How 3 Brands Have Shown the LGBTQ the Right Love

Did you notice anything different this Pride Month? As June 28th marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, there was an uptick in support for the LGBTQ community. The Stonewall event is “widely considered to be the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights.” It occurred when a police raid on the Stonewall Inn – a “gay bar” in NYC’s Greenwich Village – went wrong. When all was said and done, the event prompted the first gay pride parade.

There’s been tremendous progress related to the LGBTQ movement since the Stonewall Riots. A Fortune article shares some of its victories of 2019. These include the first openly gay U.S. state governor and Asia’s first same-sex marriage law. And though “the struggle for LGBTQ (individuals) is far from over,” the article also identifies a growing ally in corporate America. The support for the Equality Act tells the story. 

Four short years ago, only three companies publicly backed the measure. These were Apple, The Dow Chemical Co., and Levi Strauss & Co. Upon its passing in the U.S. House of Representatives this May, over “200 major brands and businesses, with a combined 10.4 million employees and $4.5 trillion in revenue, publicly advocated for the legislation.”

It’s these brands that are showing the community the right love. They walk the walk, embracing equality, which comes through in their LGBTQ marketing campaigns in support of this powerful community.

The Economic Power of the LGBTQ Community

An Entrepreneur article shares that the buying power of LGBTQ adults in the U.S. is more than $915 billion – and climbing. Not to mention that LGBTQ households make 10 to 20 percent more shopping trips than other households. These households are often two people. And, it’s likely both have above-average earnings, as 80 percent have incomes above the U.S. national average, with 40 percent making at least $100,000 per year. 

Another Entrepreneur article paints a larger picture. It reports the LGBTQ community to wield $3.7 trillion in global spending power. And, the amount will likely climb as Gen Z’s income grows since a U.K. survey finds 33 percent of its members identify as LGBTQ+. This is compared to 29 percent of millennials, 15 percent of Gen X, and 12 percent of baby boomers.

The increase in consumers who identify as LGBTQ may intimidate marketers used to targeting an exclusively-heterosexual audience. But, with thoughtful consideration, LGBTQ marketing doesn’t have to be daunting.


LGBTQ marketing best practices

How to Approach LGBTQ Marketing

It’s no longer enough to put a rainbow flag on your social handle as a way to identify as a corporate ally to the LGBTQ movement. In fact, some brands that came out in support of this Pride Month were accused of “rainbow washing”. This perception makes a brand appear inauthentic and even insensitive – an offense to any audience. As the Entrepreneur article advises, “when appealing to any specific group,” it’s important to “not be condescending or clumsy.” 

So, to appeal to the LGBTQ community, an Ad Age article says it’s important to recognize “what makes a community special, different and unique.” Brands must connect with them on “things like culture, interests and passions”. This is much like marketing to Gen Z whose members form connections on shared practices versus shared identities, per a Harvard study. Marketers must do research to find ways to appeal to niche audiences of the LGBTQ community. Harrah’s Entertainment provides a great example. Knowing LGBTQ consumers spend over $64 billion each year on travel, Harrah’s dove deep to learn gay men spend, on average, 30 percent more than straight men while traveling. 

Once brands have information such as this, they must then determine the best means to reach the segment. It’s no surprise to learn that many companies make LGBTQ community events, like a Pride Festival, part of their marketing strategy. In fact, 41 percent of LGBTQ consumers learn about supporting brands at these and related events. As long as brands ‘walk the walk’ and show their authentic self, their effort is likely to pay off.

Brands That’ve Mastered LGBTQ Marketing

Here are three brands that embrace equality and meet LGBTQ consumers in person to show their true colors.


The vodka brand is one of several for British-based company Diageo, which this year announced 52 weeks parental leave for both men and women. Its equality measures extend to Diageo North America, which recently scored a 100 on the 2019 Corporate Equality Index. This is for LGBTQ workplace equality, as part of its commitment to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). This commitment also extends to LGBTQ community events, such as the annual NYC Pride celebration. Its Smirnoff brand is present each year. And, in this monumental moment, it pulled out all the stops with its “Welcome Home” campaign.

One big installation was a pop-up experience that served as a welcoming place for LGBTQ individuals who traveled near and far for the event. In six “Insta-worthy” rooms, Smirnoff paid tribute to the past and future of the LGBTQ community. Visitors also enjoyed “fun, global-themed Pride cocktails” and an appearance from Queer Eye personality Jonathan Van Ness.

For its parade participation, Smirnoff created a NYC-themed float with “popular drag icon Alyssa Edwards” dressed as “Lady Liberty.” Three hundred brand ambassadors and community allies provided support along the parade route.


MAC LGBTQ marketing

MAC Cosmetics.

Levi’s LGBT+ coordinator urges brands considering support of the LGBTQ community to: “Look back at your heritage and your long-term commitment and question yourself. If you’re not doing it for the right reasons, don’t do it.” There’s no doubt that MAC Cosmetics shows up for the right reasons. It was 1994 when famous drag queen RuPaul signed a modeling contract with the brand. Two years later, MAC established a philanthropic effort which has since raised $500 million for womens’ health and rights and the LGBTQ community. The beauty brand has long been entrenched and despite the serious nature of its efforts, it doesn’t stray far from its colorful brand personality when present at Pride festivals. For 2019, they planned to support more than 20 throughout North America.

In Los Angeles, it was hard to miss the tall rainbow with the MAC logo. On the back side of the rainbow, Pride goers could get makeovers or touch ups before hitting the glittery rainbow runway that stretched from the tall rainbow’s opening. MAC could also be found on the parade routes alongside many of its lucky consumers. Individuals who RSVP’ed in advance could stop by designated locations and pick up a t-shirt to proudly wear in the parade – a memorable brand experience for all. 

Virgin Atlantic.

It’s important to note that authentic support for the LGBTQ should happen in other places than inside a company and at a Pride festival. Brands should prove their backing in additional ways. Virgin Atlantic showed alliance last year when it refused to deport LGBT+ detainees. And, it provided fun when it announced its “World Pride Flight Party” aboard a plane traveling from London to NYC for the WorldPride festival. Over 280 passengers who purchased all tickets within 24 hours were greeted in the terminal by promo staff with rainbow cupcakes and swag. After check in, they could attend a cocktail party. At boarding, they posed for photos with drag queens scheduled to perform on the flight. And after take off, passengers enjoyed games and prizes, DJ sets, and appearances from a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, TV and Broadway star Tituss Burgess and a Stonewall Inn bartender present the night of the riots. 

It was an experience passengers were sad to leave. These included a straight couple who accidentally booked the special flight for themselves and their two toddlers. In the end, they shared, “It was brilliant, the kids enjoyed it, and the eight hours flew by.” Though it was an LGBTQ marketing effort, it was one that ultimately resulted in allies of all ages, genders, and sexual orientations for the brand.

At Elevate, we believe in inclusion and celebrate diversity, not only in event staffing but within our own team. Let us help you show the LGBTQ community the right love.

Author: Nick Riggall


US Brand Ambassador of the Month – Josh N.


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