LGBT marketing

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LGBT marketing is the act of marketing to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) customers, either with dedicated ads or general ads, or through sponsorships of LGBT organizations and events, or through the targeted use of any other element of the marketing mix.

The LGBT market comprises a group of customers who buy goods and services from a broad range of companies across industry segments and in many countries around the globe.


One of the first instances of the impact of the LGBT community in the marketing world was in 1973 when Coors Brewing Company was the subject of a boycott by the LGBT. The LGBT community joined to protest Coors' hiring practices, since Coors used a polygraph test when going through the hiring process and specifically asking an employee of their sexual orientation. Coors ignored the boycott for several years, but made some concessions in 1978, and in 1995 began several countermeasures, including dropping the questions regarding homosexuality and extending domestic partnership benefits to its LGBT employees. The company also hired Mary Cheney as a marketing representative and began advertising in The Advocate and at events such as Denver's PrideFest. [1]


Marketing to the gay and lesbian community faces statistical obstacles in that few credible peer-reviewed estimates of the gay and lesbian marketplace have been published. In particular, the common use of nonrandom “convenience surveys” of attendees at gay resorts or subscribers to gay or lesbian newspapers has resulted in some unreliable statistical estimates of gay buying power. The exact number of gays and lesbians in a given market is generally, if not always, unknown.

However, some national governments have started to publish data that include demographics of sexual orientation from census results. In the 2000 United States Census, two questions were asked that allowed same-sex partnerships to be counted, and the Census Bureau reported that there were more than 658,000 same-sex couples heading households in the United States. In 2013, the American Marketing Association reported that 3.5% of adults in the United States identify as lesbian, gay male, or bisexual and .3% of adults are transgender, and the LGBT consumer market is estimated to have an overall buying power of more than $835 billion.[2]

Advertising categories[edit]

Major ad categories include travel, financial services, alcoholic beverages, automotive, entertainment, hair and skincare, luxury goods, pharmaceuticals, and fashion. For example, American Airlines have launched a specific LGBT-targeted vacations website.[3] While over fifteen years old in the United States, LGBT marketing is a relatively new marketing phenomenon elsewhere in Australia and Europe, including Belgium[4] and the Netherlands.[5]

Many brands that have previously ignored the existence of this segment of society now increasingly target LGBT customers.[6] Time magazine in August 2006 carried a Business article on growing interest amongst brand name advertisers in Europe to target LGBT customers.[7]

In 2013, the Human Rights Campaign issued the Corporate Equality Index 2013, which provides a national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices related to LGBT employees in the United States. This is also used to determine a company's level of gay-friendliness.[2]


LGBT marketing initiatives have not been without controversy both for and against them. Coors Brewing Company was the subject of a boycott by the LGBT community starting in 1973. The boycott was initiated by labor unions to protest the company's antagonistic practices, and was later joined by African Americans, Latinos, and the LGBT community.[8] The LGBT community joined to protest Coors' hiring practices - polygraph tests were often required, during which the prospective employee was asked about their sexual orientation.

Coors ignored the boycott for several years, but made some concessions in 1978, and in 1995 began several countermeasures, including dropping the questions regarding homosexuality and extending domestic partnership benefits to its LGBT employees. The company also hired Mary Cheney as a marketing representative and began advertising in The Advocate and at events such as Denver's PrideFest.

Specialist LGBT marketing agencies in various countries provide specialised LGBT market services to companies seeking to target LGBT customers.[citation needed]


Coined by combining “pink” and “whitewashing”, the term "Pinkwashing" is used to describe a variety of marketing and political strategies aimed to promote a product or an entity through an appeal to gay-friendliness. Since 2010, this term has been adopted by anti-occupation activists in the context of Israeli/Palestinian conflict, to describe Israel’s audience-focused marketing strategy where the image of gay-friendliness is utilized to improve Israel's image in the international arena and, its critics asserts, to divert the international attention from its human rights violations in Palestine.[9] In November 2011, Sarah Schulman introduced this term to international audience by publishing an article in the New York Times, defining “Pinkwashing” as "the co-opting of white gay people by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political forces in Western Europe and Israel." [10] Various scholars also criticize “Pinkwashing” as a "a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.[11]


