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20/11/2015

Brands are failing to capitalise on the rising number of gay marriages

The lack of response by brands to the rise of gay marriages has taken Michael Wells, group account director at TMW Unlimited, by surprise.

Over 15,000 same-sex marriages have taken place since it became legal in England and Wales in 2014, the Office for National Statistics has revealed

As a gay man in a long-term relationship, and at an age when many friends, family members and colleagues are getting married, I’ve been getting involved in a lot of wedding conversations. Also, working in marketing, I’m especially attuned to how brands are capitalizing, or more often, failing to capitalize on the rising number of gay marriages.

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Brands are failing to capitalise on the rising numbers of gay marriage

Very little marketing activity speaks to the gay community

Same sex marriage gives brands a big opportunity to tap into a relatively new market. It provides a topic to talk to their gay consumers about and an opportunity to reaffirm their support for their gay customer base. But surprisingly there is very little marketing activity out there that speaks directly to the gay community, even from companies in the wedding business.

In the immediate aftermath of the legalisation of gay marriage, brands, including The Co-operative, VisitBritain and Google, targeted same sex couples with their advertising. Virgin Holidays, a company with established links to the gay community with its sponsorship of Attitude magazine, was one of the first to show its support for gay marriage. Ben & Jerry’s produced a limited edition ‘Apple-y Ever After’ flavour ice cream, replete with a picture of a gay couple on the tub, and Tiffany brought out its first ever ad showing a gay couple. Since then marketing budgets have, in the main, been directed elsewhere.

You'd think same-sex marriage didn't exist at all

Out Now Consulting found that the first year of civil partnerships in the UK boosted the UK economy by £130m, and the LGBT community is worth an estimated £80bn to the British economy each year, according to Stonewall. Yet gay consumers are still not getting the attention they deserve from brands. Researching weddings and honeymoons online can make you feel rather excluded as a gay couple. If you were to go by the marketing messaging from companies in the wedding business, you would think same-sex marriage didn’t exist at all.

The popular wedding location, Grittenham Barn in West Sussex, is typical of these, with a website showing only images of heterosexual couples. Honeymoons.com is similarly illustrated and, in the case of hotels company Mr & Mrs Smith, the exclusion of non heterosexuals is even in the name. However, in Mr & Mrs Smith’s defence, the tone of its communications is more inclusive than others, with words such as ‘couples’ and ‘soulmates’ used instead bride and groom. Even gay-friendly brand Virgin Holidays boasts a 64-page glossy online brochure without one picture of a same sex couple. Meanwhile, type ‘gay honeymoon’ into Google and it just delivers a list of porn sites.

These companies are missing out

These companies are missing out. I could in theory have a large wedding and honeymoon budget and yet none of them is doing anything to get my business. It doesn’t do brands any favours to try too hard but they should at the very least ensure their communications are inclusive. I don’t need to feel that a brand is a specialist in same sex marriages, but I would want to feel reassured that it would be something they would support and accommodate.(Source: bridesmaid dress)

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