Vodka brands are in the pink

22 July, 2016

This is something Tim Parkinson, senior vice-president for content, premium core Diageo brands, is also trying to push. “Smirnoff has had a close relationship with the LGBT community for nearly two decades and we continue to spread our inclusivity message to a wider audience in different ways,” he says.

Diageo recently launched its We’re Open campaign in the UK. Parkinson says it sought to support the LGBT community and question traditional notions of gender and sexuality. Lines such as ‘Homosexual, heterosexual, who-gives-a-sexual. We’re open’ dominated billboards around the country and the brand was present at Pride parades nationwide.

For Parkinson, Diageo must follow words with actions. This year it hosted one of the first same-sex weddings at Electric Daisy Carnival, an electronic dance music festival taking place in Vegas in June, becoming the first brand to live-stream a legal wedding via Facebook. “We did this to show how #lovewins still wins a year after the US Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality,” Parkinson says.

This side of the pond, Diageo also launched the Smirnoff Love Wins Collection – a limited-edition collaboration of bottles that make up the colours of the rainbow by Smirnoff and Dawn O’Porter’s fashion brand, BOB. “For every bottle sold, Smirnoff will make a donation to LGBT charity, R U Coming Out, which aims to inspire and support people to be themselves.”


Companies will want to strike the right balance because critics are rife and there is that $US3.7 trn global spend at stake – piss off this community at your peril, as Stoli found.

“You can’t ignore that type of spending power,” Campari’s Karraker says. “Add to it that the LGBT community is generally more brand-loyal than the general populace and you can see why this is a very important group.”

LGBT Capital’s Thompson says: “I think if there is any cynicism [about rainbow marketing] it is because, like any other market, you are talking to a group of people that has specific needs. I don’t see the LGBT market as being one market. I see the male market as very different to the female market, so the way you would approach them would and should be different.”

When it comes to drinks and entertainment venues, Thompson says most marketing is targeted at the former group. “There needs to be more understanding about it and the numbers are very important.

“In China, for example, there are 70-85m LGBT people,” Thompson says. “They are at a different stage of their development than developed markets, such as the UK, and there will be significantly more spend in this community.

“Generally, there are bigger and bigger opportunities to target the LGBT market,” Thompson adds. “The more open the market is the more there is to target. There’s £100bn spend in the UK alone.”

It’s a very big market, but it’s a changing one. “There is a section of the LGBT community that is changing,” Thompson says. Increasingly, couples in developed markets are having families and the rise of online is altering the way the $3.7trn is spent. Less developed markets should also be observed closely, Thompson says, because, although they are at an early stage of their journey, this will probably be accelerated by online influences and an arguably more accepting reception in larger cities.


Absolut’s Gilardini says the world is generally becoming a more accepting place – one of the reasons many brands now are willing to openly embrace the LGBT community. “As the trend of acceptance becomes even more commonplace, I expect there to be a seamless integration in how brands appeal to LGBT consumers with their marketing efforts. This manifests itself not as ‘LGBT-targeted ads’ per se, but campaigns that simply have a diverse group of people in them, ranging in sex, ethnicity, gender, and even age. Our most recent campaign has a variety of spots telling the stories of a range of people. ”

Thompson says marketers are not as concerned as they once might have been about their campaigns being seen as ‘gay advertisements’. “It is ‘cool’ to be gay now.”

Any marketer wanting to target that massive global LGBT spend has his or her work cut out. There is no-one-size-fits-all answer for the modern consumer and they will, in turn, demand more understanding and creativity and a move away from the rainbow blanket approach.


Philip Duff

Dirty cocktail names: Is it the end?

There are lies, damn lies, statistics – and then there are statistics about cocktails. It emerged recently that a UK firm named Travel Republic surveyed punters, and apparently 29% of them disapprove of sexually suggestive cocktail names.