How Purpose, Inclusivity, & Bolstering LGBTQ+ Representation Can Lead to Business Growth

By Dominick Fils-Aimé

Brand purpose plays a significant role in influencing the purchasing decisions of consumers, particularly gen z and millennials. This younger cohort is looking for brands to be authentic and use their platforms to drive change, and impact communities, movements, and policy.

To help brands better understand the evolving consumer sentiment that brands should play a greater role in driving social change, DISQO and Do The WeRQ, in partnership with Omnicom, released a report highlighting consumer expectations relative to LGBTQ+ advertising and brand purpose. The 2022 LGBTQ+ and the Future of CX report surveyed more than 9,000 people between June 10th and 23rd, 2022 to quantify the extent to which consumers reward brands for their social and political stances. 

The report also serves to evaluate how people experience the advertising efforts of brands attempting be more inclusive, authentic, especially in respect to the LGBTQ+ community.

Influencing Purchasing Decisions

The study found that people factor a brand's social positions when making purchasing decisions. For example, when people were asked if they ever think about a company's social and political activities in connection with a purchasing decision:

  • 85 percent said they do
  • 20 percent said they always do
  • 44 percent said they sometimes do
  • 21 percent said they rarely do
  • 15 percent said they never do

Furthermore, 74 percent of people said that brands should get involved in social issues like DEI, racial equality, gender equality, and social economics, and 72 percent of people believe brands are paramount to ushering LGBTQ+ rights progress.

This alignment between brand purpose and consumer values is amplified among LGBTQ+ shoppers with 35 percent saying they always consider these factors, and 66 percent saying they refrain from buying something if it conflicts with their values. Moreover, 48 percent of people said they'd be willing to pay a premium or go out of their way to transact with brands because of their support for issues.

Generational Difference

The study also revealed generational differences in consumer sentiment related to brand purpose, with people under age 44 being more likely to take action with their wallets. When respondents were asked if they always think about where a company stands when making purchasing decisions, the breakdowns were as follows:

  • 22 percent of people under 24 said they do
  • 25 percent of people between the ages of 25 to 34 do
  • 25 percent of people between the ages of 35 and 44 said they do
  • In contrast, only 12 percent of people 65 and older said they share these considerations.

In terms of consumers paying more or going out of their way to buy a brand because of the causes they support, 50 percent of people between the ages of 18 to 24-year-olds, 56 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds, and 57 percent of 35 to 44-year-olds said they had.

Gen Z Demands Brands to Use Their Platforms for Good

Gen Z, a cohort of 67 million according to the U.S Census, has a large concentration of purpose-driven consumers. Compared to prior generations, this segment is more racially diverse and more likely to identify as LGBTQ+. This make-up influences this segment to demand brands be more inclusive and socially responsible. According to the study, of consumers between 18- to 24 years old:

  • 30 percent shop brands that support issues they cared about
  • 39 percent want more LGBTQ+ content
  • 53 percent say brands should get involved in social issues
  • 58 percent have not bought a brand because they disagree with it on issues
  • 67 percent have family or a close friend who is LGBTQ+
  • 70 percent believe it's important that content is made inclusively
  • 72 percent consider a brands' social and political activity when buying from them
  • 76 percent believe brands influence LGBTQ+ rights

Recall and Receptivity to LGBTQ+ Content

According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC), at least 20 million U.S adults (eight percent of the adult population) could be members of the LGBTQ+ community, a segment estimated to spend $1.4 trillion annually. Despite this massive market, many brands fail to properly engage this segment.

According to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), 60 percent of its members do not actively market to the LGBTQ+ community. Sadly, this reflects improvement with more consumers being able to recall LGBTQ+ representation in ads and feeling those portrayals are more authentic, compared to last year. Per the study:

  • 7 percent of people said they hadn't seen any LGBTQ+ advertising, compared to 20 percent last year
  • 64 percent of people identifying as LGBTQ+ agreed that ads depicting their community felt authentic
  • 57 percent of LGBTQ+ identifying people recalled community representation within ads in programming made for them, compared to 33 percent in mainstream content
  • 27 percent of people recalled seeing LGBTQ+ people of color in ads
  • 20 percent of people recalled seeing transgender/non-binary people in ads
  • 37 percent of people said they recalled seeing LGBTQ+ ads outside of content made specifically for the community
  • 47 percent said they recalled ads within LGBTQ+ content specifically

Desire for Inclusive Content by Generation and Ethnicity

The desire for brands to make more LGBTQ+ ads differ among generations and ethnic background. When asked if brands should create more or less LGBTQ+ ads, respondents expressed the following results:

  • 39 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds said more; 14 percent said less
  • 36 percent of 23 to 34-year-olds said more; 15 percent said less
  • 37 percent of 35 to 44-year-olds said more;18 percent said less
  • 31 percent of 45 to 54-year-olds said more; 23 percent said less
  • 29 percent of 55 to 64-year-olds said more; 22 percent said less
  • 34 percent of people 65 and older said more;16 percent said less

In respect to ethnic background:

  • 62 percent of Middle Easterners said more; 6 percent said less
  • 37 percent of Pacific Islander said more; 20 percent said less
  • 34 percent of Asians said more; 12 percent said less
  • 32 percent of African Americans said more; 21 percent said less
  • 30 percent of Caucasians said more; 23 percent said less
  • 30 percent of America Indians/Alaskan Natives said more; 18 percent said less

Overall, the study's findings illustrate how the general public is making growth in its acceptance of the LBGTQ+ community. This progress is even more pronounced among younger consumers whose economic influence will continue to grow as they enter their peak earning years. For brands, the study underscores the importance of creating inclusive media and the power of brand purpose. Moreover, it demonstrates the potential benefit of advancing LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion on business growth.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Dominick Fils-Aimé is a manager of editorial and content development at ANA.