Knowing that a company markets to the gay and lesbian community would not impact mainstream consumers’ likelihood of purchasing products or affect the way they feel about a particular company, a new national survey reveals.

Two-thirds (68 percent) of American adults surveyed indicate that knowing a company promotes its products or services to gays and lesbians has no effect on how they feel about the company. And the vast majority (81 percent) of respondents indicates it does not matter to them if a company whose products they use on a regular basis also promotes them to the gay and lesbian community.

The survey of more than 1,000 general consumers regarding their sentiments toward marketing to the gay and lesbian community was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation on behalf of Fleishman-Hillard in conjunction with the launch of FH Out Front, the firm’s new communications practice dedicated to helping clients communicate with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community.  

“The world’s most visionary and forward-thinking companies communicate to the gay and lesbian community, and Fleishman-Hillard has now expanded our ability to support those communications efforts,” says John Graham, the firm’s chairman and chief executive officer. “The results of this survey show the growing acceptance, both in corporate America and among U.S. consumers, of gay and lesbian individuals. With the addition of FH Out Front, Fleishman-Hillard will be able to help our clients communicate directly with this important audience.”

Research estimates the buying power of the lesbian and gay community at $450 billion annually. Common population estimates assume that as much as 10 percent of the U.S. population is either lesbian or gay, a community recognized as one of the largest untapped audiences remaining in the communications marketplace.

The survey also found that a plurality of Americans (45 percent) would take no action if an organization launched a boycott against companies that market or promote products and services to gays and lesbians. Although 8 percent of respondents said they would participate in such a boycott, more than double that number (20 percent) said they would speak out against the boycott.

Three-fourths (77 percent) of respondents indicated they personally know someone who is gay or lesbian, with only 21 percent saying they did not. Even more important is the finding that those who personally know someone who is gay or lesbian are more likely than others to support companies that market to the gay and lesbian community.

“The results of this survey are very encouraging for marketing and communications efforts aimed at gays and lesbians,” said Ben Finzel, chair of FH Out Front and a senior vice president in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office. “Our survey demonstrates that gay- and lesbian-specific marketing will not adversely affect a company’s reputation with its existing audiences. For companies considering entry into this valuable market, this survey should provide encouragement and confidence that gay and lesbian marketing will be a positive step forward for those companies and organizations that want to be out in front of their competition.”

The survey also indicated that acceptance of gays and lesbians is not universal, highlighting the challenge of communicating with this audience in a relevant, appropriate way while maintaining interest and support of other audiences. For example, only 39 percent of respondents said they would feel better about a company that supports gays and lesbians and HIV/AIDS research. In contrast, 64 percent of respondents would feel better about a company that supports women and breast cancer research.

In addition, 23 percent of respondents indicated they would have a lower opinion of a company that specifically markets to gays and lesbians. And while 66 percent of respondents indicated that it would not matter to them if a company used gays and lesbians to market or promote a new, everyday product, one-fourth (24 percent) indicated this would make them less likely to purchase the product.

“As with other multicultural audiences, effective communication to, for, and with gays and lesbians requires more than a simple awareness of the audience,” Finzel added. “FH Out Front will help Fleishman-Hillard deliver effective, results-oriented programs for our clients based on an understanding both of the gay and lesbian community and society in general.”