Thomas Roth and David Paisley

“If there’s one message we want you to walk away with from our presentation, it is we really are a spectrum of markets,” said Thomas Roth, president of Community Marketing & Insights.

When Thomas Roth and David Paisley founded CMI in the early Nineties, only one major brand was actively marketing to the LGBTQ community. Now, over 25 years later, CMI’s vast research and consumer studies have exposed companies to insights into what is behind the curtain, looking deeper into diversity within the LGBTQ community.

CMI has had partnerships with companies such as Absolut Vodka, AT&T, Google, UPS and Wells Fargo, among others, to make research available for anyone to download online for no charge.

It is important, Roth and Paisley said, to discount myths about the LGBTQ community to successfully market to them. “Ultimately, when we look at research we’re looking at a cultural consumer and that’s a little bit different than SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity),” said Paisley, “but we’re looking more as a cultural consumer and that’s really our approach is people who are part of the LGBTQ community and that’s different than sexual orientation or gender identity.”

A large myth, they said, is a stereotype that LGBTQ couples live in big cities. In fact, the closest statistic was that “a third of the LGBTQ community lives in a big or medium-sized city.” However, according to Paisley, there is a Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco bubble. “Don’t believe your bubble,” said Paisley. “What I really get when I look at our research, particularly focus group research that we do, is that a lot of the ads which come out from corporations in the bubble who hire ad agencies in the bubble, who use media in the bubble who promote to the rest of the LGBTQ community often miss the mark. You really do need to get outside the bubble if you’re a certain brand. The vast majority don’t live in these big cities and when you do focus groups in Cincinnati or North Dakota or New Mexico, there are often very different opinions about the LGBTQ community and how to market and outreach.”

“The one umbrella that’s over all of us is that we are a sexual minority, or a gender-identity minority,” said Roth. “But other than that, we are as diverse as the world.” In research, CMI found that within the overall LGBTQ market 38 percent of the community owns an SUV, however, when they looked deeper they were able to see more specifically that lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to own a Subaru. “But you need to know that because then you can really identify your best markets. And we’re all about good corporate citizens but ultimately there’s a bottom line there. So, you need to market to who makes sense. We can’t make assumptions based on a small snapshot of the community, we really need to look at this matrix.”

Further, Roth and Paisley said that people will likely identify with more than one community. Meaning, while a person may be active in the LGBTQ community and identify as part of it, someone’s personal identity may also recognize ethnicity or interests.

“The message here for all of us is whether or not you’re marketing specifically to the LGBTQ community, you are marketing to the LGBTQ community because all of your marketing and advertising reaches our community,” said Roth.

It is important, too, said Roth, to recognize the impact that corporations can have today. “Corporations up until Obama were really making the difference for the American LGBTQ community,” said Roth. “Then we had a bubble with Obama and the State Department was going around the world talking about LGBTQ rights. That has all stopped and we’re going the opposite direction. So, once again, corporations are making a big difference.”

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