Postcards from YMS: LGBTQ+ Youth Consumer Trends
At the beginning of June, four of the team attended YMS LDN hosted by Voxburner. Here’s the first of our postcards from the event.
We’re leaving behind rainbow washing and half-hearted allyship. It’s Pride Month so let’s get real about young LGBTQ+ consumer behaviour and want they want. Armed with serious data, Josephine Hansom hit back at stale stereotypes and marketing misdemeanours earlier this month at the Voxburner Youth Marketing Strategy festival. Here is an overview of her home truths…
This year marks 50 years since the first Pride march in the UK. Pride month is a celebration of individuality and freedom, but it is also a time to bring difficult conversations about the continuing challenges and social injustices the LGBTQ+ community face back to the fore. In the latest report from the Annual Population Survey (APS), the number of respondents who identify as heterosexual has dropped from 93.4% in 2014 to 87.3% in 2020. The LGBTQ+ community is growing, and if brands don’t keep up then they’re missing out.
In her talk ‘Being LGBTQ+: 10 Consumer Truths Brands Need to Know’ Josephine presented a deep, data-based understanding of the LGBTQ+ youth community. From company ethics to buying behaviours, fears and anxieties to aspirations and energy, this research uncovered some surprising statistics that (hopefully) will encourage brands to take a more nuanced approach to engaging LGBTQ+ youth every month of the year. Josephine spoke candidly about her own journey and offered a positive and productive approach to the complex topic: ‘we’re not here to cancel, we’re here to be conscientious’.
YOUNG LGBTQ+ CONSUMERS CARE
One third of young LGBTQ+ consumers say being an ethical company is most important compared to 15% of heterosexual people. This conscientiousness extends to employment as 16% of LGBTQ+ want to work at an ethical organisation compared to only 6% of straight people.
LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to vote with their feet, as 54% of them report boycotting a brand who took a position they don’t agree with, compared to just a third of their heterosexual counterparts. 71% will speak out about something they don’t agree with compared to 45% of straight people.
This isn’t to say the young LGBTQ+ consumer is jaded. 31% of LGBTQ+ consumers report being happiest when they buy something new versus 25% of straight people. That’s a significant consumer market, but as a brand you need to be authentic and hold clear values that you stick to.
TRUST AND PURSUIT OF AN INCLUSIVE REALITY
Pride month exists for a reason. For generations the LGBTQ+ community has faced systemic oppression and outright rejection. Research shows feelings of being an ‘outsider’ pervade, so it’s understandable that 81% of young LGBTQ+ people say their trust in the government is at an all-time low. This distrust may also lie in the fact that 8 in 10 LGBTQ+ youth feel they don’t share the same values as the older generation, the generation running the nation.
Mental health research consistently shows the LGBTQ+ community is at higher risk of poor mental health than their straight counterparts. Josephine’s research supports this with 62% of LGBTQ+ youth concerned about mental health compared to 39% of straight youth. Body image is also a major challenge to good mental health – regardless of orientation – and it was found that 74% of LGBTQ+ youth agreed with the statement “I am very conscious of my weight and body shape”, compared with 58% for heterosexual participants.
In the face of these statistics there is one thing that Josephine found LGBTQ+ youth tend to do: escape reality. Young LGBTQ+ consumers prefer sci-fi and horror films more than straight people who tend to prefer rom coms and action. Josephine proposes a correlation between identifying as an outsider and leaning on fantasy and fiction for escape.
WHAT ARE THEY UP TO? EVERYTHING!
When surveyed, LGBTQ+ youth wanted to everything more than straight people. Hiking, swimming, crochet, learn an instrument – if it was on the survey, they wanted to do it. This reflects a tribe of people who are engaged and curious. Furthering this, pandemic research showed that there was a significant decline in romantic firsts (first dates, kisses etc) however, since the lock down LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to have gone out and experienced romantic firsts than straight people.
When it comes to technology in general, LGBTQ+ youth are less likely to think tech will change their life. 67% of them have deactivated a social media account (compared with 50% for straight youths) so beware, these channels can be easily shut down. When asked “In the last two months have you bought anything you’ve seen online?”, LGBTQ+ were 48% more likely than straight people to not have purchased anything through a major social media channel.
ADULTING IS NOT EASY
Only 40% of young LGBTQ+ people report feeling like an adult, compared 53% for straight young people. Josephine suggested that this may be due in part to the difficulty for some to be or express fully who they are while living with family. The research also showed that LGBTQ+ youth are less likely to be striving to be an entrepreneur or be ambitious in aiming to be at the top of their career. These two trends indicate a responsibility for employers to foster open and welcoming work environments of belonging with clear growth pathways for individuals.
The LGBTQ+ youth community is not a homogenous whole, and every individual with that group has their own preferences and behaviours. This data reveals overarching trends of a curious, highly engaged and discerning community that at times experiences alienation and anxiety. A rainbow washed campaign isn’t going to cut it. Use this information to design meaningful experiences and where possible create products with a purpose.