Though it might surprise some to learn that 65 percent of Americans feel that LGBT inclusion is good for the economy, it was what Ogilvy’s Bill Berman suspected his agency’s most recent LGBT marketing survey would show.
“We had a sense that the cultural landscape is shifting to be more inclusive,” said Berman. “One of the reasons why we wanted to do the survey was to learn more how that shift pertains to brands and businesses. We had this inclination that because advertising doesn’t exist in a vacuum, there must be some sort of effect on non-LGBT audiences when a brand’s advertising is LGBT-inclusive.”
In a pool of over 1,000 individuals, Ogilvy took special care to isolate LGBT allies, with over 400 participants self-identifying as such. They ranged from people who had friends and family who were LGBT to people who had politically engaged with those causes, and their reaction to inclusion efforts was often more pronounced than the total population.
“We really thought the best way of quantifying that support of the LGBT community was through allies. We thought that that would help drive a more meaningful conversation and show brands that LGBT-inclusive advertising at a higher level really helps them out,” said Berman.
Advertising was one of the most effective vehicles for brands to demonstrate their commitment to inclusion, and it has a profound effect on consumers. 35 percent of survey respondents felt that a company’s LGBT inclusive advertising indicated an LGBT inclusive brand. 46 percent were more likely to consider buying a company’s product or service after viewing an ad.
As an example of inclusion he called “natural,” Berman highlighted one of Ogilvy’s campaigns, an IKEA television spot called “All Homes Are Created Equal.” Among many faces, the ad includes a same-sex interracial couple.
“IKEA makes the case for the new American dream by a campaign that’s geared towards young people who have different thoughts about what it means to make it,” Berman said. “There’s less of a spotlight on one segment of the population, and just more of an image of a diverse population overall.”
Based on survey results, social media and news are also great platforms for companies to talk about inclusion. 25 percent of overall respondents say they got information about a company’s inclusion efforts from Facebook or Twitter; 21 percent credited print and online news as a source.
Berman cautions that whatever message companies are putting out there, it has to be targeted.
“I think one of the most important things is to not look as the community as this monolithic thing,” said Berman. “It really is diverse, and it’s a series of communities. You really have to do your homework and have your partners within strategy and media and research to understand the DNA of your consumer. It’s not just a blanket LGBTQ advertising. It really does have to be authentic and it has to talk to that specific consumer.”
He also cautions that while consumers reward companies and brands for their inclusion efforts, they also need to see those efforts are genuine. 68 percent of survey respondents felt that companies needed to “walk the talk” when it came to LGBT inclusion. Those consumers might be interested in knowing about a corporation’s policies, benefits or hiring practices, or to hear that a company stood up to discriminatory legislation.
“You can’t just show up for Pride Week, and stick a rainbow on an ad that was already produced, and think that you’re going to be talking authentically to the audience,” Berman said. “Over 70 percent of Americans believe that a company that’s LGBT inclusive is an ally of the community, but a similar amount purport that they want to see that business are not just paying lip service.”
So how can a company capitalize on these findings? Berman thinks authenticity and not being afraid to share an inclusive message on a national scale are key.
“You really have to kind of put yourself out there. Even though the political climate is a little coarse, if your brand is authentic and your brand is about inclusion, the survey does show you’ll be rewarded for it,” Berman said. “The main takeaway here is that LGBT-inclusive advertising can be more that just a diversity campaign. It can more than just showing up during Pride Week. When done right, it can create a positive halo effect for the entire business. Americans and allies are telling us that they’re watching, and they’re aware of it, and they think it’s good for the economy, and they reward brands that are doing it in the right way.”