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LGBTQ+ marketing and Gen Z: How inclusive marketing can drive your commercial goals

Two young people are laughing and smiling, cheek to cheek and looking into the camera.
Written by
Izzy Hall
Published on
April 25, 2024
Last updated
June 26, 2024

What this article covers

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In 60 seconds… 

  • Social media has shaped how this generation of digital natives engages with socio-political issues
  • Gen Z’s increased awareness and understanding of sexuality and identity directly impacts their consumer behavior
  • By representing the LGBTQ+ communities in your marketing, brand, products, and culture, brands can demonstrate genuine commitment to inclusivity

Gen Z is a community of politically aware, socially conscious individuals. In fact, over half of them consider themselves to be ‘woke’*. They’re a generation of young people who reject rainbow washing and believe that LGBTQ+ Pride should be all day, every day. 

But, to be honest, that doesn’t apply to all of them: data from Pion’s Youth Trends Report revealed that 32% of this generation (US) have an active awareness of and support the tackling of LGBTQ+ issues. Perhaps this is a lower number than you imagined. Perhaps not.

But for those who are invested in diversity and inclusion topics, their voices are loud. 

In this blog, we’ll be exploring Gen Z’s relationship with LGBTQ+ issues and how this impacts their spending habits. From the power of social media to some winning inclusive marketing campaigns, we’ll empower you to be a good ally, and, as an always welcomed addition, share tips on how you can reach those commercial goals.

The impact of social media on Gen Z and the LGBTQ+ community

For younger generations, social media is everywhere. It’s in the air they breathe. It’s in their blood.  So it’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s had a huge impact on how they view the wider world and engage with socio-political issues. 

Data from our Youth Trends Report 2024 reveals that 45% of US Gen Zers say social media has impacted their awareness of social issues, including race, gender, and LGBTQIA+ topics.

Thanks to online platforms like TikTok, young people can explore the world (albeit through a screen) and converse with and learn from other people in the LGBTQ+ community. At the click of a button, Gen Zers can learn more about themselves, their community, and their identity. This doesn’t just apply to the online world, but the IRL one too: the internet empowers young people to truly and proudly be themselves.

And for those who may not directly be a part of the community but want to be good allies, social media is a space for education and raising awareness. In other words, social media is a tool for empathy. 

Why does Gen Z want brands to be socio-politically active?

To engage with Gen Z, brands need to represent Gen Z. Young shoppers want to see themselves reflected in your marketing, creators, products, or services. You may be catering to the thousands, but Gen Z consumers will only hit ‘buy’ if they feel like it’s for them.

“It can often feel disingenuous to buy queer items from a brand that doesn’t represent the community that they claim to cater for”, one Gen Zer shared with us, “whether that be through the lack of diversity and representation within their team or where their money stems from (or goes).” 

According to Joeri Van den Bergh, co-founder at consultancy Human8 and speaker at YMS NYC, 40% of Gen Zers in the US say inclusivity in a brand is important to them. Thanks to their increased apathy and socio-political awareness, Gen Z expects diversity, equity and inclusion. They want everyone to have the same access and opportunities, regardless of their identity or background, and this is something you need to be taking note of… ASAP.

Gen Z’s increased awareness and understanding of sexuality and identity directly impacts their consumer behavior, meaning it should be top of mind for marketers when it comes to ideating campaigns and strategies.

Basically, diverse and inclusive marketing practices aren’t just ethically sound, but they’re commercially wise too. 

Inclusive marketing examples 

The North Face x Pattie Gonia 

In 2023, outdoor clothing and accessories brand The North Face celebrated Pride Month in the US by collaborating with drag artist Pattie Gonia (get it?!). 

The aim? Promote diversity in outdoor spaces. 

The iconic campaign was led by an even more iconic script: 

“Hi… it’s me, Pattie Gonia, a real-life homosexual. We are here to invite you to come out… in nature with us! This tour has everything: Hiking, community, art, lesbians, lesbians making art!”

