CBC’s Terry O’Reilly, advertising guru and host of Under the Influence, illustrates the history of GLBT advertising in a 2012 episode. He notes that it took decades for the advertising industry to market to the community, but that in 2012 alone, the gay community would spend more than $800 billion.
Indeed, the GLBT community carries a lot of clout (and cash) as a consumer—a fact that continues to garner increased attention from the corporate world. A positive byproduct of this increased awareness is that it benefits GLBT employees, too.
Diversity marketing is more complex than running a coupon promotion. It means building a long-term relationship with a loved one; in this case, the loved one is an entire community of people. And like the building of any relationship, it’s a journey.
Hilary Woods, senior manager of marketing planning for TD Bank Group explains the importance of ensuring your own house is in order before earning the right to ask for the business. In her 2012 article, Diversity Marketing, Jen DeTracey quoted Woods as saying, “Before you ask for the business, ask yourself these vital questions: Is my house in order? Are my policies and culture in the workplace in- clusive? Do my employees feel comfort- able being themselves at work? Would the community and our employees recognize and appreciate your sustained commitment and investment? Once you are satisfied with the answers to these questions, you’ll know that you are driv- ing to the goal of earning the right to ask for the business. You can’t jump any of these steps.”
In the article, Woods recounts a time, in 2003, when internal results showed some employees were uncomfortable being out of the closet at work. In a 2013 article, Out of the closet: The most LGBT- friendly companies in Canada, Megan Santos writes, “There isn’t one initia- tive that stands out, but Woods says it started with focusing on the internal process and policies, and sustaining commitments through community-giving.” Santos writes that Wood says making the GLBT community feel comfortable at TD by extension made customers also feel comfortable.
Robb Ritchie, Royal Bank (RBC) manager of public affairs and communications for Manitoba and Saskatchewan concurs with Woods. “Community investment needs to be more than dollars. It’s also about donating our time, skills, resources and networks. Only then are we able to ask for the business of the LGBT community,” said Ritchie. RBC runs The Rainbow Advice Series, a series of financial advice workshops for the GLBT community on a variety of topics featuring inclusive advice, imagery and language.
The civil awareness day known as National Coming Out Day is commemorated at RBC. The day has been celebrated ever since its CEO in 2009, Gordon Nixon, hosted an event alongside two RBC employees who shared their coming out experiences.
David Zyla, an out-at-work RBC branch manager, says, “Being part of a company that empowers me to bring my whole self to work enables me to focus on what truly matters—helping my clients.” Zyla co-chairs the regional RBC Pride Employee Resource Group chapter and is president of the Rainbow Resource Centre board of directors.
Telus has a long-standing commitment to inclusion and diversity in the workplace and local community. One way it has shown support for the GLBT community is via its participation in the It Gets Better movement. This project, started in 2010, encourages and inspires companies and celebrities alike, as well as everyday people, to create their own short videos proving that through the struggle GLBT youth endure, “It gets better.”
Telus supports Pride festivals across Canada and is a proud supporter of a number of GLBT events and charities. Ryan Bazeley, senior media relations manager and national customer prime for Spectrum, said, “For Telus, engaging with the LGBT community is far more than an advertising campaign; it’s a much deeper commitment to the community. It’s about building real authentic connections with the LGBT community.”
Another proud supporter of the GLBT community is Home Depot Canada, which created an internal GLBT associate resource group called Orange Pride to foster diversity and inclusion among associates. “The Home Depot Canada is a proud member of the community and always strives to meet the needs of its customers,” said Emily DiCarlo, company public relations specialist.
Since 2009, the corporation has been a corporate member of Pride at Work Canada, an organization whose mission is to support the work of GLBT associate resource groups, human resource professionals, diversity specialists and allies to effect positive change in the workplace. In 2014, Home Depot participated in World Pride Toronto, and in 2015, stores across Canada participated in their local Pride Parades to highlight the company’s value of “Respect For All People.”
That the GLBT community commands respect in the marketplace needs not be pointed out to Brendan Eich. In 2014, Eich became the new CEO of Mozilla. At that time, his 2012 donation to Prop 8, the proposed same sex marriage ban, became widely known. There was backlash from within and outside the organization. After only 11 days, Eich stepped down. The Guardian’s Mary Hamilton wrote, “No one has said, so far as I am aware, that Eich cannot be CEO, aside from Mozilla; rather, people have said they personally don’t want to—or won’t—work with someone who actively sought to harm them, their friends, their colleagues, or their customers.” She concludes, “I also hope he never again has the opportunity to actively assist in the oppression of LGBT people, and that if he does have it, he decides, this time, that the consequences just aren’t worth it.”
The corporate relationship with the GLBT community has been slow to develop, and there have been bumps along the way. The gay market has been a fascinating study in diversity, courage, profit and finally respect. As the famous Telus slogan proclaims, “The future is friendly.”
–Armande Martine is an out-and-proud activist who recently married her partner, Nelle Oosterom.