis.

These interactions include submitting an idea for a new product or design (they’re 41% more likely to), posting on a company’s social media page or tweeting them (they’re 34% more likely) or chatting with a company on a messaging app (they’re 30% more likely). 

Key takeaway: include these consumers at an early stage when shaping your brand and products.

Understanding LGBTQ+ perspectives has never been more important

Until now, the lack of insight into this audience hasn’t served brands well. 

With the right data to guide the way, the way LGBTQ+ consumers are portrayed, spoken to, and catered for can be a conscious effort, with thought and creativity behind it.

This year, skincare brand Kiehl’s decided to drop its Pride-themed merch, in favor of hosting an Instagram live with LGBTQ+ ambassadors, as well as discussions throughout the month with advocates, while simultaneously donating to The Trevor Project – a LGBTQ+ suicide prevention charity. 

This is one example of a brand that has an ear to the ground, evolving its approach to authentically be of most benefit and relevance to its valued customer segment. 

Comprising such clued in, highly engaged and expressive consumers with so much buying power, this is a group that deserves more representation in the advertising they see. It’s time.

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