By Ben Finzel
I’ve written a fair amount about auto marketing to gays and lesbians and offered advice to carmakers for ways to bolster market share in a weakening economy. Several major automakers have been leaders in advertising to our community, but the more engaged public relations programs that actually move sales have been few and far between.
Last week, GM was the focus of a Marketplace radio interview about its “cutting edge” techniques to reach out to our community. It was an interesting piece, and it featured our friend Joe LaMuraglia of gaywheels.com, which is great. The story focused on GM sponsorship of an event at Motor City Pride in Detroit but focused on how “subtle” the campaign was and highlighted our community’s “disposable income” far more than our loyalty as consumers. While both points are important, the latter is perhaps more relevant in an economic downturn when automakers (and others) are looking for ways to bolster sagging market share by boosting sales of their products.
This background was all brought into stark focus today with an announcement by GM of “very tough actions” to dramatically reduce their costs and save billions of dollars. While it’s too early to tell if these actions will mean the end of gay outreach and other activities, I hope they don’t. GM needs all of the friends it can get – and it still needs to sell cars. As Joe LaMuraglia said in a press release this week announcing the top ten most researched vehicles on gaywheels.com in the second quarter, “research has consistently indicated that the LGBT consumer is an early-adopter and a trend setter.”
I’m not suggesting that marketing to gays and lesbians will save the company, but taken as part of a broader PR effort, it can certainly help build new markets for the company and help create loyalty with a powerful, yet largely untapped segment of the auto-buying public. As we’ve written before, GM has been making real inroads in conducting outreach to our community. They ought to expand these efforts and their competitors ought to join them in courting the gay and lesbian dollar to earn gay and lesbian loyalty.
P.S. If you’d like to read more about automaker advertising to our community, check out Joe’s guest column on the Pink Banana Media Blog from two weeks ago: http://gaybizreport.blogspot.com/2008/06/automotive-advertising-in-gay-market.html