Oakenfull’s article “Targeting Consumer Segments Based on Sexual Orientation: Can Advertisers Swing Both Ways” (2004) explores the reality of gay-oriented advertising. For most marketers, the gay and lesbian segment is a ‘dream market.’ Findings from several scientific studies indicate that gays and lesbians have higher disposable incomes compared with heterosexual consumers. There are over 5 million gays and lesbians in the United States. According to Branchik (2002), this segment has a total annual income of over $ 450 million.
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Most marketers have found it easy to target gays and lesbians using different gay-oriented media available in the market. Examples of such media include gay magazines and newspapers. On the other hand, Oakenfull (2004) notes that some of the firms that have attempted to advertise their products to this group using the mainstream media have encountered hostility from a heterosexual audience that is not ready to welcome gay and lesbian consumers into the mainstream society.
Oakenfull (2004) argues that marketers should treat gay and lesbian consumers as unique subcultures, as opposed to a segment of the conventional market. I agree with the author of the article that marketers should not target the gay and lesbian segment based on demographic variables alone because attitudinal differences also have a huge influence on their purchase behavior. Marketers need to study gay and lesbian subculture well in order to understand their expectations fully. Gays and lesbians differ in terms of how they respond to the gay-friendly content in advertisements.
Oakenfull (2004) argues that when placing advertisements that target gays and lesbians, advertisers need to use meaningful symbols and messages that the target group can identify with. However, advertisers should be careful not to offend heterosexual consumers who are not acquainted with the gay subculture. I am totally opposed to Oakenfull’s argument because marketers should endeavor to develop authentic advertisements that capture the ethos of the gay and lesbian segment.
The only drawback with such a strategy is that most marketers are not familiar with the deeper meaning or history of the subcultural symbols used in gay-oriented advertising, such as the rainbow flag (Lantos, 2010). As such, they are less likely to appeal to this group.
Marketers should target gays and lesbians in order to benefit from the first-mover advantage. In this case, pioneers in this market will gain consumer loyalty. There has also been a rapid increase in the number of people going public with their gay or lesbian statuses. In addition, members of society are slowly accepting gays and lesbians as a part of the mainstream culture (Lantos, 2010). The gay and lesbian segment can also be a source of the niche power to an organization.
Marketers should also target the gay and lesbian segment due to the anticipated future values of the group, such as gay and lesbian partnerships, marriages, and media coverage. In addition, the fact that there are specific media tools already targeting this market segment is a clear indication that homosexuals are both reachable and accessible.
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Prior to developing a marketing campaign that targets gay and lesbian consumers, it is important to address a few fundamental questions first:
- What is the strategic positioning of the homosexual market segment? In other words, are marketers treating this market as a separate and specific group or an overall, fully integrated market?
- While placing marketing advertisements that target gays and lesbian segregants, do these advertisements address homosexual issues implicitly? Explicitly?
- Do the symbols used appeal to the gay segment?
Branchik, B. J. (2002). Out in the Market: A History of the Gay Market Segment in the United States. Journal of Macromarketing, 22(1), 86-97.
Lantos, G. P. (2010). Consumer Behavior in Action: Real-Life Applications for Marketing Managers. New York: M. E. Sharpe.
Oakenfull, G. (2004). Targeting Consumers Based on Sexual Orientation: Can Advertisers Swing Both Ways. In J. D. Williams, W. Lee, & C. P. Haugtvedt (Eds.) Diversity in Advertising. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.