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When gay couples are featured in an ad, advertising appeal can be more important than sexual orientation in predicting consumer behavior—specifically with intentions to purchase and recommend a brand or product—according to research at the University of San Diego.
Results of the study showed that when the ad is interesting, authentic and a good match for the brand, it will appeal to both gay and straight audiences, potentially driving their intentions to purchase and recommend the brand.
The findings have broad implications for brands seeking both to cater to their current lesbian/gay/bisexual (LGB) customer base or attract new customers in that market—as well as appeal to heterosexual consumers. The research also contradicts certain work that has suggested “that heterosexual consumers respond negatively to LGB-inclusive advertisements,” the authors wrote.
Response to congruence in advertising anchored the study’s analysis of advertising appeal—in other words, how consumers react to ads in which they can identify with the people featured in the ads. In this case, the focus was on congruence of sexual orientation. Unsurprisingly, LGB consumers “experienced the most notable influence from appealing, sexually congruent advertisers.”
Among the takeaways:
- Clearly delineated targeting and delivery of congruent advertisements to the LGB consumer group will help elevate ad effectiveness with regard to purchase intentions and likelihood to recommend.
- Heterosexual consumers may no longer experience the same aversion to LGB-inclusive advertisements found in previous studies.
- “Although heterosexual participants found congruent advertisements (ads with straight models) significantly more appealing than incongruent advertisements, the appeal of incongruent advertisements depicting LGB individuals was above the midpoint.
- “This is important for brands that likely have shied away from LGB-inclusive marketing strategies in fear of retribution or potential loss of sales.”
Bradley J. Bond (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate professor of communication studies at the University of San Diego. His research examines the cognitive, affective and behavioral effects of media exposure.
Justine Rapp Farrell (email@example.com) is an associate professor of marketing at the University of San Diego’s School of Business. Her research interests focus on the domain of consumer welfare, in particular underrepresented and at-risk population groups.