NEW YORK: Marketers seeking to reach LGBT consumers stand to benefit from looking beyond niche channels and using mainstream media, according to a paper published in the latest issue of the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

"Consumer Response to Gay and Lesbian Imagery: How Product Type and Stereotypes Affect Consumers' Perceptions" was written by Kathrynn Pounders (University of Texas/Austin) and Amanda Mabry-Flynn (University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign).

"Brands increasingly recognise gays and lesbians as a lucrative market that needs to be advertised to beyond a few niche channels," the academics asserted.

Reaching this audience at meaningful scale, their analysis continued, will thus generally rely on media plans that are not limited to specialist outlets.

"Considering that a large proportion of LGBT consumers do not subscribe to niche media that targets this population exclusively, advertisers must use mainstream media to reach this valuable audience," Pounders and Mabry-Flynn said.

And connecting with LGBT consumers in such a way, their paper indicated, can deliver tangible payoffs for the brands concerned.

"Prior research has noted that, when advertisers market directly to an LGBT target audience, consumers in this market consider the brand to be supportive of the LGBT community and human rights," they reported.

"Furthermore, LGBT consumers more likely will purchase from brands that market directly to the audience."

Their findings from three studies also point to an understanding that "a brand plays a role in understanding consumer stereotypes about gays and lesbians".

Another insight: advertisements "featuring a product more consistent with gay and lesbian stereotypes generated more positive responses and stronger intentions to spread positive word-of-mouth endorsements".

Consumer evaluations of "gay and lesbian imagery in advertisements", the analysis further ventured, are based both on an "advertisement schema" and "sexual-orientation schema".

Building on this theme, the researchers identified a perceived problem for marketers: "How can brands begin to advertise explicitly to this market without alienating others?"

The authors' answer: "This work suggests that, for some products, one way to do so is to incorporate explicit images of gay and lesbian models in a way that is congruent with consumers' existing schemas.

"For advertisers, it is important to conduct strategic market research in order to identify potential opportunities for pairing products with LGBT images to help build brand awareness and loyalty among this community."

Data sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by Warc staff