Advertisers May Find Gay Dollars Online

Companies that properly target the gay and lesbian market are likely to get a positive response from this affluent, loyal, and highly Internet proficient group. According to the results of the 2002 Gay/Lesbian Consumer Online Census (GLCensus), an OpusComm Group and Syracuse University research partnership, nearly 32 percent of the male respondents and 17 percent of female respondents reported household incomes of $100,000 or more, making this a profitable demographic to pursue.

Comparatively, Nielsen//NetRatings estimated that the $100,000 to $150,000 household income represented roughly 12 percent of the U.S. Web population in late 2002.

Of the nearly 9,000 respondents to the GLCensus, conducted online during the summer of 2002, the overwhelming majority indicated that they are likely to notice and remember ads that feature gay themes — in other words, ads that were specifically designed to appeal to the gay community — and two-thirds reported that they were more likely to be persuaded by gay-themed ads.

Most importantly, from a marketing perspective, nearly two-thirds indicated that they would be more likely to purchase from companies that use gay-themed ads, and 82 percent would be more likely to buy from gay-friendly companies.

Jeffrey Garber, president of OpusComm Group Inc., and founder of the GLCensus Partner’s study, explains that many advertisers assume that just inserting their existing mainstream ad in a gay publication will generate a good response and foster brand loyalty. However, Garber’s research shows that if advertisers want to hit a home run they need to craft a specific message that is both compelling and sensitive.

“Gay consumers want advertisers to demonstrate that they care about their needs enough to create a separate message. Also, a separate gay-themed ad can run in targeted mainstream media outlets to reach a broader gay consumer who can’t be reached presently by gay media alone,” Garber commented.

Marketers that are interested in targeting this group should realize that gays and lesbians spend substantially more time online than the average Internet surfer. June 2003 tracking data from Nielsen//NetRatings reveals that the average global Internet user spent roughly 11 hours and 34 minutes online per month, while GLCensus found that the largest percentage of respondents spent more than 25 hours online per week. Moreover, the average monthly usage for a U.S. surfer in June 2003 was 25 hours and 25 minutes at home, and 74 hours and 26 minutes at work.

How Many Hours Do You
Spend Online Per Week?
25+ hours 28.5%
20-25 hours 10.35%
15-20 hours 14.0%%
10-15 hours 15.7%
5-10 hours 18.5%
1-5 hours 12.9%
Source: GLCensus

With all these hours spent online, it’s no surprise that Forrester Research, Inc. identified gay consumers as being among the earliest technology adopters in a July 2003 report.

“Gay men and women are tech-savvy consumers who use the Internet and tech devices at significantly higher rates than their heterosexual counterparts for shopping, banking, entertainment, and community building,” said Jed Kolko, principal analyst at Forrester. “Marketers need to take a close look at the consumer behavior of gay men and women to determine a strategy in targeting a group of consumers who have been consistently overlooked.”

Forrester found that 80 percent of gay men and 76 percent of lesbians are online, compared with 70 percent of straight men and 69 percent of straight women. Gays are also one-third more likely to have broadband connections and have been online longer than heterosexuals. Also, 29 percent of gay men and women have been online for more than 7 years, versus 18 percent of heterosexuals.

Although any group of higher-income, more highly educated consumers will be earlier adopters of technology, significant differences in gays’ technology behavior emerged after Forrester made statistical adjustments for online tenure and demographic differences.

Technological Differences Between
Gays and Straights
Device Gay Straight
DVD player 54% 46%
Surround-sound stereo 37% 30%
Camcorder video 31% 40%
Digital camera 30% 23%
Handheld video game 20% 27%
Web-enabled mobile phone 15% 9%
PDA 15% 9%
Portable MP3 player 8% 4%
Personal video recorder 5% 2%
Note: Ownership of technological devices among gay U.S. households.
Source: Forrester Research, Inc. via eMarketer

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