This June it’s all about Pride, but savvy Gen Z and LGBTQIA+ consumers are looking for more than a rainbow logo as an indication of whether a brand is truly an LGBTQIA+ ally. A recent study from Horowitz Research among 13-24-year-olds in the U.S. suggests that it will be critical for corporate America to be present for LGBTQIA+ communities year-round to make meaningful connections, not just with the LGBTQIA+ audience, but with Gen Z as a whole.
Getting corporate America on board to invest marketing dollars in LGBTQIA+ efforts has historically been challenging, given the perception that the market is small and niche. This is changing dramatically, and quickly. The Horowitz study, fielded in the end of 2020, found that over one in four (28 percent) Gen Zers in the U.S. self-identify as LGBTQIA+, more than any generation before.
In the Horowitz study, a full 54 percent of Gen Zers agreed with the statement, “there is nothing wrong with homosexuality,” while a mere 18 percent disagreed. The remaining 28 percent of Gen Zers have not yet formed an opinion. Moreover, over one in three (37 percent) Gen Zers agree with the statement “gender is something that can exist on a spectrum”—underscoring how quickly the next generation is progressing away from notions of gender as binary.
This clearly has implications for marketers, who must shift away from thinking of LGBTQIA+ as a once-a-year marketing opportunity to festoon their logos with rainbows and proclaim their support, and towards the inclusion of meaningful LGBTQIA+-friendly messaging and creative year-long to connect with this large and elusive Gen Z audience comprised of LGBTQIA+ young people and their allies.
It has implications for market researchers, who must ensure that market research efforts do not systemically exclude, underrepresent, or fail to capture the nuances of Gen Z in all its diversity, whether related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or race/ethnicity. This includes methodological and sampling considerations as well as cultural sensitivities that must be considered in the research instruments used and the lens through which results are analyzed and reported.
And, it has implications for those who work in marcom, PR, DEI, and corporate social responsibility jobs. Unlike in the past, when consumers were shrouded from any potential discrepancies between a corporation’s marketing and messaging and its political and social actions, Gen Zers today benefit from full transparency into this kind of corporate hypocrisy, thanks to technology and social media.
In essence, marketers, market researchers, and marcom/PR/DEI/social responsibility executives themselves must become allies for LGBTQIA+ communities within their organizations. Of course, this is not always easy. Selling in the idea of showing up for Pride month is one thing, selling in the idea of alignment with LGBTQIA+-friendly political and social action is another. While Gen Zers are leading the way in terms of acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQIA+ and are embracing more fluid notions of sexual orientation and gender identity, it is not necessarily true that those sitting in the C-suite are on board with these cultural shifts and their political, social, and religious implications.
What these data tell us is that connecting with Gen Z is about much more than showing up for Pride month or any other month, for that matter. It is about earning the permission to engage with these young, diverse audiences through meaningful and sustainable commitments to equality, social justice, women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, and the environment—among other concerns—that deeply impact the lives and freedoms of today’s young people.
The study was conducted online in November and December 2020 among 800 13–24-year-olds, with oversamples of Hispanic, Black, and Asian 13–24-year-olds. The report includes analysis by total 13–24-year-olds, by age, gender, and ethnicity/race. Additional data runs available upon request.