Ethical Marketing For Pride Month

ralph lauren prideIn many cities across the country, June marks Gay Pride month, an event that marks the June 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. During Pride month there are numerous parades and parties that become the target of advertisers, focusing on a demographic that is often overlooked the rest of the year. Gays and lesbians are a large potential market with potential buying power estimated at $641 billion – but how do we assess whether some of the Pride month marketing practices are ethical?

Gay Community Demographics

The gay and lesbian community represents a significant and influential market, with members being twice as likely to be professionals or managers then the general public and 3.4 times as likely to have an income greater than $250,000 a year. More than 90% of members of the gay and lesbian community took a domestic vacation within the last year, and more than 60% have traveled internationally in the last three years. These metrics suggest substantial disposable income among the gay and lesbian community, income that is often only the target of advertising during Pride.

Unethical Marketing: Alcoholism And The Gay Community

One of the more questionable marketing practices is that of alcoholic beverage companies. Alcohol brands are prominent among the advertisers at Pride events, often sponsoring floats or parties. However, studies show that the gay and lesbian community has a significantly higher rate of alcohol abuse than the general population, with a rate of up to 25%, compared with 5-10% of the general population. With this kind of disparity it is ethically dubious for the alcohol industry to place itself at the fore of advertising to gays and lesbians. Ultimately there is a close link here between a dangerous industry and a vulnerable population.

Positive Marketing: Father’s Day With JCPenney

When done well, marketing to the gay and lesbian community can be beneficial to everyone involved; an excellent example of this is last year’s Father’s Day advertisements from JCPenney. Father’s Day also happens in June, matching it up with Pride month. In their advertisement, JCPenney featured a family with two dads and their children. This advertisement targets the growing population of gay families with kids, while signaling to the gay and lesbian community that this is a friendly business that represents their needs. This kind of advertising is positive and much more ethical than the practices of the alcohol industry in relationship to the gay and lesbian community. Done right, Pride month marketing can benefit both companies and consumers, but it needs to be done with care.

Does your business reach out to the gay and lesbian population? Have you noticed any targeted advertising this month?

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Bird Pilatsky is a PhD student in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University. A graduate of Smith College, with a B.A. in English and the Study of Women and Gender. She works as an archivist and research assistant with particular interests in LGBT issues, disability studies, and literature. Bird also works as a summer camp counselor. She has worked as an art & layout editor, runs an active blog, and enjoys reading, running, and rollerskating.

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