Workplace Guides: Marketing

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How to Get There

In this chapter:

Getting your house in order

Polling evidence from YouGov has found that three in five lesbian, gay and bisexual people are more likely to buy products if they think a company is gay-friendly. An inclusive culture demonstrates the business's commitment to gay equality and builds brand reputation, which gives further confidence to gay consumers accessing a product or service.

In 1999, United Airlines introduced its first gay specific print adverts which were featured in 'pink' media. Shortly after the airline was involved in a lawsuit for failing to comply with legislation that required employers to offer equal benefits to employees' domestic partners. This led to a boycott, which sent business to United's competitors - American Airlines - and undermined the company's efforts to position itself as a gay-friendly service provider.

Employers can take the following steps to ensure an inclusive culture for their gay employees:

  • Incorporate sexual orientation in equalities policies
  • Train staff on diversity issues which include sexual orientation
  • Ensure senior managers speak out on the importance of gay equality
  • Encourage senior 'out' gay role models to be visible
  • Support an LGB employee network group
  • Become a member of Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme and participate in the Workplace Equality Index
  • Include sexual orientation in equalities monitoring
  • Ensure robust policies and practice are in place to report and respond to homophobic bullying and harassment

Prior to engaging with gay customers through direct marketing activities, Lloyds TSB spent time developing the bank's sexual orientation strategy, which focused firstly on staff. Once progress on internal policy and practice was evident, Lloyds TSB felt able to extend their strategy to include community involvement and direct engagement with gay people to reinforce their message of commitment to gay equality to the wider population.

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Senior support

It is important to ensure that the board and those at the most senior levels in the business are committed to the gay specific marketing strategy. It is also important to ensure that senior managers are aware of sexual orientation issues within the workplace and understand why the business is undertaking targeted marketing initiatives. This will enable senior managers to confidently tackle questions on the business's initiatives both internally and externally.

Senior managers can demonstrate commitment by:

  • Engaging and supporting the gay staff network
  • Ensuring relevant issues are raised at board level
  • Being visible and speaking at gay events

The former Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Brian Paddick, was invited to speak as part of Deloitte's Diversity Month. The CEO of Deloitte hosted the event to demonstrate his leadership support. The event attracted over 100 Deloitte employees and 70 clients and raised the profile of gay issues while strengthening relationships across the business. Its success meant the activity will be repeated as part of 2010's Diversity Month, with openly gay rugby player Gareth Thomas confirmed as the high profile speaker.

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Researching gay markets

As with any other target market, successful marketing to gay people is dependent upon how well the business understands their needs and wants and delivers accordingly.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual people are not a homogenous group and sometimes different messages need to be employed to reach the intended demographic. For example, targeting lesbians with imagery of a gay male couple may not be effective. Mainstream companies can speak to this market, for example, by producing separate adverts or by tailoring images or messages to reach gay women.

American Express in the US launched its 'Free Yourself print campaign in 2006 in the gay media across the US to promote its Platinum Business FreedomPass. It ran two versions of the ad, one version featured a gay male couple checking into a hotel and the other featured a gay female couple getting ready to go out. By representing both genders in its advertising campaigns, American Express made sure it spoke to both gay women and men.


Companies that have reaped the largest benefit from targeted marketing are those that have conducted research with consumers in order to understand their needs and preferences. This also includes identifying the best route to gay customers by understanding where they live, the venues and events they attend and the most popular media accessed by that audience. Businesses can look to the marketing opportunities that social networking communities present such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and Flickr.

Thomson utilised social networking tools such as Facebook not only as a route to market but also to capture further information about gay people's preferences around travel such as popular destinations. The page now has over 2,000 fans and their comments help shape the future of the Freedom Collection - an e-brochure designed specifically for gay customers.

Leading businesses undertake research into how other companies are already connecting with lesbian and gay people by looking at adverts in the local and national gay media to see what works.

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Consultation with gay people

Leading businesses often undertake consultation exercises with key lesbian, gay and bisexual people. A gay staff network group can prove to be a hugely powerful resource, as can customers and community groups. In addition to offering advice on internal policy and practice decisions, these groups can also play a vital role in advising on a business's marketing plan. They can act as an advisory board that works with marketing and product teams to help develop gay products/services and provide feedback on the planned communications strategy.

At Barclays, the LGB&T network group, Spectrum, works with marketing and product teams to review how to attract the 'pink pound' and engage gay consumers. Spectrum liaise with Barclays retail branches for pride events to support staff and raise awareness about service delivery to gay customers.

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Making sure you can deliver what you promise

Leading companies take steps to ensure their frontline staff can provide the inclusive service for gay people that their marketing promises. This can be done through initiatives like training that raises awareness of the issues that lesbian and gay people face when accessing their products or services.

Equalities training for all staff that includes sexual orientation issues will ensure employees across the business understand their role in creating an inclusive culture for gay colleagues and customers.

The management team at The Co-operative Funeralcare, which established the link with Pink Partings in 2005, all underwent training in relation to diversity matters and all staff sign up to the diversity policy which runs across The Co-operative family of businesses. The Co-operative Funeralcare business challenges assumptions and suggests appropriate use of language, for example using gender neutral nouns when first enquiring about the gender of the deceased. Role-play scenarios are also utilised with staff as part of The Co-operative's nationwide training to ensure that all employees treat clients and colleagues with respect.

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Internal communication

Brands that have successfully connected with gay people have taken the time to understand both their own values and beliefs and those of gay consumers. Leading businesses are able to clearly articulate why they are including lesbian and gay people in their marketing and product strategies and communicate this to all staff.

Prior to the release of its mainstream ad campaign featuring a gay couple, Helen Weir, the executive sponsor of the sexual orientation strategy at Lloyds TSB, revealed the advert at the launch of the staff LGB&T network (Rainbow). 120 people were invited to the launch including business and human resources leaders from all divisions and functions, fifteen of Lloyds most senior LGB&T managers, Rainbow members and their line managers, supporters and members of the 'pink' media. The ad and launch activity was announced to all colleagues the day after the advert's release to raise awareness of Lloyds TSB's strategy to focus on LGB&T customers and to further build upon the bank's positive profile in LGB&T communities. role in creating an inclusive culture for gay colleagues and customers.

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