Honestly, check it out. It’s so good. 

Despite backlash and hateful comments online (bloody boomers), the brand stuck by the campaign. Their statement, as released to Newsweek, said: ‘We recognise the opportunity our brand has to shape the future of the outdoors and we want that future to be a more accepting and loving place... We’re partnering with Pattie because we believe the outdoors are for everyone. The North Face online community is designed to be a safe, positive and inclusive environment.’ 

Now that’s an example of a brand that knows its worth and power, and uses it to be a force for good. Slay.

TaskHer

Ever heard of TaskHer? No? Well, it’s time to get familiar… 

TaskHer is an online booking tool for female tradesmen, and in their new campaign ‘Trade Places’ they partnered up with Corky’s Painters. 

An LGBTQ+ all-women’s decorating team from London, Corky’s Painters uses ‘drag to reclaim past experiences of being overlooked, undervalued and mansplained in their careers.’

Driven by shocking stats, including the fact that 39% of tradeswomen aren’t taken seriously because of their gender, the campaign challenges stereotypes and raises awareness. Things we love to see.

What type of marketing appeals to Gen Z?: Why LGBTQ+ representation be a priority for brands

So LGBTQ+ representation marketing is important to Gen Z, but why should it be a priority for brands?

One word: engagement. 

Data from a recent survey of UK Student Beans users, Pion’s discount marketplace, revealed that:

  • 27% would be more inclined to buy from a brand that donates to LGBTQ+ charities during LGBTQ+ History Month 
  • 34% like it when brands make social issues part of their marketing
  • 50% think brands should be extending their social activism beyond LGBTQ+ History Month

Gen Zers favor brands that align with their values (all year round, not just for Pride Month campaigns). By representing the LGBTQ+ communities in your marketing, brand, products, and culture, brands can demonstrate a genuine commitment to inclusivity. 

Let’s break down the maths*: 

Creating inclusive content =  more organic traffic and positive engagement. 

Which, in total = spending. 

And, lest we forget, it’s simply the right thing to do. 

*(We’re not mathematicians) 

{{ctaNeon}}

How can brands use their platforms to drive social change and awareness? 

A recent study by the ANA found that 82% of marketers believe there’s still significant room for more marketing that includes LGBTQ+ people. Great stuff. We can’t argue with that. 

However, only 55% of brands actively marketed to or included the LGBTQ+ community in their marketing. 

By representing LGBTQ+ communities, brands have the power to challenge stereotypes, promote acceptance, and encourage greater understanding, as evidenced by The North Face’s partnership with Pattie Gonia. 

But there’s a disconnect here: it seems that while brands recognize they have a social responsibility and want to support their customer base, they’re just not making that all-important commitment. 

So why is this? Well, making that change isn’t easy. As much as grassroots work is a key driver here, senior leaders play an important role in driving business decisions and alliances too. As one Gen Zer we spoke to said: “There’s no point having [DE&I] networks when no one is actually listening… getting involvement from higher up, senior leaders etc, is a higher step to have.” 

There is, of course, a lot of things that these DE&I groups can advocate for to make positive internal change. From offering diversity training to reassessing the benefits on offer, supporting the LGBTQ+ community and your employees is something that needs to be happening all-year round (and, bonus, prospective Gen Z employees will be grateful, too!). You can learn more about what you, as employers, can do to support LGBTQ+ employees in this article from PinkNews, an LGBTQ+ news site.

But, if you take one thing from this (hopefully more, but still), it’s to get involved, authentically, with the community all year round. 

Spend time with the LGBTQ+ community and in the spaces they feel comfortable. Show up and be an ally - don’t just be a faceless brand.

Want more like this? Download our Youth Trends Report 2024 to delve into the world of Gen Z, with unmissable and exclusive data on their attitudes and behaviors. 

*Data from our Youth Trends Report 2024

Think you know Gen Z? Think again.

Pion’s Youth Trends Report delves into the world of Gen Z, with exclusive data on their attitudes and behaviors.

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