How To Make Your Marketing More LGBTQIA+ Inclusive: A Framework for Consumer Brands to Avoid Tokenism

April 21, 2024
Navigating the complexities of inclusive marketing for LGBTQIA+ audiences can sometimes feel overwhelming, awkward, or worse, tokenistic.

For today’s most prominent brands, embracing LGBTQIA+ inclusion isn't just the right thing to do – it's a strategic business imperative. With over 30% of Gen Z Australians identifying as LGBTQIA+, connecting authentically with this diverse segment of the market is crucial for any consumer brand looking to stay relevant and competitive.

Navigating the complexities of inclusive marketing for LGBTQIA+ audiences can sometimes feel overwhelming or awkward. At its worst, inclusive marketing appears tokenistic, contributing to negative brand perception. Inclusive marketing consultants provide specialised knowledge and lived experiences to support brands and ensure their marketing efforts resonate with diverse LGBTQIA+ communities.

The Rise of LGBTQIA+ Consumers

According to a study conducted by YouthSense, the percentage of Gen Z Australians identifying as LGBTQIA+ has shown a notable increase over recent years. In surveys conducted between 2020 and 2022, the proportion of Gen Z individuals identifying as LGBTQIA+ grew steadily, with the latest findings revealing that one in three (32%) respondents aged 15-24 identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. This trend aligns with global patterns, with a 2024 Gallup survey in the USA reporting that one in five (22.8%) Gen Z youth identify as LGBT.

The days of superficial gestures, such as rainbow banners during Mardi Gras or one-off donations to LGBTQIA+ nonprofits, are long gone. Today's consumers are discerning, demanding substance behind the lip service. Brands must now navigate a landscape where authenticity, values, and impact are under constant scrutiny.

"Modern consumers expect more from the brands they engage with, particularly in terms of inclusivity and authenticity," says Polly Parker, co-founder of LGBTQIA inclusion consultancy TheyConnect. "And most marketers are struggling with how to get it right.”

The Challenges of Marketing to LGBTQIA+ Audiences

Marketing to LGBTQIA+-specific audiences can feel like a minefield for brands. You don’t need to spend long Googling campaigns gone wrong and brands getting cancelled by people with opposing, and often harmful, views. The overwhelming evidence shows that brands that have a genuine approach to inclusion across all levels of their customer experience are able to mitigate against accusations of rainbow-washing.

Introducing TheyConnect’s signature Inclusify Framework

Here at TheyConnect we have developed our signature Inclusify Framework, designed to help marketers authentically connect with LGBTQIA+ audiences without being awkward or tokenistic. We spell out the importance of brands committing to understanding, amplifying, and taking action to support marginalised and underrepresented communities. Developed in collaboration with LGBTQIA+ communities and industry experts, this framework provides marketers with a comprehensive roadmap built upon three core pillars.

TheyConnect's Inclusify Framework

Pillar 1: Awareness

Awareness serves as the foundation upon which genuine inclusivity is built. It involves educating oneself about the challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ communities, particularly within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. This includes undertaking LGBTQIA+ inclusion training, critically reviewing past marketing campaigns for blind spots, and understanding the risks associated with ignoring LGBTQIA+ audiences.

Pillar 2: Amplification

Amplification is about using one's platform to elevate the voices, perspectives, and experiences of LGBTQIA+ communities. This pillar encourages marketers to actively seek out opportunities to connect with LGBTQIA+ service providers and talent, and paying them what they're worth. It also involves conducting community consultations to ensure that marketing campaigns are impactful and resonate authentically with the target audience.

Pillar 3: Action

Action is where the rubber meets the road. It's about implementing tangible measures within the business to support and uplift LGBTQIA+ communities, both internally and externally. This can include implementing new policies and procedures that promote inclusivity, as well as incorporating tactical findings from external inclusivity audits into brand and marketing efforts.

The Biggest Brands Are Focusing on Inclusive Marketing

“We’re thoughtfully continuing our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts... Around the world, cities and communities where we do business applaud these efforts. We also believe our initiatives make us a more inclusive company and lead to more innovation, smarter decisions and better financial results for us and for the economy overall.” - CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, said in his 2023 shareholder letter
“We have an ambitious goal to build the world’s most diverse content library, which we see as being a critical part of empowering the whole world to design.” - Canva
“At Squealing Pig, we’re known for our inclusive and cheeky approach to the complex world of wine, a category that a lot of people find confusing and stuffy. But we are also committed to channeling our playfulness and positivity in support of inclusion and diversity on a much broader level,” - Kaushik Lal, Squealing Pig

Say Goodbye to Rainbow-Washing

Inclusive marketing is an ongoing journey that requires specialised expertise. Whether you need  LGBTQIA+ inclusion training, Pride campaign consultations, or an inclusivity audit of your brand, partnering with an experienced LGBTQIA+ consultant like TheyConnect will ensure your efforts remain impactful and help you say goodbye to the dreaded rainbow-washing accusations.

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