So, what do brands need to do to make meaningful connections with LGBTQIA+ consumers?
The first (and often overlooked) step is simple — get LGBTQIA+ people involved in the decision making process.
Often, failure to represent LGBTQIA+ people on screen is due to a lack of representation off screen. But the only way to create campaigns that truly resonate with people and that accurately reflect their lived experiences is to get the right people in the room.
So, invite them to the discussion, ask for their input, or even better, let them lead the way when it comes to LGBTQIA+ inclusive marketing.
This is especially important because there’s a full spectrum of diversity within the LGBTQIA+ community that’s not captured in marketing.
“I would encourage brands to centre diversity and inclusion at every stage of the design/planning process,” Marcus said.
“There's a saying that reads, ‘Nothing for us without us’, and it speaks to the need for key identity groups to be centred as critical stakeholders in work that involves (or disproportionately impacts) their communities. It's like producing a Black History Month campaign in the US without consulting Black consumers or Black marketing professionals.”
Having a continuous, open dialogue with the right stakeholders will also help you be mindful of the unique challenges that LGBTQIA+ people from different backgrounds face, as well as understand how to be respectful.
Often, in their attempt to be respectful, brands portray LGBTQIA+ people in ways they feel would be more socially acceptable in their markets. But this can be damaging to the community, making them feel like their truth is unsavoury.
“Respectability politics have historically played a major role in multicultural marketing. While brands believe in meaningful inclusion, the intentional re-positioning of ‘non-traditional lifestyles’ for palatability typically results in further exclusion and alienation,” Marcus said.
“The LGBTQIA+ community is deeper and more colourful than the cis, masculine media portrayal. I would encourage brands to explore all dimensions of queer identity and expression.”
Finally, brands need to be authentic in how they engage with the community. Consumers will see right through superficial messages, so seek to build genuine long-term relationships, instead of just creating seasonal marketing campaigns for when special events come around.
“Authenticity comes from integrity and intention — neither of which are possible without truth. When we tell the stories of others, we are telling their truth,” Marcus said.
“So, if brands want to better connect with the truth of the LGBTQIA+ experience, they need this community represented in the writing room.”