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Marketing to the Pink Pound (Dorothy Dollar)

Author's avatar By Patrick Windt 18 Jun, 2018
Essential Essential topic

An introduction to the LGBT market, cautions, and advertising examples

LGBT, you might ask? LGBT is the acronym for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community—you may also use LGBT+ to be inclusive of additional members of this group. With the acceptance and visibility of people with various sexual orientations and gender-identities having increased and welcomed, in the last number of decades, I thought it would be a good time to bring understanding to current marketeers inlcuding the members of this group, demographics, and warnings. I have also added several example campaigns to demonstrate how to advertise to this community.

Within this article:

  1. Explanation of the LGBT+ community
  2. Pronouns in marketing
  3. Demographics
  4. Globalization: Beware of some countries laws
  5. LGBT advertising examples

First, it is important to understand the difference between sexual orientation and gender-identity.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation is the emotional, romantic (or sexual) attraction of another person or persons of the same sex, opposite sex or gender.


Gender-identity, however, reflects how one perceives their own gender. This is different from gender as it does not look merely at biology. For example: when a man feels he is really a woman but in the wrong body. In terms of biology, he is a male. However, the gender-identity is female. The important difference to understand is how you address this individual, for example, which pronouns to utilize.

Considering this visibility and acceptance, the effects are important for marketers, as you should be aware of changes in demographics to improve and optimize marketing. I would ask you to keep an open mind with this article, regardless of your own opinions towards the LGBT+ community.

In this article, I wish to inform the readers about the LGBT+ segment to you in detail, with an examination of the demographics, warnings and several examples with results and commentary. I shall treat this article in a neutral tone, sticking to facts and information, though I disclose that I am part of the LGBT+ community.

Explanation of LGBTQQIP2SAA

It can be difficult to understand and explain the entire LGBT+ community as it is in a state of constant flux as to whom is included. With the level of acceptance of minorities in the areas of sexual orientation or gender-identities, the complete acronym (at this point) is LGBTQQIP2SAA.

While you do not need to use this whole acronym, it is good to know the various elements within this group—both personally and professionally.

At the start of the 1990s, the gay community started off as LGB (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual). Thanks to the acceptance of this community it moved to include numerous others inside its umbrella. First, the Transgender community was included, and more ever since.

Note: You are more than welcome to use LGBT+ to address the entire community.

As mentioned the full acronym (at the current time, and to my knowledge), is LGBTQQIP2SAA. Let me explain these groups.

  • Lesbian
    A lesbian is a person with a female gender-identity who is attracted to another female gender-identity.
  • Gay
    Men who are emotional, romantic and/or sexual orientation towards men. It is also a generic term for Lesbians.
  • Bisexual
    Bisexual is an inclusive word used to describe the emotional, romantic and/or sexual orientation towards more than one gender.
  • Transgender
    People whose gender-identity differs from their assigned sex.
    Note: Trans men are men who have transitioned to female. Trans women have transitioned from female to male.
  • Queer
    An inclusive term for sexual orientations and gender identities who are not heterosexual or cis-gender.
    Note: cis-gender- people whose gender-identity matches the sex they were assigned to at birth – i.e. the opposite of transgender.
  • Questioning
    People who are still evaluating their sexual orientation and/or gender-identity.
  • Intersex
    Intersex refers to people who are born with reproductive or sexual anatomy which does not fit within the male / female spectrum.
  • Pansexual
    In a sense, pansexual is the epitome of acceptance as they can be sexually, romantically or emotionally attracted to any gender-identity or sexual orientation.
  • 2 Spirit
    Two spirit is a contemporary (Pan-Indian) term used by indigenous North Americans to those who hold a traditional “third-gender or other gender-variant” ceremonial role in their cultures.
  • Asexual
    An individual who does not have sexual attraction of any kind or low/absent interest/desire in sexual activity.
  • Ally
    Also named as the straight Ally, these are the straight and cis-gender individuals who support members of the LGBT+ community.

Now you’re up on terminology, you can see the diversity of this whole group. With this understanding, you will need to know how to use pronouns with certain groups, as they do not always comply with our standard of 'he' or 'she'.


