Gauging how to market to the LGBTQ community is like walking a tightrope. Due to homophobia, the main challenge marketers face is how to safeguard the relationships with LGBTQ+ consumers that they have taken time to develop while also not alienating another sector of their customer base. These sectors may be right wing and homophobic but others might just be really really straight and exist so outside of a queer realm that they feel alienated when a company specifically targets a queer audience (this could also be read as a micro form of queerphobia but that’s a whole other conversation). 

A new survey from Bospar that was fielded in early June suggests these concerns of alienation could be overblown, as Target remains a top brand for LGBTQ+ consumers even after caving to pressure and removing its Pride collection. Having said that Curtis Sparrer, principal and co-founder at Bospar, has said that “I think it really will be interesting to see how this study holds up in a year when we do the research again, because I think when that happens, we’re going to see that the brand has taken a hit”.

Essentially, Target shouldn’t assume that it will always hold up with LGBTQ audiences. The numbers support the concern that consumers may turn on Target, with 59% of consumers saying they will buy more from brands who launch campaigns focused on diverse communities, such as the LGBTQ+ community, women and ethnic minorities. If a brand were to change its support for the LGBTQ+ community, 34.6% of consumers total and 75.9% of LGBTQ+ consumers reported they would switch to a supportive competitor.

The Corporate Courage Index from Bospar and Propeller Insights surveyed 1,007 U.S.-based consumers 18 years of age and older. Over half, 50.2% of respondents were male, with 49.1% being female. Approximately 16.5% of respondents identified as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

With over 56.6% of the respondents indicating they support the LGBTQ+ community, it is clear Target bent to the loudest actor. The knee-jerk response from the retailer potentially made things worse. “I think that’s the thing that brands really need to fear, is the circular feedback loop that they have to do something when in reality they do not,” said Sparrer.

While 68.7% of consumers overall and 68.1% of LGBTQ+ consumers identity as members of the political right, the overall view of consumers toward LGBTQ+ issues is a more liberal leaning one, with 56.6% of consumers overall indicating they support the LGBTQ+ community and 18.8% saying they care if others do so as well. As such, responding to the loudest voices in the moment may not be the best idea.

Despite the ongoing controversies surrounding purpose-based marketing, this tactic isn’t likely to disappear from marketers’ playbooks. Additionally, the use of AI and marketing and the potential for more uniform advertising campaigns, brands are going to need a way to stand out. 

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