Brent Miller, P&G’s senior director of its global LGBTQ+ equality programme, agrees. “In the US, UK and parts of Europe, we can be much more visible and direct in our intent in supporting the LGBT+ community, because those people are protected more broadly through inclusive laws,” he says. “In other markets we need to dial it back because those countries may not be ready for those conversations.”
By contrast, across most of the Western world, the attitudes of younger consumers are shifting — and fast. A term such as gender neutral is now viewed as too vague by many young people who don’t conform to the conventional gender binary, marketers say. More than 12 per cent of American millennials identify as transgender or gender non-conforming, while 59 per cent of Gen Z in the US believe that gender is a spectrum rather than a man or woman binary.
“Gender-neutral” beauty content from influencers has increased 35 per cent over the past year, but engagement has dropped by 9 per cent, according to June 2021 data from marketing firm Traackr. The implication is that the term is not resonating with many social media users, who prefer to engage with content using more specific terms such as transgender beauty or non binary beauty. Engagement on both topics was up more than 50 per cent in the same period, Traackr found.
“This data is a wake-up call for brands that if you start and stop at ‘gender neutrality’, you’re not doing enough,” says Traackr’s co-founder and CEO Pierre-Loïc Assayag. “The gender neutral position is… a superficial baseline that enables brands to start talking about gender issues. The expectation from the consumer has grown in a way that is not linear in the past 12 months.”
LGBTQ+ individuals make up approximately 4.5 per cent of the US population and account for 8 per cent — approximately $1 trillion — of the country’s disposable income, according to a 2020 report from Kearney. However, 78 per cent of advertisers and 31 per cent of agencies find it “difficult to adequately represent the LGBTQ community because it’s complicated and has many nuances”, Procter & Gamble and GLAAD concluded in a May 2021 survey of 200 advertising executives with budgets ranging from $50 million to $1 billion.
Inconsistency in global marketing campaigns is an industry-wide issue. Some 61 per cent of advertisers and 28 per cent of agencies told Kearney they were “fearful of public backlash for including LGBTQ people in advertising”. In nations where homosexuality is less accepted or even criminalised, companies can help to advance the conversation by working with LGBTQ+ communities to open up those countries to more diverse perspectives.