It was estimated in 2017 that there were 1.1 million people in the UK that identify as LGB. That works out at around 2% of the population*.
With the Pink Pound being estimated to be worth £6 billion per year in the UK, if you are in business that is not something to be sniffed at, right?
We have to take these figures with a pinch of salt though. No one can officially state the exact number of LGB individuals in the UK or the actual value of the Pink Pound. My instinct tells me the figures are way too low.
So that being said, why is it I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen mainstream marketing and advertising campaigns recently that were LGBT+ friendly?
Or walked into a store and felt truly comfortable as an LGBT+ consumer browsing the rails, doing my personal banking or booking a holiday for my same-sex partner and I.
Let's be clear. I am not talking about those companies that undertake significant PR effort to APPEAR gay-friendly. You know the ones... The ones that 1. know the value of the Pink Pound. 2. want to cash in on it AND 3. are not practising what they preach. You can't fool me and it's not enough to use the rainbow colours on your logo or shopfront during Pride. I want to know you are actively LGBT+ inclusive all year round.
I am talking about the companies that are avid LGBT+ supporters, not the ones using it as a tactic to market their brand or product.
We can see through those shallow campaigns that are simply targeting our hard-earned cash.
What Does LGBT+ Inclusion Look Like?
How many times have I been to the gift shop to find a card for my partner, whether it is a birthday, Christmas, anniversary (these are the hardest to find) and walked away empty handed?
I browse your brochures online and all the imagery is of heterosexual people and couples. I don't see any gay people, couples or families. I switch off. Ooo, wait. I just got an e-newsletter from a Jewellers. I scroll down and see an image of a gay couple, advertising the wedding rings. BRILLIANT. I immediately email the company and thank them for this. I feel included and valued as a gay customer. I am going to tell all my friends about it!
I am online looking at watches/shoes/t-shirts/jumpers (you get the idea). On the menu I can choose between men or women. Hm. A menu that is defined by the Gender Binary. What about those of us that are gender fluid? I don't identify as one or either of those. I close your page and look for someone else that does accommodate my needs.
What about my trans and non-binary friends that are scared of 'passing' or being 'outed' when they are browsing their preferred choice of clothing, keeping their head down so the staff on the shop floor don't catch their eye. Maybe hearing the hushed conversations between the staff of 'is that a man or a woman?' That is not to mention the uncertainty and fear of discrimination they face each time they want to use the changing rooms.
Walking into a store as a gender fluid person and having to make a conscious decision on which floor to visit: the lower floor (women's department) or the upper floor (men's department). I don't want masculine looking clothes. I don't want feminine looking clothes. I want to buy something that is gender neutral. I don't see any of those. I leave.
Phones. Laptops. Cars. Food. Drink. Choice of bank. Telephone provider. Mortgage provider. Insurance. Where to go on holiday. Who to fly with. Gorgeous places to stay where I feel SAFE. Household goods. Beautiful things to make my garden look serene and green!
Yes, I am LGBT+. And I buy what most heterosexual people buy.
When I make a purchasing decision, I always have in the back of my mind:
- Does the company have aligned values to mine? For example: are they ethical? Producing and providing sustainable products? Wrapped in plastic? Are they using animals at any point in their process?
- Is there any evidence that the company is inclusive to LGBT+ customers and staff?
Ethical consumerism is on the rise. Our purchasing decisions are made based on ethical reasons, such as a businesses behaviour. When I do my research into your company, if you are 1. gay-friendly and 2. use images that resonate with me to sell your products, you are more likely to get my business. And I will come back again.
By considering our needs, with a genuine want to serve us and be our allies, we will be loyal and tell everyone we know about the great things you do for us. And remember, it isn't only me you are targeting. You will reach my family and friends too.
How To Be LGBT+ Inclusive In Retail
Below you'll find several ideas and suggestions to engage LGBT+ consumers. In no particular order.
For Leaders and Employers
It all starts with getting the foundations right.
- Before you pile all your money into a significant marketing and advertising campaign, take the time and effort to analyse your organisational culture. Is your organisation actively encouraging EVERYONE to bring their whole selves to work? Get an independent consultant in to evaluate your business for inclusivity. If you are not as inclusive as you would want, put your money into creating a culture that is fully inclusive. Without this, your campaigns will fail. Simple. We know when a company is saying all the right things but don't have it all backed up in-house...
- Provide regular LGBT+ inclusion training and awareness raising for the leadership team, managers and the HR team. Give them a safe space to ask questions they may not feel comfortable raising anywhere else, talk about the challenges they face and identify possible solutions.
- Ensure your employees are fully trained on how to be LGBT+ inclusive with your customers and to be LGBT+ aware in their customer service. Are they trained REGULARLY on this? Do they know what language to use and what NOT to use? Do they know how to meet the needs of people who identify as non-binary, gender fluid or transgender?
- Get your policies, practices and procedures up to date for inclusion (and specifically LGBT+ Inclusion) in the workplace. Make sure you have robust policies and practices in place to report LGBT+ related bullying and harassment. Do these policies sit in a drawer gathering dust? Or are they actively lived out each and every day?
- Make sure you have visible LGBT+ role models at all levels of the business, including boardroom representation.
- Ensure the board AND those at senior levels in the business are committed to LGBT+ inclusion and the LGBT+ marketing strategy.
- Identify senior leadership LGBT+ allies. Get them trained up so they are able to answer questions and provide support to employees and managers.
- Support an LGBT+ Employee Network. Create a safe space for LGBT+ staff to come together, discuss their issues, support each other and offer their own potential solutions. Check in with them regularly.
