Brands coming out for Gay Pride. A gold mine for advertisers.
July 2, 2008
“Nice Altoids, Boys!”
In a honor of Gay Pride week I’d like to give the gay community a shout-out for their uncanny ability at predicting and/or creating trends. No group of people I know are as adept at predicting the future for fashion, neighborhoods and brands as this stylish minority.
Background: I grew up in the Lake View neighborhood in Chicago. During the 70’s New Town (as it was called) was vastly different from the bustling and trendy neighborhood it is now. Latin street gangs patrolled and regularly fought over turf in the blocks north and south of Wrigley field. The only time it was truly safe to traverse these troubled blocks was during home games for the then lowly Chicago Cubs.
Enter the first gay pioneers. Attracted to the housing stock and cheap rents, they saw something in the rows of battered two-flats and graffiti-ridden apartment buildings. Maybe it was the proximity to our lakefront or perhaps it was the closest to Lincoln Park their “kind” was allowed. Regardless, they arrived replete with big ideas and Donna Summer blaring on the radio. Window treatments went up. Gentry-fication erupted and never stopped.
I won’t comment on what kind of impact all this had on my adolescence. Watching two men go at it on a dumpster was quite a ‘slap to the cerebellum.’ More pleasant was the change to my scruffy, downright dangerous neighborhood. Within ten years Lakeview became one of Chicago’s darling neighborhoods -our little village. Without the collective intuition of my gay brethren none of this would have happened. Chicago owes them a debt of gratitude.
And so do many other phenomena, including the rise of numerous commercial brands. Absolut vodka comes to mind. This bit player became a huge phenomenon in American culture because of two things: a killer print campaign and the passionate following of gay consumers. They embraced the simple, clear bottle and the series of arty posters from TBWA, making both icons. For better or worse, disco music was gay music. John Travolta merely finished what countless other young men started. The same can be said for health and fitness. Working out was gay religion. Arnold’s movie, Pumping Iron, came out in 1977. The rest is history. And so on and so forth…
Indeed, watching the gay parade last week was like watching popular culture marching forward, the festive floats sponsored by countless forward thinking brands, and supported by a coterie of ambitious politicians. They weren’t there for the free condoms. They wanted support from the gay community. Same as all the sponsors.