Editor's note: Edmund M. Jessup is an academic librarian at the New York Institute of Technology's Manhattan campus.

Reach Gen Z and millennial audiences with inclusive niche marketing strategies

In 2015 celebrities like Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono and Caitlyn Jenner made transgender individuals increasingly visible, and those connected to the LGBT community know there is a long line of strong transgender people who paved the way. But what does this mean for marketing researchers and advertising? In the marketing sphere consumer behavior is everything, and appealing to specific markets for support is what makes a brand thrive. Marketing and sociology go hand in hand, albeit in a more calculated manner, and in an era where we are knee-deep in clutter, niche marketing is becoming more vital and effective, particularly for small businesses with limited budgets. With so many vessels to funnel campaigns through, marketing budgets have to be stretched as far as they can go and niche marketing is a way to get the most bang for your buck while targeting those you really want to reach.

While the LGBT community continues to become more visible in the media, marketers and researchers would do well to also note society’s changing attitudes toward gender and sexual preference. A far-reaching 2013 global survey by the Pew Research Center showed an acceptance rate of homosexuality at 60 percent in the U.S. and 80 percent in Canada.  An additional poll published in 2015 by the Pew Research Center demonstrated that attitudes toward same-sex marriage in the U.S. have gone from 35 percent of Americans supporting this idea back in 2001 to a 55 percent rate of supporters in 2015. In the same study by Pew, the support rate in 2015 for same-sex marriage climbed to 59 percent with Gen Xers and to a whopping 70 percent with Millennials. The Washington-based non-partisan research organization, Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), has unveiled some very pertinent and compelling numbers of its own. A 2011 PRRI study showed that 89 percent of Americans felt that transgender individuals “deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans.” About three-quarters of those surveyed by the PRRI felt that Congress should take measures to pass antidiscrimination laws and support legislation to broaden hate-crime laws to include transgender individuals. These numbers show that the tide is turning when it comes to attitudes towards transgender individuals.

How can ads targeting transgender individuals help a brand prosper?

With ads targeting and featuring lesbian and gay individuals becoming more commonplace, ads focusing on transgender people are just logical steps in attracting a diverse and progressive group of loyal consumers. A paper published by the Williams Institute estimates that about 3 percent of American adults are transgender. Though the numbers can be conflicting and extremely hard to quantify, it can be agreed that the transgender community is relatively small in size. Marketers must consider that targeting this community is very cutting-edge and will appeal to more than just transgender individuals.

Take a closer look at Millennials and numbers gathered by the Fusion Network’s Massive Millennial Poll for 2015. In the poll conducted by Fusion concerning a variety of insights of 1,000 Millennials, it was gleaned that at least half of the Millennials surveyed believed that “gender exists on a spectrum” and should not be limited to just male and female. Targeting a certain segment of the population can often reach beyond that very specific market when the numbers are considered. Marketers bold enough to move forward into this less-than-charted territory will reap the benefits before anyone else.

Who’s doing what?

Google is a brand that is daring enough to support and target the transgender community through an ad for Google My Business, released just in time for LGBT Pride month in June. A longtime proponent of LGBT rights, Google knows that adding the value of inclusiveness in a marketing campaign is just good business. Google has made it its business to be innovative in every aspect, including branding. Initially released as a two-and-a-half-minute YouTube video, Google presented an emotional ad involving the transition of Jacob and City Gym owner Hailee Bland-Walsh. In the ad we witness part of Jacob’s journey as he transitions, and how Bland-Walsh comes to accommodate the transgender patrons of her gym. The ad is thoughtful, sensitive and – most importantly – not patronizing. The YouTube spot was created to celebrate LGBT Pride in June and ended up being shown on national television during the ESPY awards. The ad really made quite a statement of Google’s involvement in promoting diversity and tolerance in business.

 Another campaign worth noting is Clean & Clear's #SeeTheRealMe campaign, featuring 14-year-old transgender teen Jazz Jennings. The ad comes off as empowering and inspiring and is revolutionary in the way the Johnson & Johnson skincare brand Clean & Clear reaches out to the teenage demographic through Jennings. The ad showcases Jennings as both unique and also as a typical teen enjoying her peers and just wanting a place to be accepted. Johnson & Johnson’s success and longevity really speak volumes to what a trailblazer it has become and has been in the past. Marketers can really take a cue from the firm’s success in capturing a young audience and keeping them around.

The future of inclusive marketing

Diversity and inclusiveness in marketing campaigns will only increase as marketers’ awareness of niche markets increase and those that support them grow rapidly. Instead of waiting until more companies jump on board, the time to start is now. Good business is inclusive, specifically at such a pivotal moment in society. A whole new generation of young consumers are already on board. Younger consumers have grown up with a fierce sense of social justice and are optimistic. Diversity and inclusiveness isn’t just something they strive for: it’s expected. Knowing your consumers, what they stand for and their feelings on inclusiveness will help your business and your brand in the long run.
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