Dear Neighbors to the North, This was the title that newspaper “De Morgen” ran on June 4 on the American campaign for luxury hotel chain the Marriott. Hugging men on a bench, a gay couple with children, the marriage of a lesbian member of staff of the hotel chain. With this imagery and matching photos, the Marriott wants to attract GLBT and (trans) couples.
And of course a lot of gay weddings, as these are the Marriott’s main goal. They will be more than happy to organize (expensive) receptions and wedding parties of gay couples.
Gay marketing. The concept was “hot” twenty years ago. The GLBT community as “target” of shrewd marketers and advertising agencies that try to convince clients to have a gay friendly policy, because “those gays and lesbians do not have children and have a lot of money to spend.” The part about children is no longer true. More and more lesbian couples, with a little help from Mother Nature, have one or more children. Not so much in Belgium, but particularly in the United States there are more and more gay couples that are using surrogate mothers. And successfully. The Marriott campaign as well shows a gay couple with two children.
When a journalist asked the spokesperson of the Belgian travel organizations Jetair and Thomas Cook if they were thinking of setting up a campaign for the gay community, both replied that “gays and lesbians do not really have a different taste when it comes to traveling than their straight counterparts.” The complaints are also similar. “To us, there is no difference between our customers.”
That is the reason why gay marketing has never fulfilled its promise to the gay community, two decades ago. Every customer is the same, because sexual preference does not change consumer behavior or increase spending. Advertising has always capitalized on emotions. The naked male torso of the Coca-Cola Light man may get approving glances by women, and, without it being gay marketing, of course also appeals to gay men. And vice versa for the women in adverts.
The fact that gay marketing died a quiet death, with the exception of a controversial campaign here and there, such as the Marriott campaign, is a good thing. GLBTs are only different in bed, as they have been saying for years. And that is something gay marketing should not want to change. Or use as the ultimate goal, because the danger lies therein.
Besides this, a lot of gay marketing campaigns were only picked up by the gay press and gay magazines. I have a sneaky suspicion that this will also hold true for the Marriott campaign. The Marriott will not alienate its straight customers, and will not print those photos in the major American newspapers and magazines. The publications will only be seen by GLBTs, and not by those from whom we seek recognition. Another reason not to see gay marketing as that important, because it just isn’t.
This is something I’ve been saying over and over again. Acceptance of the gay community only comes when we do not try to present ourselves as “different.” The straight world is already doing that, so it is not in the interest of gays and lesbians to make it even worse. That is the bromide.