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  • Writer's pictureMark Runacus

We're here we're queer and we're shopping.

That was a chant I first heard decades ago when I saw the then Gay Pride march making its way through central London. I laughed and felt shame at the same time. You see, I did think it was funny because lots of my gay friends do love shopping. But more significantly I was ashamed that I wasn’t marching with them. To most of my work colleagues I was still in the closet because I lacked the courage to be openly gay. In fact all of my gay university friends went back in the closet when they started work. I’m so disappointed not much has changed. Today Stonewall reports that 62% of LGBTQ+ graduates go back in the closet when they enter the job market.

June is usually the month when some brands start incorporating the LGBTQ+ rainbow flag into their logos, and some even field large teams of their LGBTQ+ colleagues and straight allies to march through the streets with the country’s many Pride marches. Did do you know in 2019 there were an estimated 150 Pride events up and down the UK?

But not this year of course. So what can brands do to engage with the LGBTQ+ community in 2020? And, why should brands need to engage with the LGBTQ+ community specifically anyway?

First, because prejudice still exists, and it must stop. The graduate/closet statistic proves that. Young LGBTQ+ people certainly perceive being openly gay in the workplace isn’t going to forward their career. If your brand has any kind of inclusive aspect to its Purpose, then you will want to embrace us, help surface positive LGBTQ+ role models, and take one step further towards eradicating prejudice. And don’t forget for every LGBTQ+ customer you’ve also got a much bigger group of supportive families, friends and allies around us who watch carefully how brands treat us.

And the LGBTQ+ community is not niche. YouGov has been tracking consumer feelings in terms of sexual identity. Their most recent study showed that more than half of all 18-24-year olds identified as not 100% straight. All age groups showed a significant increase, including 11% of the over 60s who are somewhere on a continuum of not being completely straight.

So, LGBTQ+ inclusion should no longer just be the preserve of woke youth brands; it is an imperative for almost every business.

That’s why a couple of years ago we set up Outvertising – the world’s first organisation encouraging brands to be more LGBTQ+ inclusive in their communications. We’re all volunteers working in marketing and advertising. We are a Not For Profit, surviving on a few hundred quid a year to pay for the website and stuff like that.

We informally support brands on their journey towards LGBTQ+ inclusion. Our resources include the world’s first guide to producing LGBTQ+ inclusive advertising aimed at a mainstream audience. You can download your own free copy of the Outvertising Guide here.

That guide also explains how 75% of LGBTQ+ themed ads outperform generic ads in terms of brand recall. And that 45% of consumers under 34 say they are more likely to do repeat business with an LGBTQ+ friendly company. In fact there’s a whole Powerpoint deck’s worth of statistics to take to your CEO to substantiate your next LGBTQ+ inclusive campaign.

So, you don’t have to wait for Pride to include us in your marketing. Do it today. Nevertheless I know it can be challenging. Many CMOs have told me they worry about “doing a gay ad”. Don’t worry but do be authentic. You probably shouldn’t start your LGBTQ+ inclusion with a 60 second TV ad. Take a meaningful journey and start inside. Does your organisation have a good track record of inclusion generally? Do you have an LGBTQ+ network? If not, get one started. Then use that network as your internal research to plan further progress. Many brands choose to continue their journey by advertising in targeted LGBTQ+ media first to engage with and learn from our community. This then informs broader campaigns in mainstream media with very powerful results. You’ll find case studies from Kellogg’s, Smirnoff, Axe, and McCain in that free Outvertising Guide.

It’s thanks to Outvertising that I do now stand proud in those marches every June. You’re very welcome to join us on your own journey. Be good to see you. X

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