The phrase “Pinkwashing” was coined in 1985 by Breast Cancer Action to identify companies that claimed to support women with breast cancer while actually profiting from their illness.[12] In April 2010, QUIT (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism) in the Bay Area, used the phrase “Pinkwashing” as a twist on “Greenwashing” where companies claim to be eco-friendly in order to make profit.[13] Since then, the term has been used in reference to Israeli state practices of promoting its social progressiveness by creating the image of a gay-friendly society. Dunya Alwan attributes the term to Ali Abunimah, editor of Electronic Intifada at a meeting in 2010 saying, “We won’t put up with Israel’s Whitewashing, Greenwashing or Pinkwashing.” [14] In an article that appeared on Jadaliyya in 2012, Maya Mikdashi and Jasbir Puar gave this term a more elaborate definition by describing “Pinkwashing” as the process by which “the Israeli state seeks to gloss over the ongoing settler colonialism of historic Palestine by redirecting international attention towards a comparison between the supposedly stellar record of gay rights in Israel and the supposedly dismal state of life for LGBTQ Palestinians in Occupied Palestine” [15] In accordance with the increasing usage of “Pinkwashing” in indicating the state propaganda of Israel, another term “Pinkwatching” was coined to describe the actions of actively monitoring the latest movements of “Pinkwashing” and producing counter-narratives.[16]

Practices of "Brand Israel" and "Pinkwashing"[edit]

In her article “A documentary guide to ‘Brand Israel’ and the art of Pinkwashing”, Sarah Schuman indicates “Pinkwashing” is an indispensable part of “Brand Israel”.[12] Aiming to erase the image of Israel as being “militaristic and religious”, “Brand Israel” is a state campaign to re-brand Israel in the minds of the world as a “modern democracy”, a “safe and secured place for investment” and a “tourist destination with the sun and the sand”.[9] The “Brand Israel” campaign can be traced back as early as 2005.[12]

The Timeline of "Brand Israel" and "Pinkwashing"[edit]

2005: In October 2, the plan of “Brand Israel” was adopted in a meeting convened by the Foreign Ministry, involving its own director general and his counterparts in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry.[17] Based on a three-year consultation with American marketing executives, this campaign initially aimed to upgrade Israel from a “well-known brand” to a “likable brand”.[18] “Brand Israel” aims to improve Americans’ perceptions of Israel by selecting appealing images of Israeli society and highlighting the symbols of "progressiveness" and "modernness". Several studies were conducted by The Brand Israel Group (BIG) to inspect the international and the domestic perceptions of the image of Israel.[19]

2007: The “Brand Israel" Conference was organized by the Foreign Ministry of Israel in Tel Aviv. This conference launched the official adaptation of the campaign. A 4 million dollar budget was announced by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni for this campaign, in addition to an established 3 million annual spending on Hasbara, a Hebrew term means “explaining”, referring to public relations efforts to disseminate positive information about Israel. This year also witnessed the first wave of a niche marketing strategy, which targeted the heterosexual population. Specifically, a photo-shooting project was initiated by the Consulate General of Israel, featuring Israeli female veterans in swimsuits. This project was featured on Maxim Magazine, the largest young man life-style magazine in America with a monthly readership of over nine million, under the title of “Women of the Israeli Defense Forces”.[20] It was reported by the Electronic Intifada in 2007, the global advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi started to work for the Israel in improving its image without charge.[21]

2008: Israeli started to commission its artists in promoting the liberal and progressive image of Israel. PACBI published a sample contract between Israeli artists and the government, which reveals that the artist is paid with transportation and accommodation expenses to attend international events on the condition that their works need to “promote the policy interests of the state of Israel via culture and art including contributing to creating a positive image for Israel.” However, the contract specifically indicated the artist is forbidden to “present himself as an agent, emissary and/or representative of the Ministry.” [22] The general theme of those movies is to portray the victimhood of Palestinian gay community and the needs of saving Palestinian gay people from their homophobic society.

2009: The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association announced an October Conference in Tel Aviv with the goal of promoting Israel as a “world gay destination.” Halem, a Lebanese LGBTQ organization, responded with a call for a boycott. The symposium took place despite of opposition. In its newsletter, the Travel Association acknowledged and dismissed the protest, specifying the goal of this event is to support LGBT business around the world, not to focus on Israeli occupation of Gaza.[12] In May 5, the Foreign Ministry of Israel announced to send an Israeli delegation to the 2009 World Outgames in Copenhagen and to sponsor part of the event.[23]

