Focus - Niche Marketing: Why pink is the ’in’ colour - Mainstream agencies have cottoned on to the fact that the gay and lesbian market has money to spare, is media-aware and socially influential, and are focusing their efforts accordingly

Gay marketing - everyone seems to be doing it. As soon as brands cottoned on to the fact that there is money and a certain element of cool credibility in being associated with the gay market, they were falling over themselves to establish each other with this sector of consumers.

Gay marketing - everyone seems to be doing it. As soon as brands

cottoned on to the fact that there is money and a certain element of

cool credibility in being associated with the gay market, they were

falling over themselves to establish each other with this sector of


The US is much further ahead than the UK in terms of having specialist

agencies and divisions of the larger agencies to target the gay market,

and niches such as the Hispanic and other ethnic groups, but the UK is

catching up. The globalisation of companies has led to closer links

between sister agencies and the sharing of best practice. And, like the

US, the UK has an ethnically diverse population and a vocal gay and

lesbian community.

One of the UK’s biggest agencies, Countrywide Porter Novelli, set up a

division called Scene to target the gay market in January this year.

Scene covers six sectors of interest to gay consumers - drinks, travel,

consumer electronics, fashion, health and grooming, and home


Scene consultant Adrian Gillan believes PR’s ability to bypass the

sophisticated defence mechanism of consumers makes it an ideal way to

target the estimated six million gay and lesbian consumers in the


’Gay people are very media-savvy and can be quite cynical about


PR is an endorsement from within, which is key for this market. Our job

is to woo the editorial gate-keepers,’ says Gillan.

According to Gillan, gay consumers are a marketer’s dream. ’Gay people

have a high degree of disposable income, they tend not to have

dependents and enjoy a combined income if they are in a couple. They are

also loyal consumers and early adapters.’

They may be affluent, but gay consumers can also be apt to vote with

their feet, especially if they believe they are being exploited. When

Beck’s beer pulled its advertising sponsorship from gay TV series Queer

As Folk last year, many gay consumers reacted by switching allegiance to

rival beer brands. Gillan says the job of Scene is to help clients avoid

such pitfalls and navigate them through the complex social


Scene is being marketed by Countrywide as a separate division, although

it will benefit from the planning resources of the parent agency. The

division is now proactively targeting clients, some of which are

existing Countrywide accounts, and a direct mail campaign is planned for

later this year.

Its first client, Newcastle City Council, lined up pounds 5 million of

private sector investment to regenerate the city’s small gay village. A

business-to-business campaign was devised, generating coverage in the

Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, as well as a consumer

campaign, which positioned Newcastle as a gay destination, generating

coverage in the gay media.

Looking ahead, Gillan would like to attract non-commercial sectors, such

as the police and the army, which he believes ’need to renegotiate their

relationship with gay people’. He adds that such areas could be tackled

alongside Countrywide’s issues management division, Reflex.

Later this year Le Fevre is also planning to launch Le Pink, a division

focused on the gay market. Managing director Angie Moxham says the idea

had been chewed over for a while but it wasn’t until account director

Colin Middlemiss joined the company and expressed an interest that the

division took shape. ’Le Pink isn’t just about exploiting differences in

the marketplace - for us it’s about the right people and the right time,

rather than having a box that needs filling and then having to find

someone to do thejob,’ says Moxham.

The agency is now researching the market and talking to existing and

potential clients for their views in the run-up to the launch, and hopes

to become a member of the Gay Business Association.

Small specialist agencies are also springing up in the UK to target the

gay market. Youth and gay marketing specialist Green Pyramid was set up

two years ago, and clients now include Red Bull, Absolut Vodka and

Channel 4. It also handled the sponsorship for the biggest event in the

UK gay calendar, Mardi Gras 2000.

Managing director Bryan Rodrigues says that although Scene is a

competitor, he wishes the new division every success. ’There was a gap

in the market with no mainstream agencies targeting gay consumers. Our

strength is that we combine rigorous practices with an unorthodox

perspective, and our experience has been gained from the inside, as our

first clients were gay clubs and bars.’

Mardi Gras 2000 took place on 1 July at Finsbury Park in London and

included an arts festival, march and parade, as well as a party in the

park. PR was critical to the success of the event, according to festival

director Jason Pollock.

