Data used by publishers and sales reps to increase ad sales
by Chuck Colbert
In August, Community Marketing Inc. (CMI), a gay-owned San Francisco-based consumer-research company, released its 8th annual LGBT community survey. It provides useful data for gay media publishers and their sales teams. That’s because, in addition to providing overall LGBT market-specific data, the survey also gives publication-specific data to participating gay media outlets.
“Community Marketing is helping to promote the gay and lesbian market,” said Todd Evans, president and chief executive officer of Rivendell Media, which publishes Press Pass Q. “Right now, the company is the only one doing that.”
Evans noted, “I think the real crisis in gay media is not so much digital.” Rather, “The news has waned on the gay ‘market,’ and it’s all about gay rights. Everything is about equal rights and that does not stimulate national ad sales. The only thing that stimulates national ad sales in LGBT media is information on the LGBT market. Gay rights and equal rights don’t stimulate anything outside of the wedding business, which, while important and does help local sales, does not much help gain the interest of Madison Avenue as there are very few big national advertisers in that arena.”
For all the information provided in CMI’s survey — which includes information on financial confidence and concerns, beverage consumption, real estate, LGBT terminology and communications, brand recognition, sports interaction and engagement, family dynamics, and news media interaction — perhaps the most important data is that of purchasing behavior.
In this section, CMI asked respondents about their purchases over the past year, as well as planned purchases over the coming year. The categories included tickets for performing arts (theatre and music for example), vacations of five or more nights, salon services or spa treatments, tickets to non-profit fundraisers ($100 or more), purchased or leased new automobiles, major new furniture purchases (over $500), major kitchen appliances (over $500), bathroom remodeling, kitchen remodeling, primary residences, and cosmetic enhancements (surgical or non-surgical).
As a point of comparison, past and planned purchases among these product categories tested for both 2013 and 2014 were nearly identical, a finding that David Paisley, CMI’s senior researcher director, noted during a recent webinar discussing the survey results. Among the categories, tickets for performing arts and vacation of five nights or more ranked the highest, first and second for both gay and bisexual men as well as lesbians and bisexual women. Salon services or spa treatments and tickets to non-profit fundraisers were next in purchases for both men and women.
The full survey report download is available at no charge by clicking on the “LGBT Research” menu tab at CommunityMarketingInc.com.
“What we learn about consumer behavior from the survey is very important,” said Bob Witeck, president and founder of Witeck Communications. “Publishers would look at any trends in consumer needs, trying to understand where the advertising base is changing or not.”
Based in Washington, D.C., Witeck Communications specializes in strategic public relations and marketing communications for corporate and non-profit clients. Witeck Communications has no fiduciary responsibility or connection to CMI.
LGBT media consumption is also important, said Witeck. In fact, CMI survey data shows that LGBT media engagement is “generally stable, with digital media experiencing significant growth and print staying the same in readership.”
Another finding is that LGBTs of all ages visit websites and blogs that are LGBT community oriented. At the same time, older LGBTs are “far more engaged with LGBT print media than younger LGBTs.” Millennials are “voracious media consumers” and “significantly increasing their media consumption.”
The survey also found more than half of LGBTs used a mobile device to purchase an entertainment or travel product in the past year.
So then, how do publishers and their sales teams employ CMI’s survey data?
“We use the CMI demographic information on our readers and the results of the annual travel survey,” said Scott W. Wazlowski, vice president of advertising at San Francisco-based Bay Area Reporter, in email correspondence. (For nearly two decades, CMI has produced a yearly LGBT Tourism Survey.)
“We’ve found [the demographic info] very useful in speaking with confidence and conviction about our readers’ habits and how marketing to them directly through print and online advertising is a cost-efficient means of reaching the Bay Area LGBT consumer,” he said.
CMI’s publication-specific data is also incorporated into BAR’s media kit. For example, “Bay Area Reporter’s readers are in their prime years of acquisition, making the audience an ideal target for real estate, home furnishings, automotive, travel,” among others categories.
BAR’s demographic information shows that its readership is 80 percent male, 15 percent female, and five percent transgender. In addition, nearly 50 percent of its readership is 35-54 years of age, with 28.2 percent aged 55-64 and 10.1 percent aged 18-34.
Income distribution spans a range. For example, 28.8 percent of BAR readers report household income $50,000-$74,999, with 10.2 percent reporting income of $75,000-$99,999, 15.9 percent reporting $100,000-$149,999, and 22.8 percent reporting $150,000 or more.