Using the right pronouns is paramount to a successful relationship with the LGBT+ community.

Transgender individuals, for example, prefer to be addressed to the gender-identity they identify with. So, a trans-man would prefer he/him and a trans woman would prefer she /her.

The intersex community does not always use he or she pronouns, as they do not feel they fit in this duality. Intersex use non-binary pronouns such as zi/zir/zirs or zi/hir/hirs. If you would like further insight: The Vanderbilt University’s English Language Department has an excellent comprehensive document on this matter, which you can find here.

This may not be a factor in your marketing campaign, but again, being aware of such matters will be helpful when you work with the LGBT+ community.


Contrary to popular belief, there is quite a sizeable LGBT+ community around the world. While we cannot assign numbers to Allied members, we can report on the amount of LGBT+ members. We’ll look at the information for the UK and USA for now.

In the UK, a study in 2016 by the Office of National Statistics estimated that 1.026.000 people (2%) over the age of 16+ identified to be lesbian, gay or bisexual. The group of Transgenders and additional groups were classified under “other”, which was 268,000 (0.5%).

LGBT Representation

The study also noted: the largest group that identified themselves as LGB were in the age group of 16-25 (4.1%) and the LGB group were identified as most likely to be single, never married or civil partnered with 70.7%. Further, it is interesting to mention that

“Around 2.7% of the population in London identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB), the highest proportion of any English region” - Office for National Statistics

These interesting statistics will help in building a persona for your campaigns or use the right demographics to reach this audience.

In the USA, the American Values Atlas by the Public Religion Research Institute reported (among 50,000 telephone interviews), 4.4% affirmed to be LGBT in 2016 (this translated to 14.2 million representative of the population at the time). This increased to 4.9% in 2017 (15.9 million representative of the population at the time). As you can see, this is quite a market that is approachable marketing.

LGBT population US

Unfortunately, the reporting of specific gender-identities and sexual orientations has fallen short in being in current censuses, so while many studies have taken place, there is no one perfect report. As such these figures should be approached with care.

Globalization: beware countries

Whilst the LGBT+ community has been accepted and is visible in many countries, not everyone has been so. With the increasing global economy and market, we find ourselves approaching many different markets around the world. When you wish to reach an international LGBT+ market, you may wish to pay attention to some countries and locations.

As of August 2017, 72 countries in the world have laws criminalizing homosexuality, indeed with 8 states that apply the death penalty. It would be prudent to avoid applying any LGBT+ marketing in these areas, other than the fact that your marketing would not be published due to local law. Please do research or take note of the countries where your campaigns may not be welcomed. A map below will make you an informed decision as to where you would receive a more positive response.

On the positive side, over 82 states have protection for the LGBT+ community and could be prospective markets. You can even target married/civil-partnered couples in 52 nation states or LGBT+ couples who have adopted in 53 states

Sexual orientation laws in the world

Let’s look at some great examples of LGBT+ marketing that has occurred!

LGBT advertising examples

Husbands: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite: 2013

In an attempt of Amazon to reach a larger platform of customers, they have created an advert to promote their Kindle Paperwhite product in 2013. This is an advert with a casual atmosphere and the LGBT+ presence wasn’t forced, but still included.

The video shows a man trying to read from a tablet, with the reflection of the sun the man complains to an arriving woman that he cannot read his screen. She then mentions that Kindle is perfect for the beach, mentioning several unique selling points. He immediately gets on his tablet and buys the product, he then mentions they should celebrate. The woman tells him her husband is bringing her a drink, and the man replies, “So is mine”. The camera then moves to the bar showing two waving and smiling men.

Although there is no official video on YouTube, some channels have uploaded into their own accounts. The two channels with the most views, showed 398,780 views and 224,605 views respectively. Additionally, the first channel has over 3.500 likes, and only 302 dislikes. The second channel had 2700 likes with only 240 dislikes. The advert also showed a large amount of comments, with 1458 comments on the first channel, and 896 comments on the other.

Baby Dove with Transgender Mom (2017)

In the case of Dove—a personal care brand, owned by Unilever— in their advert, they have selected 6 moms from various backgrounds telling their stories. In this advert, Dove has also included a transgender couple—from articles on the subject, this was the first time a post-transition mom was depicted in a US commercial. In a whole, this was a campaign targeted at all moms, with their campaign hashtag #RealMoms.

