An inclusive Honey Maid commercial
Op-ed: LGBTs, Know Your Worth

By Chris Classen

Originally published on Advocate.com June 02 2014 7:00 AM ET

Corporations increasingly realize that discriminatory workplace policies deprive them access to talented employees and earn them the scorn of LGBT consumers and our allies. The Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index evaluated a record 299 of the Fortune 500-ranked businesses in 2014 based on company-submitted surveys. Similarly, several companies have begun to include images of gay families in television commercials (Honey Maid, Coca-Cola, Amazon Kindle, and Target) and in print advertisements in mainstream publications (Ray Ban, Banana Republic, and Gap).

But our definition of equality shouldn’t simply end with seeing ourselves featured in mainstream advertising campaigns. True equality will be realized only when these companies cater to and recognize the true economic powerhouse that we are.

By the numbers, LGBT spending in the U.S. is estimated in 2014 at $860 billion. If you compare that to the yearly GDP of states, “LGBT” would be the fourth largest state in the U.S., just behind New York. And ranked globally, our spending as GDP would make it the 18th largest country. Yes, that's just American LGBT spending. We spend more than the combined GDP of several European countries.

All that being said, can you name five brands that are actively targeting the LGBT community on a spending level proportionate to the dollars that we currently spend on these brands?

The reality is that the amount spent to actually target our community is minuscule compared to what is actually purchased by member’s of our community at-large. Every summer many of these brands descend upon Pride celebrations across the country in a marketing show of force, mostly to be not heard from again until the following year.

As a major market force, the LGBT community needs to vote with our dollars; Not only by boycotting companies that don’t share our values, but by rewarding companies that are consistently making the proportionate investment to reach members of our diverse and distinct community in a meaningful way. Any company coming up short on that should be forced to feel the effect on their bottom line.

Since the demise of section 3 the Defense of Marriage Act, marriage equality has reached a tipping point with new victories arriving at the state-level on a rapid basis. Gays and lesbians are now serving openly in our Armed Forces. Our popular media has produced an ever-widening array of LGBT characters for an ever-growing content universe. Meanwhile, Congress's failure to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act demonstrates how much further we have to go.
 
The power to change profits can be as powerful as legislation. We should demand true equality every time we open our pocketbooks. We are the influencers, leading trends in fashion, architecture, entertainment and culture. We are the content creators, writers, designers and performers. We are the early adopters, spreading these trends through social networks that we make mainstream. We are consumers, out-spending the general market. We have arrived at a point where the LGBT community isn’t “just” equal…we’re more. And it's time to flex that muscle as part of our overall equality movement.

 

CHRIS CLASSEN is a Los Angeles-based artist and the co-founder of Incluence, a LGBT-focused influencer marketing firm. He is also a producer of Lyst, a gay social event series in Southern California. Lyst will hold its first event of the year June 5 at a presently undisclosed location. Follow its outlets on Facebook and Twitter for more information.