A new study of U.S. consumers reveals that superficial attempts to appeal to members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies may no longer suffice—especially among Gen Z and Millennials.
Over the past several years, many brands have increased the representation of the LGBTQ+ community in their marketing content, with the annual outpouring of rainbow-colored packaging and colorful logo redesigns during Pride Month highlighting this ostensible support for LGBTQ+ consumers.
Today, Do the WeRQ, a nonprofit organization that works to advance LGBTQ+ representation across advertising and marketing, and consumer insights platform DISQO released a report detailing the findings of their study of over 9,300 consumers and their perspectives of the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in advertisements. According to the report, while many American consumers believe the overall visibility of LGBTQ+ people in advertising has increased, they say the quality and authenticity of this representation haven’t progressed at the same rate.
The overall population of LGBTQ+ Americans is “the fastest-growing U.S. minority segment” per the report, with recent U.S. Census data revealing that 8% of U.S. adults identify as LGBTQ+. According to the report, the LGBTQ+ community currently represents $1.4 trillion in annual spending; and with nearly one in five members of Gen Z identifying as LGBTQ+, the spending power of the LGBTQ+ community is only expected to increase.
“The era of dissociation is coming to an end,” David Grabert, brand VP at DISQO, said in an interview. “People scroll as easily as they breathe, and we can see more and more that brands are being held accountable for what they’re doing—not only their marketing practices, but their other business practices.”
Opinion: How to support LGBTQ+ employees
In the report, over 93% of respondents reported seeing at least some LGBTQ+ representation in advertising, compared to only about 80% of consumers in last year’s report from the two organizations. The survey left the definition of "LGBTQ+ representation" open to respondents' interpretation, but this type of representation typically correlates with images of same-sex couples and gender non-conforming individuals.
Consumers also reported seeing more LGBTQ+ people of color and transgender or nonbinary people in ads, with 27% of consumers recalling ads featuring LGBTQ+ people of color and about 20% recalling ads including transgender or nonbinary people. However, many consumers said this representation was primarily featured in ads specifically targeting the LGBTQ+ community, rather than in mainstream content aimed at general audiences.
Additionally, 31% of consumers said they desired more LGBTQ+ representation in advertising, up from only 21% in the 2021 study. The wish for increased LGBTQ+ content in ads was strongest among Gen Z respondents, at nearly 40%. The strong support for LGBTQ+ representation among Gen Z consumers comes as, according to the report, two-thirds of 18-to-24-year-olds have a friend or relative who identifies as LGBTQ+. And younger consumers increasingly factor in a brand’s position on political and social issues—including their support of the LGBTQ+ community—when making a purchase.
Among all consumers, 85% reported at least occasionally taking a brand’s “social and political activities” into account before buying a product, and nearly 60% of respondents under age 24 said they would refuse to purchase a product if they disapproved of the brand’s stance on social or political issues.
“Younger people may be less likely to reward brands for supporting their views,” the report states, “but are more likely to punish those who do not.”