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What does the DOMA decision mean to marketers?

June’s Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has left many businesses, health insurers and marketers scrambling to define what, exactly, has changed for them. Because the […]">

DOMA bannerJune’s Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has left many businesses, health insurers and marketers scrambling to define what, exactly, has changed for them.

Because the Supreme Court knocked the question of marriage equality back to the states, and because it’s unclear how federal benefits will be applied in states that still don’t recognize same-sex marriage, the new rules are still a bit murky.

One thing is clear, however: Marketers need to come up with a plan for reaching out to Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Trans-gender (LGBT) consumers, or risk leaving a big chunk of money on the table.

DOMA Demographics

In order to successfully engage LGBT customers, healthcare, benefits and other marketers will need to gain a clear picture of the differences between this group and their heterosexual counterparts. The 2013 Experian/Simmons LGBT Consumer Study surveyed 33,000 non-Hispanic American adults, including 1,100 LGBT people. The report found that the LGBT segment has grown from 3.4% in 2006 to 4.3% this year — and that this group is younger and has more financial clout than the heterosexual population.

LGBT by age







Thirty-six percent of LGBT adults are in the 18 to 34 year old age range, vs. 26% of heterosexuals. Also, only 16% of self-identified LGBT adults are 65 and over, while 20% of the heterosexual adults surveyed had reached this age group. This research may actually be under-counting the demographic due to the reticence of older generations to openly identify themselves as LGBT.

Financial Clout

LGBT consumers tend to have more financial pull than their heterosexual counterparts, too. Married or partnered gay men have the highest average household income of any surveyed segment.

LGBT and hetero male income

Married gay men spend, on average, $6,794 per capita on non-essential purchases — about $750 more than heterosexual married men. A significant portion of the LGBT survey population was in this married or partnered group. With 12 states, plus the District of Columbia, now formally recognizing same-sex marriage, 17% of gay men and 16% of lesbian women have tied the knot.

But official marriage only tells part of the story, since 2/3 of lesbian woman and just over half of gay men live with just one member of the same sex. This statistic includes most of the married same-sex population, but may also include a further number of non-married, cohabitating couples.

 Marketing to the LGBT Community

With those numbers in mind, and other states likely looking at same-sex marriage laws in the wake of the DOMA decision, it’s essential for marketers to include LGBT consumers in their advertising strategies. But how and where can you best connect with these customers?

All signs point to mobile and social media channels. According to the same Experian report, gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals are more likely than heterosexual peers to be considered “tech wizards.”

LGBT customers are 22% more likely to have redeemed a coupon from their smart phone, and are more likely to be included in highly active social and mobile consumer segments as defined by Experian.

Healthcare insurers and other marketers looking to connect with this lucrative customer segment should focus efforts on both LGBT content and mainstream sites where LGBT customers are likely to frequent.

LGBT content sites that attract a lot of visitors include, Queerty, and Logo TV. Good mainstream sites on which to reach these consumers include YouTube, NetFlix, Facebook, Twitter, and the Huffington Post.

It may take some time to tailor marketing messages in states that recognize same-sex marriage vs. states that don’t. But with the LGBT community making up a significant part of the market, the effort will be worthwhile.

Elizabeth Gooding

Elizabeth Gooding is the editor of the Insight Forums blog and president of Gooding Communications Group

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