WASHINGTON, DC: One year on from same-sex marriage becoming legal in the US, marketers need to be considering how they can best reach a small but significant consumer group that demonstrates high levels of brand loyalty.

In a best practice paper for Warc – How to market effectively to LGBT audiences – LGBT marketing and communications expert Jenn T. Grace explains why "this is a target demographic brands should pay attention to".

The overall spending of LGBT Americans is comparable to that of various ethnic groups – which range from $718bn a year for Asian-Americans to around $1,000bn for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans (2012 buying power figures).

But since they are fewer in number they have between two and four times the amount of buying power as their diverse counterparts – and that makes them "a missed opportunity for any company who is not paying attention to this potential audience".

Further, 55% will do business with companies committed to diversity, while 70% would pay a premium for a product that supports the LGBT community. And 78% of LGBT adults and their friends would switch to a known LGBT-friendly brand.

"By following a strategic and inclusive approach, brands can open the doors for great business potential," Grace argues.

But that doesn't mean simply claiming to be gay-friendly – marketers have to identify key audiences in the same way as they would for any other campaign.

"Targeting a lesbian household with gay male-focused advertising is not only a waste of marketing dollars, it is also sends the message that marketers don't really know what they are doing," says Grace.

And as such, "marketers are better off not doing anything at all if they are going to treat the community as one large undifferentiated mass of people".

Grace also cautions against conflating diversity and inclusion – one is factual, the other is a feeling – while adding that "for marketing to the LGBT community to be effective, diversity and inclusion must work in tandem".

That could mean, for example, creating separate advertising for use in LGBT media, or – and this is the current trend, as exemplified by Coca-Cola and Honey Maid – including LGBT people in mainstream advertising.

Transparency and authenticity are vital, Grace adds, as "LGBT consumers are extremely aware what a brand is – or is not – doing for the LGBT community … token gestures will not suffice".

Data sourced from Warc