July 2012 Trend Report from Rec Room

Mega Trend: Marketing and The Modern Family: LGBT Parents

Future thinking brands understand the influence of LGBT families.

The LGBT Market
LGBT consumers are an economically strong and fast growing market segment. In a 2012 study released by the National Post, 5% of the Canadian population identified themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered, and the estimated size of the LGBT market in Canada is between $90 to $100 billion dollars, or about 7.2% of Canada’s GDP (Protean Strategies, 2011).

The LGBT Family
While there has yet to be a comprehensive study of LGBT families, it is estimated that of same sex couples in the US, 16% are raising children (Williams Institute, 2011). According to 2000 Census results, 33% of female same-sex households and 22% of male couple households had children. And 2010 Census results showed approximately 2MM US children being raised by LGBT parents. These numbers are on the rise as more same-sex couples are able to legally marry and build families via surrogacy, adoption or through fertility technologies.

The LGBT Parent Consumer
According to Witeck Combs Communications and MarketResearch.com, gay and lesbian parents spent $22 billion on their kids in 2002, and this is expected to increase to $28 billion by the end of 2012. These parents are strongly influenced by friends in their networks. Nearly 37% of gay dads say that friends have some influence on their purchase decisions, almost twice that of other groups surveyed.  66% of gay dads say they are likely to buy products that have ads reflecting their own sexual orientation and 63% of lesbian moms say it’s likely that they would support companies that show diverse families in their advertising (Edelman, 2011).

The Loyal Consumer
LGBT consumers are fiercely loyal to brands that represent and support them. In 2011, a Harris Interactive survey found that 71% of LGBT adults said they are likely to remain loyal to a brand they believe to be very friendly and supportive of the LGBT community “even when less friendly companies may offer lower prices or be more convenient.”  Purchase intent also increases when LGBT consumers see an advertisement that has been clearly tailored to a gay audience with gay imagery and which “speaks to me as a gay person,” according to 47% of LGBT adults surveyed (Harris Interactive, 2011)

Mass Culture
Recent representations of LGBT families in mass media are helping bring LGBT families further into the mainstream and into everybody’s living room. Loveable gay dads Cameron and Mitchell are core characters on ABC’s Emmy nominated Modern Family, which is currently #4 in ratings with adults aged 18-49.  This year, NBC’s The New Normal will take a comedic look at same-sex dads having a family via surrogate.  The advocacy of influential celebrities (Lady GaGa) on behalf of marriage equality has gone a long way towards influencing the attitudes of young people.

Implications and Insights

When the CEO of US restaurant chain Chick Fil-A spoke openly against marriage equality, their toy partner, Jim Henson Company’s The Muppets, severed ties with the company, stating their unequivocal support for gay marriage, and donating the proceeds from the partnership to GLAAD, The Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.  This story has been picked up by virtually every media outlet in North America and the coverage is universally critical of Chick-Fil-A.

JCPenney featured lesbian moms in their mother’s day ads, and gay dads in their father’s day ads, sparking a call for a boycott from conservative group One Million Moms. Despite this, JCPenney refused to change its position. The controversy earned the company millions of dollars in positive publicity.

To counteract negative fallout from a controversial political donation to a right wing candidate opposed to marriage equality, Target is now producing a charitable t-shirt line in support of gay pride, and just this week, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos made a $2.5M donation to promoting marriage equality in Washington State.

Smart companies have been targeting the LGBT consumer for years, reaching out to gay consumers through targeted campaigns in niche media outlets that serve the LGBT community and are not widely seen by mainstream consumers. What’s trending now is the inclusion of images of LGBT couples and families in mainstream campaigns that reach all consumers. It’s about winning LGBT consumers as customers but it’s also about being on the same team as gay-supportive consumers, who make up more than half of the US population. And finally, it’s about being a forward thinking and modern company, which is what makes a brand best-in-class.


A list of 25 top brands and organizations who have included LGBT positive messages in recent marketing campaigns can be found here.