As a whole, the segment was an amalgamation of many types of moms, the inclusion of a transgender couple was brave, as this segment of the LGBT+ community is often excluded from advertisements. After the story of 3 other moms, the segment with a transgender mom, the story goes as follows:

First, you see Shea, a grad student, sitting on the floor feeding her baby, next to her female partner. Then to a shot with both parents behind a baby dome, says to the camera: “We’re both the biological parents.” Then goes on to say: “You get people like: What do you mean, you’re the mom?” in an amused manner.  “We’re like yup, we’re both gonna be moms”. Then the segment moves on to the other moms.

In terms of response, the LGBT+ community responded positively:

"Kudos to the brand for not only being LGBTQ inclusive but for being willing to think beyond the more common solution of showing a cisgender two-mom couple (much as I love seeing LGBTQ parents of any type on my screen).” - Award-Winning blogger Dana Rudolph

However, there were a lot videos about the dove ad with extreme negative feelings about including a transgender mom. This shows that you must prepare yourself with a good response plan to the possible reviews on and offline.

In terms of stats: the official video had over 207,558 views, but with 5.800 dislikes, and just 944 likes. Due to the comments being disabled, it’s not possible to ascertain the reasons for the large amounts of dislikes.

Nike: Chris Mosier (Transgender) (2016)

In Nike’s “Unlimited Courage” campaign, they celebrate casual and professional athletes endeavour to reach new height and ambitions. For this advert, showed at prime-time at the Rio Olympics, they showed Chris Mosier who was the first known, out trans athlete to make it to the men’s national team for the 2016 World Championship. In this advertisement you see Chris training hard with running, cycling, body lifting, while replying to questions such as “How’d you know you’d be fast enough to compete against me”, with a bluntly reply of “I didn’t.” Playing on the theme of despite your upbringing, or hardships, if you keep training, you will achieve your goals (with Nike, of course).

The video on Nike’s official channel reached over 3,214,638 views. There was still opposition to this advert with over 2300 dislikes, but with 5900 likes it seems to have had more positive response than Dove’s Real Moms. From the 1541 comments, it appears to be a well-received advert to the LGBT+ community. (The original video was removed, this is a copy of the advertisement. The data mentioned above was collected before the video was deleted.)

Young gays: McDonalds. Come as you are – 2010 ad

In a vie to reach a younger segment of the LGBT+ market, McDonalds released the “Come as you are campaign”.

Nathalie Le Garlantezec, brand director of McDonald’s France commented (translated from French):

“We wanted to take a look at how French society is today. We’re very comfortable with the topic of homosexuality, there is obviously no problem with homosexuality in France today”.

Officially, the company explained they did not target the LGBT+ community with this advertisement. The statement release (translated from French):

"Today, we are targeting extremely broad, we have a big penetration, so McDonald's customers, it is the entire French population, we do not need to do targeting. We hope that this type of film is able to touch anyone, whether homosexual or not. (sic)“

In this commercial, you see a young man sitting at the McDonalds looking at his class-picture when he receives a call. Telling the recipient that he’s was just thinking about that person, just looking at the photo. He ends the call saying “I miss you too”. His father comes over (with food) and talks to his son. Seeing his class-photo and telling him that he was quite a lady’s man and that it’s too bad he’s in an all-boys class, and he could get all the girls. He looks at his dad and smiles. The ad fades out, with the campaign title “Venez come vous êtes” (Come as you are).

This video, (not from the official channel). Reached over 5,644,972 views. With over 30,000 likes, it seems this advert was very well liked. The number of dislikes was 3.700. The comments were disabled for this video, so it is not possible to understand the reasons for the negative likes.

Author's avatar

By Patrick Windt

Patrick Windt is a freelance marketer working for Smart Insights since 2015, from his home in the Netherlands. Patrick has traveled, lived and worked in Ireland and the United Kingdom for 5 years in the Tourism / Education sector. Together with strong digital marketing experience, he is a whizz in Photoshop and a strong proofreader. Connect on LinkedIn.

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