Friday Forum

When Companies Target Gays, Is It Support? Or Savvy Marketing?


FRIDAY FORUM — Skeptics that we are, we have a weird feeling toward corporations who target the gay community. On the one hand, we love the attention, and that they spend large sums to reach the GLBT audience represents a type of affirmation — that we’re important enough to be cared about. On the other hand, such “outreach” sometimes strikes us as a company just going after the gay dollar because it’s there, and they know slick marketing and gay-targeted campaigns appeal to our sense of vanity. When it comes to Absolut, we feel it both ways.

We love that they sponsor our gay pride parades, support gay media, and proudly insert their brand to any gay bar that will take ’em. And sometimes it feels like overkill. But if you look at Absolut’s “commitment” to the gay community (that’s marketing speak for their constant spending in the gay market), you’ll see a trend: Absolut was among the first brands to embrace the gays. Sure, it was because we were an untapped consumer market, but while other companies feared associating with us would drive away their consumer base (and have the American Family Association call for a boycott!), Absolut took a chance.

That was back in 1981, some 28 years ago, and clearly it’s paid off, because now Absolut is honoring 40 years of gay pride (with the Stonewall Riots as the demarcation) with this new “limited edition” (hah) rainbow pride bottle as part of its “Colors” campaign. It’s pretty and flashy and contains the same adult beverage we’ve always enjoyed. Undoubtedly, it’s a marketing gimmick to get gays to buy more Absolut. But is it something more? Absolut’s press folks would like us to believe it represents the brand’s commitment to the community. Are you buying?

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