2010: Statistics showed that, by 2010, the Foreign Ministry of Israel had allocated over 26 million dollars toward the “Brand Israel” campaign.[24] In April, Brand Israel launched Israeli Pride Month in San Francisco, an event funded by Israeli government.[25] Later in July, the Ministry of Tourism and Agudah, the largest Israeli LGBT organization joined together in launching “Tel Aviv Gay Vibe.” Run in England and Germany, this online tourist campaign aimed to promote Tel Aviv as a tourist destination for European LGBT community. The campaign included advertisement on gay community websites, magazines and gay social mobile applications. A slogan was featured on Gay Tel Aviv, the official website for this campaign, indicating Tel Aviv as on of the “most intriguing and exciting new gay capitals of the world.” An investment of NIS 340 million (about $88.1 million) was made jointly by the Ministry of Tourism and the Tel Aviv Municipality.[26]

2011: The Tel Aviv Tourist Association filed a formal request with the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association to host World Pride in 2012.[27] In July, The Anti-Defamation League hosted StandWithUS’s Yossi Herzog speaking on gay rights in Israel and gay presence in the Israeli Defense Force. In August, the Jerusalem Post reported the Foreign Ministry is promoting Gay Israel as part of its campaigns to break apart negative stereotypes many liberal Americans and Europeans have of Israel.[28]

2012: In May, the 20th Annual Equality Forum was held in Philadelphia, which featured Israel as the country of the year and invited Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren as the keynote speaker. In the official page of the event, Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism were listed as the collaborators and the sponsors.[29] Later this year, Tel Aviv’s 14th annual Gay Pride Parade was held on Jun 8th, 2012, following an event that marked the conclusion of the week-long carnival in Israel’s largest city. On the event, the U.S. ambassador addressed the crowd in Hebrew, saying that “this is a day to celebrate and rejoice. Human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights.” [30] Following this event, the website Gaycities published a survey conducted by American Airlines, naming Tel Aviv as the world’s “Best Gay City of 2011”.[31]

2013: In August, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai endorsed a project of erecting a monument for gays and lesbians persecuted by the Nazis during World War II. The project was proposed by attorney Eran Lev, who explained the project as “the first and only memorial site in Israel to mention the victims of the Nazis who were persecuted for anything other than being Jewish.” He further indicated the purpose of the monument as “a place of quite that will invite visitors to sit, contemplate, reflect and be in solitude.” [32] Existing monuments honoring gay Holocaust victims can be found in San Francisco, Amsterdam and Berlin, which also famous for its gay community presence.

Critique of “Pinkwashing” Practices[edit]

Scholars from various disciplines have criticized Israeli “Pinkwashing” propaganda and practices for its colonial nature. Jasbir Puar, an associate professor of Women's & Gender Studies at Rutgers University, pointed out, the nature of “Pinkwashing” is a process by which the Israeli state seeks to gloss over the ongoing settler colonialism of historic Palestine by redirecting international attention towards a comparison between the supposedly stellar record of gay rights in Israel and the supposedly dismal state of life for LGBTQ Palestinians in Occupied Palestine. Some specific practices of “Pinkwashing” are also considered the reproduction of classic Oriental trope, where Arab society, specifically Palestine, is portrayed as “backward and stagnant” due to its “barbaric, tribal, uncivilized and Islamic” nature.[33]Joseph Massad, associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, contends the “Pinkwashing” practices are the continuation of colonial power in legitimatizing their occupation by blaming the natives for their moral lacking. And the reason for Israeli government and its propaganda organs to “insist on advertising and exaggerating its recent record on LGBT rights”, according to him, “is to fend off international condemnation of its violations of the rights of the Palestinian people.” [34] In the meantime, some Israeli activists argue that the Israeli state is hypocritical in portraying itself as a gay-friendly society. In an interview with Haaretz, Palestinian Israeli activist Haneen Maikey indicated that the LGBT community does not have real rights behind the seemingly tolerant image portrayed upon international stage.[35] Haaretz also published a poll backing up Maikey’s statement, showing that 46 percent of the surveyed population see homosexuality as a perversion.[36]Sarah Schulman argued in her piece on New York Times that the dichotomy of homophobic and backward or gay-friendly and modern adopted by Israel throughout its “Pinkwashing” campaign overlooked two facts. First, there is a considerable number of people and movements in Arab/Muslim countries who are or sympathize with gays. Second, that such a dichotomy turns a blind eye on religious fundamentalists, especially those within the Catholic Church or in Orthodox Judaism, who show a considerable amount of intolerance against gay population.

