The Secret to Authentically Supporting Your Brand’s Target Audience | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

The Secret to Authentically Supporting Your Brand’s Target Audience

By Greg Wright

TLDR: The secret is in the title of this blog post. "Authentically." Be authentic: In your actions, in your words, in your financial support, and in your campaigns. Above all, don't be hypocritical.

Think back to when you first started learning about marketing and advertising. Maybe you learned on the job or had a formal education in marketing. No matter where you learned marketing, a big focus of early teachings in marketing is learning about your brand's audience. Your brand needs to create a meaningful connection with its target audience to generate loyalty, sales, fandom, and so forth. A fundamental tenet of marketing is identifying your target audience and then tailoring your campaigns to that audience. But what happens when a brand isn't authentic to its target audience?

You've undoubtedly heard about a handful of brands that were attacked, and continue to be, for their support of the LGBTQ+ community. Many of the conversations stemmed around the dichotomy of a brand supporting opposing target audiences. Some of these brands responded authentically and stood beside the LGBTQ+ community, some doubled down and invested more into the LGBTQ+ community, and others caved to the pressure, turning their backs to the community (broadly known as rainbow-washing).

In 2021, the ANA surveyed its members on the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in their marketing. The survey found that marketers reported brand perception as the single most important metric when evaluating a campaign's performance (83 percent). Respondents also cited brand perception as being a key benefit of LGBTQ+ marketing inclusion (92 percent). If a brand supports the LGBTQ+ community authentically, that brand's perception will positively increase overall as well as with the LGBTQ+ community.

However, genuine and legitimate support is paramount, as it fosters a sense of belonging, drives positive change, and aligns brands with a more diverse and socially aware consumer base. This genuine and legitimate support goes beyond just the marketing team though. The entire corporation needs to be aligned with authentic support, otherwise many may consider the support to be performative.

Authentic support from brands plays a vital role in creating a sense of belonging for LGBTQ+ individuals. By openly embracing and championing diversity, brands send a powerful message that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is welcomed and valued. This support goes beyond rainbow-colored logos during Pride Month or one-off marketing campaigns; it involves long-term commitment and action.

Brands that genuinely support the LGBTQ+ community provide safe spaces, amplify queer voices, and offer opportunities for representation. Doing so fosters a sense of belonging, instills confidence, and empowers individuals to be their authentic selves.

Authentic support from brands can drive positive change within society. By actively promoting inclusivity, brands become advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, challenging harmful stereotypes and promoting understanding. They can leverage their influence and resources to support LGBTQ+ organizations, fund research initiatives, and contribute to legislative efforts for equality. Moreover, brands that prioritize LGBTQ+ inclusion internally can serve as catalysts for change within their industries and communities. By implementing inclusive policies, diverse hiring practices, and fostering a supportive work environment, they create ripple effects that inspire other organizations to follow suit.

Further, 88 percent of consumers say that authenticity is top of mind when deciding on brands they like and support. Brands that genuinely support the LGBTQ+ community position themselves as allies and are better equipped to engage with a diverse consumer base. Today's consumers, particularly younger generations, seek authenticity and value-driven companies. They are more likely to support brands that align with their personal beliefs and values.

Millennials and gen Z are "more serious about this" than any other generation, according to a study by The National Retail Federation and IBM Institute of Business Value, citing 55 percent of gen Z choose socially responsible brands. By actively supporting the LGBTQ+ community, brands demonstrate their commitment to equality, inclusion, and social progress. This not only strengthens brand loyalty among LGBTQ+ individuals but also resonates with allies and consumers who prioritize diversity and social justice. Authentic support leads to increased trust, positive brand associations, and potential expansion into new markets.

The importance of brands fully supporting the LGBTQ+ community cannot be overstated. Authentic support creates a sense of belonging, drives positive change, and allows brands to engage with a diverse consumer base. It goes beyond superficial gestures and requires long-term commitment, advocacy, and action. It also requires alignment across your brand and organization to ensure all departments are moving in the same direction.

By championing LGBTQ+ rights and fostering inclusivity internally and externally, brands can make a meaningful impact on society while also reaping the benefits of a more loyal and socially conscious customer base. In a world where authenticity and genuine connection are highly valued, brands that stand up for the LGBTQ+ community will undoubtedly be positioned to earn the benefits of LGBTQ+ community loyalty.

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.

Greg Wright (he/him) is SVP of brand and media at ANA. In his role at the ANA, Greg Wright manages the ANA webinar program, In-House Excellence Awards, and a selection of committees and conferences. Greg's areas of specialization include advertising financial management, production management, LGBTQ+ marketing inclusion, in-house agency, marketing operations, and agency relations. Prior to joining the ANA, Greg managed executive and member communications and marketing in-house for the AICPA and The Bartech Group. Greg started his career as a legislative aide with the Michigan House of Representatives. Greg has an M.B.A. in Marketing and a B.A. in Political Science and Geography. In his free time, Greg serves as alumni advisor for the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at UCLA and as president of the North Hollywood West Neighborhood Council. He lives in Los Angeles with his husband and their dog.