PR to the gay press was carried out in-house while Janie New PR handled

mainstream press, radio and television PR.

For sponsor Virgin Atlantic, Mardi Gras 2000 coincided with the launch

of a second service to San Francisco. It predicted that travellers would

move between the San Francisco Mardi Gras, held a week before London’s

parade, and then on to the New York annual parade, held a week


Paul Moore, head of PR for Virgin Atlantic, says: ’We don’t specifically

target the gay or any other audience with either PR or advertising, but

when tactical opportunities present themselves, we support them.’

A second gay event is Gay Life and Style 2000, to be held at Olympia

from 14 to 16 July. Managing director of Gay Life and Style Brian

Wiseman says PR has been crucial.

’Research showed that only 15 per cent of the gay population regularly

read the 11 gay publications, including Diva and Fluid. We didn’t have

the advertising budget to hit all the mainstream publications.’

Rather than embark on a costly advertising campaign, Wiseman appointed

Annie Harvey PR to target mainstream publications which are read by gay


Wiseman says he approached a number of large PR agencies for the task

before appointing Annie Harvey PR, but adds: ’To be honest I found some

of them had a problem with the subject matter. They were worried about

what their other clients would think about them working with a client in

the gay community.’

Mike Quartermain, partner at Annie Harvey PR, says the agency fell into

gay PR by accident. It picked up clients following its work for Erotica,

an erotic apparel exhibition held two years ago. Clients now include gay

lifestyle web site Rainbow Network. Recent campaigns have included the

National Lesbian Beauty Competition, organised by lesbian icons Jean T

and Queenie on behalf of Rainbow Network. Judges at the event, which

took place at the Scala in London’s King’s Cross in June, included

Jonathan Ross.

Quartermain believes many gay clients are intimidated by approaching

mainstream agencies, believing them to be too conservative. Mike

Mathieson, managing director at youth marketing agency Cake, which

worked with Evian to target the gay market, also believes that

specialists are a better choice for mainstream brands wanting to target

niche markets. ’The gay market is becoming increasingly important for

us. Many brands are happy to be associated with gay consumers because

they are seen as cutting edge,’ he says.

Cake recently worked on a campaign for Morgan’s Spiced Rum aimed at

another influential niche sector, Afro-Caribbean consumers. The brand’s

positioning was in need of a boost having tried and failed to connect

with young men.

Cake took Morgan’s Spiced back to its roots by targeting young British

people with a Jamaican heritage. Once the positioning had been agreed,

Mathieson says the hard part was to find a way to reach the target


The advertising strapline - ’Feel The Presence’ - provided the


’We developed a sub-brand called Sound Presence,’ says Mathieson. ’Sound

Presence is a ’killer’ watt sound system which was taken to hip hop and

R&B clubs. Sampling was carried out, but the emphasis was on the

sub-brand, not Morgan’s Spiced.’

Coverage of Sound Presence followed in titles including Black Nation and

Voice. Sales of Morgan’s Spiced have increased and Sound Presence is

running into profit. For the second part of the campaign, the sub-brand

will be exported to clubbers’ paradise Agia Napa in Cyprus. Mathieson

says the marketing strategy has been gradual. ’It was important to first

establish credibility with Afro-Caribbean consumers before trying to

reach a wider audience.’

Access to qualitative data and planning is one area in which mainstream

PR agencies could steal a lead on specialist boutiques when targeting

niche consumers.

Claire Davidson, CEO consumer and entertainment at Shandwick, says:

’Demographics are dead. A group of 18- to 24-year-old males will be

predisposed to different messages in different media, depending on

whether they are single, in a relationship, or are a parent.’

The need for more planning was the motivation behind the formation of

razor@Shandwick, a new division started in April. It is made up of

individuals with an expertise in niche areas such as the grey market,

home style and the gay market.

’Clients told us they wanted us to cut through all the noise and deliver

the consumer group which is predisposed to their message,’ says


’Razor is research-based and customer focused.’

The division is being marketed as part of Shandwick’s core offer. ’It is

important to retain the ethics, heritage and global network of the

parent brand,’ says Davidson, ’but to infuse the new division with some

of the dynamism of a smaller agency.’

