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Is Your LGBTQ Marketing Built on Stereotypes?
The goal of a marketing campaign should be to connect with your intended audience, eventually encouraging them to take action.
Unfortunately, advertisers often fall into the trap of relying on stereotypes to appeal to customers who are different from them, and end up offending them in the process. This is all too common in LGBTQ advertising.
Learn how to identify if your campaigns are built on stereotypes and how to re-center your marketing to be open, inclusive, and provide value to the LGBTQ community.
Be Aware of Common Stereotypes
The mainstream media has perpetuated many stereotypes about LGBTQ people over the years that have bled into advertising as well. For example, over sexualizing lesbians or only showcasing queer men as shirtless white guys are often-used stereotypes that you should steer clear from. Beware of anything that simplifies the characteristics of your target audience based on cliches and prejudice.
Remember, LGBTQ consumers are a very diverse group with a range of ideas, beliefs, needs, challenges, and demographics. Focus on who you're specifically trying to reach within the LGBTQ community to find consistent challenges, interests, and experiences that can be addressed in your marketing. Think critically about the ideas and topics you're tackling to ensure you're not oversimplifying.
If there's ever doubt about the way you're representing the LGBTQ community, refer to GLAAD's media reference guide or the Human Rights Campaign's resource on LGBTQ marketing, or talk with an LGBTQ expert to confirm if it's appropriate.
Do the Necessary Research
One of the most effective ways to find the right themes to focus on with LGBTQ marketing is by conducting thorough research on your audience.
To get this information, interview LGBTQ consumer firsthand, consult with institutions that benefit the community like PFLAG or the Transgender Law Center, or check out other websites that use the .LGBT domain to see how they are representing their customers. These stories should help your business develop campaigns based on the actual lives and experiences of these individuals, rather than being stuck on stereotypes.
Accurate and relevant data can be another way to help construct a balanced image of your LGBTQ customer base. The Williams Institute, the Movement Advancement Project, and the Pew Research Center are a few of the many resources available to access data on the demographics and habits of different members of the LGBTQ community.
Reviewing the shared experiences of LGBTQ people and referencing demographic data about this group will help your organization craft more accurate and meaningful campaigns.
Learn from the Mistakes of Others
Offending any demographic with your marketing is a mistake your organization should avoid at all costs, which is why it's wise to learn from the marketing missteps of others. When a brand falters with its marketing, it tends to be widely covered in the media—making it easy for you to review the blunders of other businesses and develop clear guidelines on what not to do.
For example, this Snickers ad was pulled because it featured a spokesperson firing candy bars at a man speed walking in tight yellow shorts while saying, "You are a disgrace to the man race. It's time to run like a real man."
While it was meant to be funny, it appeared to show a potentially queer man being told to act like a "real man," which doesn't present a positive message. Including humor in a marketing campaign is a wonderful way to stand out and make a lasting impression, but never use a person's differences as a punchline.
Another common mistake is just throwing a rainbow on your ads and hoping they will appeal to an LGBTQ audience. Sometimes called "rainbow-washing," this strategy is employed by many brands as sort of a quick fix, but doesn't do much in the way of actually connecting with the needs of the LGBTQ community.
Create Inclusive Campaigns—and Teams
From the customers featured in your commercials to the models included in a banner ad, vary the types of people involved to showcase your commitment to inclusivity. Representation in marketing is helpful for letting your customers know where your company stands on relevant social issues without always having to call out your stance directly.
In addition to showcasing a range of people in your marketing publicly, hire LGBTQ people to support diversity at your company and in your marketing. These people will only help you develop more accurate campaigns and avoid embarrassing stereotypes.
Plus, while using your platform to educate about the different demographics your company serves is important, helping improve the lives of LGBTQ people in and out of the workplace is the truest test of your commitment.