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When it comes to marketing to the LGBTQ+ community, we're way past just posting a rainbow flag on social media only for 30 days in June. According to a Gallup Poll, there is an estimated 18 million people in the United States alone who are members of the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community. They carry an important message, and have a voice that marketers should not dismiss.
Scott Gatz, the CEO and Founder of the LGBTQ media company Q.Digital, has stepped up to show marketers how to authentically and thoughtfully plan their marketing strategies. In this blog, Hollywood Branded discusses how to use brand messaging to build a strong connection with the LGBTQ+ community.
Scott is the CEO and founder of Q.Digital, the media company behind GayCities, INTO, Queerty, and LGBTQ Nation, which he founded 15 years ago. The digital outlet has become a trusted voice in the LGBTQ community, reaching more than 7.5 million visitors per month. Q.Digital enables major brands such as HBO, Target, Mastercard, Lexus, and Stoli to connect on a personal and credible level through custom-branded content, live events, promotions, sweepstakes, high-impact displays, and more.
Scott’s love of TV news led him to NBC News, Good Morning America, and Lifetime, while his passion for tech led to a nine-year career at Yahoo! where he led products including My Yahoo! and Yahoo! Search. Scott is a regular speaker at tech, publishing, and LGBTQ conferences and has been interviewed by the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and local publications worldwide.
Question: You have been able to take all of your expertise and build it into a platform and media outlet that you are obviously very passionate about. How did you get here today?
Answer: I found myself, in time, really at the intersection of media and Tech, always had a passion for technology, but more so about getting the story out there and learning from people telling their stories, and at Yahoo was able to do that quite a bit, and after I left they started GayCities. It was a simple project. I travel a lot, and I found that there just wasn't a good place for folks to share where to go, where to stay, where to eat from an LGBTQ perspective. So I just set out to do it myself, and little did I know that people would seem to like it and, eventually, major advertisers. Hyatt was the first advertising customer we had who wanted to reach the community, and it was shortly after that that I realized that maybe this is a really good business. Over the years, we've grown from GayCities, we added Queerty, LGBTQ Nation, and INTO to our portfolio, and, like you said, today, we reach almost eight million folks each and every month. We're really just trying to help people live their lives to the fullest in any way that means. You know, as we fight for our rights, but also highlighting the best and most fun things. So what kind of job could be better? I just kind of help myself into it, I suppose. And here we are.
Question: How did you figure out that piece of getting brands to say, "Wait a second...I'm interested!"?
Answer: Like any new industry or any new endeavor, you kind of kind of dig into what exists, what's there. So a little bit of research led me to find out, and especially when I started in the travel space, it was even a niche within it, right? So, I did as much research as I can on who is courting the LGBTQ community right now and where are they going to learn more? I ended up finding conferences, LGBTQ travel marketing conferences. So I went and actually got to meet some of the people that I had just been researching. I read a book. Literally, someone wrote a book, and I got to meet the guy who wrote the book, who later, much later in his career, became the head of Philadelphia tourism. Sadly, he passed away last year, but he was one of my mentors, and the idea that I read his book and got to meet him, and then ultimately got his business over the years. I met people from American Airlines, which was one of the earliest corporations reaching the LGBTQ community. At these conferences, we got them to do business, so I just kind of chased where the dollars were before trying to figure out how to introduce whole new brands to it. Now that we're bigger, we're able to go to a brand and say, "you know, you haven't been in this market. Can we talk to you about how to get into it? It's an incredibly valuable market with over three trillion dollars in global dollar spent. Can we introduce you to this?" But we couldn't have done that on day one, you know? We had to kind of build our way up little by little, step by step.
Question: There's a lot of pushback now about brands that jump on bandwagons and who aren't really authentically. How do you help them?
Answer: I think it all starts with—and especially in today's market— there are different expectations of consumers today than there were even ten or fifteen years ago. Ten, fifteen years ago, you'd be celebrated for almost doing anything. You use the word authentic, and that is exactly the right word. I think folks are looking—and in general, that the younger folks, you know, Gen Z and young millennials—about any cause. We want to know where do the corporations stand on the issues that matter to them. Climate change, LGBTQ, equality. There's a set of them that they want to know where you stand. So doing something that aligns with your values is ultimately going to help you win. If it's not aligned with your values, like, "I'm not so sure about this, but there's money to be made," you're going to have a problem. And even just ten years ago, you wouldn't have. You would have made money. But now people are looking a little bit deeper, so they're very suspect of somebody who just shows up in June for Pride Month; you know, if you're a local store, throw out a rainbow flag, or you print a t-shirt thirty days out of the year, and then you're gone. These are problems. How is that showing your support for this community? What are you doing all the time?
So one of the first things we tell people is to be around all the time. Make efforts, and do something that is throughout the year. And then, again, make sure your core values are aligned. If your company policies are very pro-LGBTQ, or if you're a smaller organization, it's just something that you really care about, that will show. And you know everybody can make mistakes, but at the heart of it, folks will see it. It just kind of all works out somehow because of that.
Question: What are some things you think brands should be keeping top of mind as they're building out their strategy and their approach?
Answer: Sometimes for people in the LGBTQ community, your sheer existence is considered political. For years we've seen when we post things on Facebook or by Facebook ads about our content, Facebook will flag it as political, even if it's just a profile of a really amazing human being. I think some brands are afraid of that, and know that you are in some ways putting your values forward, and that will come with risks. There will be a set of people that may shout out loud at displeasure, but ultimately like anything you have to look at "what is my market? What is the total addressable market? Do I have a noisy small set of folks? What is the opportunity?" And the opportunity is quite large.
So you know, I think it's like anything. You know you have to navigate it to know it. But we that part of the reason why we're also we've created these spaces with Query and LGBTQ Nation, GayCities, and INTO, is they are a safe place for advertisers. It's not like social media where Chevrolet posts something on social media, they're going to get all sorts of folks commenting both ways. It's a place where you know you can just talk to this community relatively safely.
Scott has so much great information from his experience working at Yahoo and creating his company Q.Digital. Check out the podcast below to learn more about his thoughts on creating a successful LGBTQ marketing strategy.
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Topics: Podcast Interviews, Podcast, HB Podcast