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MBPT Spotlight: To Reach LGBT Consumers, Think Social and Video First

Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) culture is more visible than ever before — from same-sex marriages to Modern Family. But how sound is our knowledge about this important population segment, and what are the best ways to reach them?

The latest research from GfK MRI shows LGBT adults in the U.S. to be mostly young (54% are ages 18-34), well educated, very politically influential and involved, and willing to spend money. And their incidence of formal education (college and beyond) is 10 points higher than average: 39% versus 29% among the general population.

Reaching LGBT consumers requires a media plan heavy on social media, video and both niche and mainstream cable networks. Not only are they nearly twice as likely as other adults to watch video clips on a mobile or smartphone, they are 55% more likely to use instant messaging on these devices.

Overall, the LGBT group is a bit wealthier than all adults — with median household income of about $64,000 — and tends to reside on the East and West coasts, although they are heavily represented in the South, as well. When it comes to parting with dollars, they are 46% more likely than all adults to mostly agree with the statement “I’m a spender rather than a saver.”

This might help to explain why the CEOs of nine major corporations — including household names like Angie’s List, Anthem and Lilly — called on the governor of Indiana to act quickly in the April 2015 controversy over religious rights and sexual orientation.

So how can brands reach these smart, highly engaged consumers? Are gay-themed media the only options?

These adults are 32% less likely to watch Fox News Channel, but are 179% more likely to visit You will find less than 16% of them viewing ESPN programming.

Social media are where we see the really big numbers. The LGBT cohort is:
• 168% more likely to have used Yelp
• 103% more likely to have used Instagram
• 98% more likely to have used Twitter

Which TV offerings rank highest with LGBT viewers? Among more mainstream networks, good choices would include BBC America (LGBT index: 198), MTV (165), Comedy Central (149), FX (139) and USA Network (107).

This is not to say that LGBT adults spurn legacy media. They are more likely than the average adult to fall within the heaviest magazine reading quintile, but are less represented in the heaviest newspaper quintile. Their magazine genre preferences lean toward travel, followed by men’s magazines, women’s fashion titles, epicurean, health and news/entertainment weeklies.

To make a splash with LGBT consumers, savvy brands might consider:
• Using social media to highlight LGBT-friendly causes they support — asking these consumers to show their agreement by, for example, checking in with FourSquare when they buy a product
• Appeal to LGBT spenders with strong incomes by advertising on TV networks, magazines, and other platforms that speak to high-end shopping (and aspirationals)
• Tie your brand to a mobile payment method that offers discounts via channels favored by LGBT consumers

A decade ago, it was considerably harder to reach the LGBT population — before the emergence of social media platforms and the outpouring of digital content. Now these consumers are constantly on the grid, so it is up to brands to make the most of the opportunities this “always on” lifestyle creates.

As senior VP, research operations at GfK MRI, Becker plays a key role in the planning and maintaining of the company's ongoing Survey of the American Consumer. GfK MRI is a unit of GfK, one of the world's largest research companies operating in over 100 markets and specializing in discovering insights into the way people live, think and shop.