- Listen to the needs of your LGBT+ employees and customers. Address the challenges they face. Ask if they have any special requests to make their experience more inclusive.
- Be visible and speak at LGBT+ events.
- If you are going to insist on taking consumer data online or at the till, make sure your systems reflect a more diverse population. Having gender binary options only is not good enough in 2019. Offer alternative options that represent the LGBT+ community. Do you need to upgrade your data collection systems, your CRM or till system?
Training for managers is key.
- Every single manager needs to be fully LGBT+ trained. They need to know how to effectively deal with LGBT+ related issues, questions and unconscious bias. They need to know the right language to use, understand the issues LGBT+ individuals face and be empowered to challenge inappropriate behaviour.
- Encourage mangers to be LGBT+ allies and provide training for this.
- Set up an LGBT+ Employee Network. These are powerful. As well as being a source of support for the individuals within the network, they can advise on internal policy decisions and the business's marketing plan. They can act as an advisory board working with the marketing and product teams to develop LGBT+ products and services and provide critical feedback on your communication strategies.
- Regular bespoke staff training/awareness delivered by an LGBT+ person and specialist (this is essential – don't have LGBT+ training delivered by a heterosexual person). As a minimum this should raise awareness on issues faced by LGBT+ individuals in their lives, unconscious bias and appropriate language to use. The issues faced when accessing your products and services and how to support an LGBT+ customer.
- Provide a resource bank of training materials for employees – to educate on bi-visibility, trans inclusion, how to deal with homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and many more LGBT+ areas!
- Research the wants and needs of the LGBT+ community. Conduct research with your target consumer group.
- Develop any new products and services alongside your LGBT+ employees.
- Product adaption. Tailor products or services to meet the needs of LGBT+ consumers. Are there any that would appeal to LGBT+ individuals, same-sex couples etc? Think things like LGBT+ friendly labels on champagne, LGBT+ friendly holiday destinations, gift cards, magazines.
- If you have any LGBT+ friendly products, highlight them.
- Provide gender neutral options if possible.
- Consider the aesthetics of your store. Is it welcoming to the LGBT+ community? Do you absolutely need to divide your products by gender? Is there another way you can organise the store?
- Organise events for your LGBT+ customers. Engage the LGBT+ community. What about an LGBT+ customer focused conference, evening networking/socials or road shows?
- Be more conscious of the LGBT+ calendar and celebrate things like Pride, LGBT History Month, Transgender Day Of Visibility etc
- Consider your choice of venue for events. Is it a 'safe space' for the LGBT+ community?
- Sponsorship of events. Choose wisely. Do your research and make sure it is on brand.
- Align with larger LGBT+ initiatives as well as supporting local community groups and LGBT+ charities.
- Encourage your staff to fundraise for local LGBT+ charities.
- Have a presence in online gay communities, prominent blogs, interact with LGBT+ influencers and media outlets. Make yourself visible.
- Look at the LGBT+ representation you currently have in your brand imagery and messages. Incorporate LGBT+ people in your mainstream print, online and broadcast marketing and advertising campaigns.
- Feature a well-known LGBT+ celebrity or influencer in your campaigns.
- Consider having LGBT+ spokespeople and LGBT+ consultants for your brand. Let them advise and educate your consumers and consult with you on new product developments! They are invaluable.
- Challenge the perceptions of the mainstream audience. Use this as an opportunity to educate the audience on your product and LGBT+ issues.
- Instead of placing images of male and female's together in your brochure or in the imagery around the store, introduce more male/male, female/female and gender fluid, non-binary and transgender individuals and couples. Your role in normalising LGBT+ life cannot be underestimated.
- Evaluate your language in your marketing and advertising campaigns for inclusivity. Use the language that is familiar to the LGBT+ community – in brochures, leaflets, online and offline marketing, advertising campaigns, billboards etc.
- Where are you advertising? And who are you engaging? Is your message reaching the LGBT+ consumer? Engage with and advertise in 'pink' media. Add the 'pink' media outlets to your press release distribution list. Be sure to tailor your message and imagery to the LGBT+ community. Be creative, avoid tokenistic imagery and stereotypes.
- Give away's at LGBT+ focused events and effective product placement can elevate your brand too.
The Pink Pound is rising.
To access it, show us: Only then will I look at your products. Provided they meet my needs.
- Your commitment in-house to LGBT+ inclusion. Do you behave behind the scenes the way you are behaving publicly? Practice what you preach.
- Your whole organisation is LGBT+ aware. They have been trained. And continue to be trained regularly on LGBT+ issues.
- You understand me and have made my purchasing journey so much easier to navigate by considering my needs and challenges.
- You are an active ally to the LGBT+ community. You will stand beside me in my celebrations and you will support LGBT+ causes and initiatives.
- You value me. I want to see LGBT+ life represented in your brand, marketing and messaging.
- You value LGBT+ input in all aspects of your business. Spokespeople, advisors, consultants, trainers, celebrity endorsements, LGBT+ Employee Network etc.
Lastly, don't forget to measure your success. Capture feedback, conduct surveys and facilitate focus groups. Use this information to inform future campaigns.
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Read More LGBT+ Focused Articles Here: LGBT+ Articles About Gina Battye
Gina Battye is a world renowned LGBT+ & Authenticity Consultant and Advisor for TV, Film, Theatre, Radio, Global Press, Fortune 500s + Leading Global Organisations.
Find out more about Gina and her work at www.ginabattye.com/media and chat with her on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.