Pointing to a concrete example of the usefulness of BAR-specific data, Wazlowski said, “We used the information, specifically income levels and planned purchase statistics, for major vacations of five nights or more, to convince Celebrity Cruises to appear in our publication in 2013.” Also convincing, he said, was “63.3 percent of our readers indicated that they would be significantly or moderately influenced favorably to purchase a cruise from a brand that included LGBT outreach.”
Accordingly, Celebrity Cruises has become “a regular and frequent advertiser,” said Wazlowski.
CMI data is also important for a leading LGBT publication in Texas.
“One of the most valuable lessons you learn in marketing is knowing your target audience,” said publisher Leo Cusimano of Dallas Voice in an email. “If you understand your market, you can better utilize your resources; your resources are both time and money. At Dallas Voice we sell differently, we look at businesses’ marketing efforts and help them understand the value of identifying their target audience. Knowing where your customers shop, what they read, and the makeup of their profile, helps businesses spend their money on advertising more effectively and their time networking being productive.”
Both publishers and editors can benefit from CMI survey data.
“The CMI study is extremely valuable for us at Dallas Voice, to use for both advertising and editorial. In selling advertising you’re basically selling a readership, the more you know about that readership the better you can sell. In editorial, the more you understand trends of your readers, the better you can present both relevant information and vehicles they search,” said Cusimano. “Our editorial team studies the CMI research to help grow our reach. For example, the research identified our male and female ratio. We would like to grow our lesbian readership, so our plan is to produce a Lesbian Issue.”
Like BAR, Dallas Voice finds CMI data useful in creating its media kit.
“Our advertising team utilizes the information from the CMI survey in our media kits,” said Cusimano. “We have an extensive document and our media kit that is titled ‘Our Marketing Influence, Readership at a Glance.’ This document identifies key areas that we sell from. If we are meeting with an auto dealership, we give them the auto demographics from the CMI research.”
In Michigan, Jan Stevenson, publisher of Detroit area-based Between the Lines (BTL), said her publication also finds CMI’s data invaluable.
Each year, “We look forward to the survey results,” she explained over the telephone. “As soon as we get it, we update our media kit.”
The reason, Stevenson said, “is one of the first questions potential advertisers ask is, ‘What are your demographics, who reads your paper?’ And because we have the CMI data, we’re able to say with some degree of certainty, what our readers look like.”
BTL readers, for example, are 54 percent male and 44 percent female. BTL readers’ average income is $86,000, with more than 25 percent reporting income greater than $100,000.
In addition, as a measure of customer loyalty, 94 percent of BTL readers said they prefer to shop at a gay-friendly business and that they are more likely to shop with businesses that advertise in the publication.
Stevenson said that BTL also uses CMI survey data for the publication’s special issues, which include a focus on pets, health, homes, cars, theatre and a wedding guide. “There are specific questions buried in the data asking, ‘Are you going to buy a car in the next year, do you own a pet, and how many pets are in your home?’ So we can look at that and see what our readers’ usage of products or anticipated products compared the general population and say our readers are more likely to own a pet.”
Data comparing LGBTs to the general market for pet ownership, said Stevenson, comes from various “pet websites that estimate and do breakdowns, looking at how many American households have dogs. If our numbers are higher than that, we make a big deal of it.”
CMI’s survey found overall that 41 percent of gay and bisexual men and 48 percent of lesbian and bisexual women care for dogs.
Automotive data is also good, she said, specifically information on domestic versus foreign car intended purchases. “That’s very important to us because no matter how you cut it, we are in Detroit and everyone works for auto companies.”
In automobile purchases, CMI found that while one brand did not dominate purchases, Ford, Honda and Toyota were the top three brands in the LGBT community.
In all, the benefits of CMI’s data for individual LGBT publications are three-fold, said Rivendell’s Evans, noting that participation in the survey is free. “They get their own reader demographics. They get facts and figures for sales leads. They are helping the whole gay market by stimulating sales and segments where it makes sense.
“Madison Avenue is all about independent fact and figures. And without Community Marketing doing these surveys, we would have to pay for our own. Many gay media outlets did for many years to stimulate the market and make news. In advertising, it’s is all about justifying ad-buying decisions.
“There is a business case for participating,” said Evans.