SIX RAINBOW COLOURS form the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) flag – not a celebration of being gay, but born of the belief of a right to exist without persecution. Increasingly, opportunists in all consumer sectors – including alcohol – have adopted the rainbow, designed to unify and show support, on branding and products. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
The vodka category has not always had an easy relationship with the LGBT community (but more on that later) and the more cynical observer is starting to ask more of marketers due to the rise of online and the culture of acceptance in developed markets. If vodka companies want to tap into the US$3.7trn global LGBT consumer spend, aka the pink/rainbow pound, they need to take a smarter approach than simply adding a rainbow flag to a label.
According to Community Marketing & Insights’ ninth LGBT Community Survey, only 57% of gay men in the US had positive sentiment towards the rainbow in marketing. It’s slightly more accepted by lesbians, with 68% having a positive sentiment.
“Marketers need to think long and hard before slapping a rainbow on their product or advertising if they think they are going to appeal to the LGBT community just because of that,” says Dave Karraker, vice-president of engagement & advocacy at Campari America.
“The LGBT consumer is very savvy and smart. They can see when someone is simply pandering versus when a brand has a long-standing history of supporting their community or the brand is making a real effort to be a partner to this important group. Of course, having a charitable component to your marketing, such as Skyy vodka had with marriage equality, helps demonstrate your dedication and support.”
Paul Thompson, founder of an asset management business serving the LGBT consumer sector, LGBT Capital, says: “I think how the rainbow is used is important. Just sticking it on a product is not good enough anymore. Plastering a rainbow on a product and talking down to people is not going to help. We have our own needs.”
On a recent trip to London, Thompson was pleased to see one out of the six advertisements on his tube ride was of two men. “And,” he remarks, “it didn’t say ‘LGBT’.” “I think that was effective advertising.”
Increasingly, marketers will struggle to advertise to this group because of the development of online dating, apps and a younger, more demanding millennial consumer.
“You see a lot of venues closing down due to the development of online products,” LGBT Capital’s Thompson says. “In the past, gay men used to go to these venues to meet. Now people meet online. In places such as London, people don’t feel the need to go to a gay bar. In developed markets, two men can go into a normal nightclub, dance together and not feel like they will be stabbed or something.”