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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Study the Evolution of Gay and Lesbian Marketing

Katherine Sender

Sender, Katherine (2004). Business, not politics: The making of the gay market. New York: Columbia University Press.

Dr. Katherine Sender’s exceptional work continues to be relevant and beneficial in an era when reaching niche audiences plays an increasingly important role in marketing plans. Her book offers a detailed historical overview of gay and lesbian marketing. She challenges marketers who say the business of advertising to a gay audience is independent from that group’s politics and identity. 

The claim that any marketing is a matter of “business, not politics” disavows the extent to which all marketing has political effects including, for example, the cumulative impact of advertising on the economy (both in generating ad revenues and in stimulating consumption), the circulation of an ethos of consumption, and the affirmation of ideologies about gender, class, race, and other identities. Yet, as with the question of stereotyping, the particular ways gay marketing is political is shaped by a history of gay invisibility and homophobia; the claim that gay marketing is “business, not politics has specific applications to the circulation of gay and lesbian images. As struggles over the meaning of gay visibility suggest, gay critics (as well as consumers and marketers themselves) are well aware of the political context in which gay media images appear, and of the potential impact they may have.

Sender explores the role that LGBT-focused marketing plays in advancing civil rights and analyzes the often-limited representations of LGBT people and groups. The gay community is not some neat little niche that marketers simply tap into. Instead, it is formed not only through political activism but also the commercially supported media that shapes its identity. Gay activists argue that a gay identity sitting on the shoulders of commercial advertising has little room for members who don’t meet the needs of corporations. However, a wealth of advertising dollars can beef up media serving the LGBT population, which in turn strengthens their communities through an exchange of news and other information. 


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