Rolling out the Red Carpet for Gay Consumers: The Openly Gay Experts Who Head Niche Marketing Firms Are Helping Corporate America Connect with the Lesbian and Gay Market. at Stake Is an Estimated $450 Billion in Spending Every Year. (Gay-Owned Businesses)

By Prince, C. J. | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), February 19, 2002 | Go to article overview

Rolling out the Red Carpet for Gay Consumers: The Openly Gay Experts Who Head Niche Marketing Firms Are Helping Corporate America Connect with the Lesbian and Gay Market. at Stake Is an Estimated $450 Billion in Spending Every Year. (Gay-Owned Businesses)


Prince, C. J., The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


If you didn't know better, you might miss the significance of HBO's latest direct-mail piece, which in February will land in the mailboxes of 1 million homes nationwide. The piece, promoting such original programming as Six Feet Under, Sex and the City, and the new film The Laramie Project, has an understated cover line, "HBO Out Loud," that doesn't necessarily scream "gay." But neither is the wording a coincidence. Rather, it's the result of careful planning and collaboration with New York niche marketing firm Prime Access, hired to advise on language that, says Shelley Wright Brindle, HBO vice president of subscriber marketing, "would most resonate with the gay community" while still appealing to a broad heterosexual audience.

These strategic maneuvers are fast becoming the norm at Fortune 500 companies as more of them, having awakened to the eye-popping profit potential of an underserved market, spend bigger bucks on research and hire outside experts to find out who lesbian and gay consumers are, what they need, and how best to reach them. It may mean the end of invisibility as we knew it; with the latest market research estimating buying power among gay and lesbian consumers in the $350 billion-$450 billion range, corporate executives are seeing dollar signs where they once saw controversy and chaos. "The backlash thing has really fizzled," says Prime Access president Howard Buford. "It has just not been a meaningful consequence for anyone who has gone after this market."

Over the past five years in particular, Buford and other experts say they've seen companies grow exponentially less concerned with negative repercussions. "I look at it as before Ellen and after Ellen," says Wes Combs, president of Witeck-Combs Communications, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that helps companies such as American Airlines and Coors Brewing Co. develop communications strategies to reach gay consumers. "After Ellen [DeGeneres] came out, the show was canceled because it was `too gay,'" Combs says. "But the next season, Will & Grace was number 1." The furious discussion stirred up by DeGeneres's coming-out forced gay issues into the American consciousness, he adds.

Once gay consumerism was out of the closet, it was just a short hop to the marketing strategy sessions of companies in every industry. Those sessions often lead the companies to ask for help from the openly gay experts who are running niche marketing firms across the country.

"[Ellen] demystified gay people in a lot of ways--and it prompted a lot of people to come out," says Combs, who notes that the first call he gets from a company is often from an out gay or lesbian employee who wants to create a business case for marketing to the segment.

American Airlines' campaign to win the loyalty of gay travelers--this year the company will turn its attentions to gay corporate travel--began with a proposal in 1993 from Rick Cirillo, an openly gay executive at American. Cirillo was given the green light to begin courting gay and lesbian travel agents and tour operators and in the first year tracked $20 million in revenue from that segment. Nine years later, that figure has multiplied 10-fold. "And that's just what we're able to track," Cirillo says. "We're certain there's a great deal more out there."

The company has good reason to believe that, but with only 6%-7% of people in the United States self-identifying as gay or lesbian, they can only guess at how many their ads are influencing. "There are people who aren't comfortable self-identifying, but they'll fly American because it's gay-friendly," Combs says. "There's no way to track that, and that's the toughest thing, because companies want proof."

To gather as much evidence as they can, travel companies track calls from toll-free numbers or promotional codes designated for special fares so they can see immediately which consumers are responding to which ads. The British Tourist Authority began compiling a database of lesbian and gay travelers four years ago, attending gay expos in big cities across the country and then following up with those consumers to find out if they'd been influenced to vacation in the United Kingdom. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Rolling out the Red Carpet for Gay Consumers: The Openly Gay Experts Who Head Niche Marketing Firms Are Helping Corporate America Connect with the Lesbian and Gay Market. at Stake Is an Estimated $450 Billion in Spending Every Year. (Gay-Owned Businesses)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.