In the US, Edelman has set up divisions which specialise in niche

marketing, but there are no plans to form similar divisions in the


Edelman chief executive Tari Hibbitt says that while diversity marketing

works well in the US, the UK market is different. ’The market here is

more about behaviour and lifestyle, rather than groups of people.’

Edelman has a youth division and a men’s health and grooming division,

but neither operates as an independent unit.

The Red Consultancy director David Fuller says his agency also has no

intention of creating niche divisions: ’We don’t divisionalise our

business in the belief that the best people are those who have benefited

from the widest experience.’

Fuller also believes niches might end up at the mercy of fashion


’What might be the flavour of the month at the moment could well suffer

from a dramatic micro-economic change - witness dot.coms. A PR brand

needs to be shaped with a view to the long term. We all know how tricky

changing direction and perceptions can be.’

So the jury is still out on whether it’s worth developing separate

divisions for niches such as the gay and lesbian market. All eyes will

be on Scene to prove that it’s a viable proposition for UK agencies, but

in the meantime, the big brands are still chasing gay and ethnic markets

- and they need PR to help.


The US has led the way in marketing to niche consumers for several years

and many agencies there have established special divisions for this


Edelman PR Worldwide recently launched a diversity marketing practice

targeting ethnic minorities. It is expected that the practice will

expand to cover disabled people, senior citizens, gays and lesbians.

Washington-based Witeck Combs has specialised in targeting ’key affinity

markets’ through PR, direct mail and advertising since its inception in

1993. Clients include American Airlines, Coors Brewing, and the

Human Rights Campaign.

President Wesley Combs says the agency’s goal is ’to serve as a bridge

between the community and those that want to reach it. PR is a key

component that must be included in any strategy.’

Witeck Combs has recently established a strategic partnership with

Harris Interactive, the leading US market researcher, to develop the

most comprehensive and ’truly random’ data about the gay and lesbian


’The market is considered to be ideal to marketers because they are

easily reached through specific gay and lesbian publications, venues and

web sites,’ says Combs. ’Studies show that gay and lesbian consumers are

brand loyal, will prefer a certain brand over another if it is marketed

directly to the gay market, and because a majority of gay and lesbian

households do not have children, the gay consumer has more discretionary

income to spend on items like travel, luxury goods and home



The Hispanic market is another core niche in the US. Porter Novelli

launched its US Hispanic market practice in 1998 out of the Fort

Lauderdale office. Clients now include Kellogg and Procter and


Co-founder Manuel Ruiz says: ’The US Hispanic population is the fastest

growing - by 2007 Latinos will be the largest minority, having overtaken

African Americans.’

Ruiz estimates there are 30 million Latinos currently living in the US,

or ten per cent of the population. More than half of the community is

concentrated in ten cities, the largest of which is in Los Angeles.

While Latinos may be physically easy to target, Ruiz says the Hispanic

market is not homogeneous. The majority of Latinos are Mexican in

origin, but even within this group there are regional varieties in

tastes and characteristics.

’The Hispanic market is a winning market,’ says Ruiz, ’but major PR

firms must be committed to a proactive approach to reach this market. It

shouldn’t just be an afterthought.’

Porter Novelli breaks the Hispanic market into three groups -

assimilated, acculturated and isolated. For most clients, ’isolated’

Hispanics remain the goal.

’Isolated Hispanics are a marketing dream,’ says Ruiz. ’They are

newly-arrived, they speak no English, they are dependent on media, they

are loyal to products and they often have more family members in one


Brands adopted by this ’virgin’ market are generally those which present

their products in Spanish as well as English. Even bilingual Latinos

prefer products to be presented in this way because of a perceived

sensitivity to family and friends.

The Hispanic press is vast. Leading newspapers include El Nuevo Herald

in Los Angeles and Diario La Prensa in New York. Magazines include Vista

and Latina.

In Atlanta, Ketchum vice-president of Latin America Ruben Aguilar is in

charge of the corporate integration of Ketchum clients into Latin


A network of affiliate partners in Latin America was created in 1994 and

today Ketchum has offices serving as exclusive affiliates all over South


Aguilar believes PR is a particularly effective means to target Latin

Americans. ’They are avid newspaper readers. The PR message often gets

more attention that the paid advertising since it comes in the form of

an article which in itself is endorsed by an ’influencer’ the reader


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