A recent nationwide online survey conducted by GayTrendsetters.com has found that despite Ford Motor Co.’s recent reversal in its marketing stance toward the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender (GLBT) community, the damage has been done.
In early December the auto manufacturer decided to stop advertising in gay publications, following a boycott of the brand by the conservative American Family Association. Later that month, however, in the wake of criticism from GLBT groups, Ford reinstated its advertising in gay media.
Among the GLBT consumers polled by GayTrendsetters, nearly 15.8% owned or leased Ford autos, making the brand the most popular among those surveyed. But when the Ford owners were then asked if they would purchase or lease another vehicle by Ford, 65.5% indicated they would not, based upon the perceived anti-GLBT policies by the company.
GLBT respondents were also able to identify Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo as Ford-owned. When asked if they would purchase or lease a Ford, a Volvo, a Land Rover, or Jaguar, respondents for the most part said “not likely” for all four brands. Honda and Toyota were the brands that respondents were most likely to buy or lease.
And when GLBT respondents were asked to rate brands based on how supportive they are toward the GLBT community, 34.5% rated Subaru as extremely supportive compared with 13.5% for the next highest rated brand, Volvo, at 13.58%. Also, a large percentage of the respondents said that advertisements including gay and lesbian images were among the most influential factors causing them to consider a company’s products or services.
According to Hyperion Interactive Media’s 2006 Gay Market Guide article on automotive research, Ford has had a positive history of marketing to the GLBT community with a variety of its brands including Jaguar, Land Rover, and Volvo. Using sponsorship and print advertising, Ford started early on in this endeavor. Among its efforts was a 2000 promotion of its Ford GLOBE organization, the company’s first GLBT employee group. The same article states that the GLBT community is more likely than the population at large to favor import and luxury brands; Jaguar, Land Rover, and Volvo are considered such brands.
Ford’s loss of approval among the GLBT market may be other automakers’ gain. As excerpted from the 2006 Gay Market Guide, “While niche markets become more defined and the spending habits of gay consumers more identifiable, within the automotive industry the message of ‘inclusiveness’ has already begun to be extended to the GLBT community. Of late it has become the new expectation that diversity marketing managers of almost any major automotive maker tap into the more than $600 billion projected spending power of the GLBT market.
“Beginning with Subaru’s campaigns back in the early ‘90s, it is obvious that automakers have had their eye on this potential market for some time now, and with new research data in hand, are further seeking ways to develop their brand’s relationship with the gay consumer. Currently most of the advertising has been geared towards traditional means such as print, and now online, but with the advent of niche cable channels such as Logo and HereTV, there is likely to be a greater expansion of specifically gay oriented messages. Moreover, it is no longer simply a matter of acknowledging gay consumers, but rather aggressively pursuing them.”