Critique of the term “Pinkwashing”[edit]

Prof. Alan Dershowitz, a law professor in Harvard University and a frequent defender of Israel, has said that this term is used against Israel by "some radical gay activists" who are anti-semitic "bigots."[37]As for the term, he commented, is “nothing more than anti-Semitism with a pink face.” In his opinion piece in the New York Post, he examined Israel’s record of recognizing and protecting the rights of its gay population in contrast with the treatment of LGBT community in West Bank and in Gaza, arguing that the state practice of promoting the gay-friendly image and social progressiveness is not “whitewashing.”[38] In 2012, immediately after The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at City University of New York announced their plan on holding a conference on “Homonationalism and Pinkwashing”, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a trustee of Board of CUNY, called the event “disgusting”. He contended the anti-Israeli nature of the term and commented the act of adopting “Pinkwashing” to describe the state practices of Israel is “a continuation of idiocy by people, leftists, anti-Semites, and Islamists to demonize Israel.” [39] Over in Israel, community leaders view the debate of “Pinkwashing” as a rhetoric war that would “ultimately serves homophobia far more than dialogue and peace.”[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mirken, Bruce. "Coors Courts Queers". 
  2. ^ a b Oakenfull, Gillian W., (2013) "What Matters: Factors Influencing Gay Consumers' Evaluations of 'Gay-Friendly' Corporate Activities" Journal of Public Policy & Marketing Vol. 32 (Special Issue), 79–89, American Marketing Association ISSN: 0743-9156 (print), 1547-7207 (electronic) 79. Retrieved 16 July 2013
  3. ^ "American Airlines Vacations Welcomes You: Fly with a friend while you vacation with a partner!". Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  4. ^ "Brand Activation" (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  5. ^ "Gay Marketing Seminar" (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 2007-07-12. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  6. ^ Manning-Schaffel, Vivian (2004-09-13). "Take Pride in your Brand". Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  7. ^ Smith, Adam (2006-07-30). "A New Ad Adage: Same Sex Sells". Time. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  8. ^ Rapp, Linda (2004). "Boycotts". Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  9. ^ a b Avraham, Eli. (2009), "Marketing and managing nation branding during prolonged crisis: The case of Israel". Vol. 5, 3, pp.202–212.
  10. ^ Schulman, Sarah. "Israel and ‘Pinkwashing’". Nytimes. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  11. ^ Luongo, Michael. "An Unlikely Activist". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  12. ^ a b c d Schulman, Sarah. "A documentary guide to ‘Brand Israel’ and the art of pinkwashing". Mondoweiss. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  13. ^ ibid.
  14. ^ ibid.
  15. ^ Puar, Jasbir. "8888". Jadaliyya. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  16. ^ ibid
  17. ^ Popper, Nathaniel. "Israel Aims To Improve Its Public Image". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  18. ^ ibid
  19. ^ Yaffe Center for Persuasive Communication. (2009), "Brand Israel". William Davidson Institute, case 1-428-725
  20. ^ "8888". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  21. ^ Merriman, Rima. "Israel’s image problem". [1]. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  22. ^ Laor, Yitzhac. "Putting out a contract on art". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  23. ^ Eichner, Itmar. "Foreign Ministry to sponsor gay Olympics' delegation". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  24. ^ "נכבוש את העולם? משרד החוץ מקצה 100 מ' ש' למיתוג המדינה". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  25. ^ "San Francisco festival to showcase Israel’s gay culture". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  26. ^ "Campaign branding Tel Aviv gay destination underway". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  27. ^ "TEL AVIV GAY PRIDE 2012". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  28. ^ "Foreign Ministry promoting Gay Israel". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  29. ^ "Equality Forum". 
  30. ^ Lior, IIan. "Israelis flock by the thousands to Tel Aviv's annual Gay Pride Parade". Haaretz. 
  31. ^ "Best Gay City 2011". 
  32. ^ Aderet, Ofer. "Israel's monument to gays persecuted by Nazis planned for Tel Aviv". 
  33. ^ "Israel's gay propaganda war". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  34. ^ Kaufman, David. "Is Israel Using Gay Rights to Excuse Its Policy on Palestine?". 
  35. ^ "'Stop using Palestinian gays to whitewash Israel's image'". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  36. ^ "Haaretz survey: 46% of Israelis thinks gays are deviant". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  37. ^ "The Pinkwashing Campaign Against Israel: Another Conspiracy Theory". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  38. ^ Dershowitz, Alan.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  39. ^ "Trustee Blasts CUNY Anti-Israel “Homonationalism and Pinkwashing” Conference". 
  40. ^ Kaufman, David. "Is Israel Using Gay Rights to Excuse Its Policy on Palestine?". 
  41. ^

External links[edit]