How Corporations are Profiting from Gay Pride

Targeting the gay community can make for more, loyal customers.

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Sponsoring Pride sends out a message about a corporation's values. It can also pull in lots of new customers (and money).

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As the nation as a whole slowly comes to accept same-sex relationships, some companies are coming out of the closet as well, making their views on embracing same-sex couples increasingly prominent. JCPenney recently featured two gay dads in a Fathers' Day advertisement. One new Gap ad features two men inside a t-shirt together. Starbucks recently inspired a boycott from the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay-marriage group, when it supported legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in Washington.

Ng says that Wells Fargo is seeing increased demand for more prominent gay-targeted ads.

"Consumers see an increased desire to see themselves represented in general marketing advertising. So that is certainly something that we know and we're hearing from consumers ourselves," he says.

While the travel and alcohol industries were among the first to target the gay community, some industries are dragging their feet, says Darren Cooper, senior consultant at Out Now Consulting, an LGBT marketing firm. These tend to be the ones that work to maintain overtly masculine brand images. He points to car companies as an example.

"A car company might worry that featuring a gay couple in their ads might emasculate their brand. So certainly in some industries, there's a disparity between, say, fashion and the automotive industry," he says.

While businesses make their marketing decisions based on dollars and cents, marketing to this particular demographic can be trickier than marketing to other niche groups, like cat lovers or motorcycle enthusiasts.

"Most other niche markets don't have a political aspect to it like the LGBT market does. It does charge it a little bit," says Paisley. But along with the U.S. population, companies are increasingly willing to put their messages out there, he adds. "The reality is, the majority of Americans do support same-sex marriage," he says.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a business and economics reporter for U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter at @titonka or via E-mail at dkurtzleben@usnews.com.