TOPICS: US gay market. Cars. Gay auto market in US. Gay marketing. Lesbian and gay market research. US gay market valuation. US gay marketing developments. Lesbian and gay media. Gay PR. New York Times. New report in New York Times suggests that certain brands of car may be perceived as gay brands.
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There is an interesting report on the perceived gay appeal of certain cars in today's New York Times.
Over the years, Out Now has seen many ill-conceived attempts to create a 'gay' brand for mainstream consumer goods.
These have usually been preceded by the word "Pink" or "Rainbow" as if gay consumers are influenced by just a word, or a colour swathe - rather than the product's attributes and brand characteristics.
How well does the brand fit the consumer's perception of self? Does the product have characteristics that make it particularly suited to an individual's lifestyle? And what does the choice of that brand tell the rest of the world about the consumer her- or him-self?
A New York Times report today considers whether certain brands of cars are of particular appeal to gay consumers. It then also looks further at whether a gay following for a brand is a plus or a minus for the mainstream appeal of a particular make of auto.
It is an interesting product category as cars often tend to attract the sometimes outrageous passion of many heterosexual men (although I will be the first to admit that I just broke one of Out Now's own cardinal market rules: "assume nothing" as well as "don't generalize" and also "diversity is key". But I digress.)
The claim that certain models of car are 'too gay' for some consumers seems a bit of a stretch. People - of whatever sexual orientation - are very diverse and will make brand selection decisions about particular autos based on many factors which, in Gestalt concert, will affect which model of car they actually purchase.
It may be that the 'too gay' epithet could, in this instance, have more to do with homophobia in the same way that the putdown "that's so gay" has its roots in discomfort with gay people, and is used as an insult where being gay is the assumed negative.
And quite a few gay men happily fall squarely into the obsessive 'rev-head' car fancier category. Many gay men would gladly prefer a Hummer or Jeep to a Subaru or Mini Cooper.
Stereotypes are often easy journalism and a convenient way to box in concepts that are far more complex and diverse than the hypothesis in question.
Here is an extract of the New York Times gay car brand article:
RON GEREN, an actor in Los Angeles, commutes to auditions and jobs throughout Southern California in a sleek black Mazda MX-5 Miata convertible. But for a recent date with a woman, he rented a Cadillac Escalade because he was so used to friends saying his Miata is “gay.”
“Guys say, ‘Hey, that’s cute,’ ” Mr. Geren, 40, said, adding that the comments come from gay as well as straight men. “You have to fend off that perception.”
A few years ago, Meghan Daum, an op-ed contributor to The Los Angeles Times, wrote about a promising first date with a man that never led to a second one because, she later learned, the guy saw that she drove a Subaru Outback station wagon and concluded she must be a lesbian.
At a time when car makers are marketing aggressively to gay consumers and mainstream culture has become more literate about stereotypically gay tastes through television shows like “Will & Grace” and “The L Word” (on which one of the main characters, Alice, drove a Mini Cooper), it may not be surprising that some people make such assumptions about motorists based on their cars.
But to some people, such stereotyping is homophobia, pure and simple. A poll seeking to determine the most gay automobiles, conducted by a South African Web site, was a topic of heated interest last December on Gizmodo, the New York-based technology blog, where one reader wrote: “Since when are cars gay or straight? We’re really polling people’s prejudices here.”
Others, though, including gay theorists, say many gay motorists happily embrace certain cars as reflections of identity.
Ramone Johnson is a gay journalist and former Saturn engineer who compiles an annual “Top 10 Gay Cars” list for About.com, which is owned by The New York Times Company. Mr. Johnson said that “traditionally we are used to being defined by others.” Driving a stylish car can be a way of “taking control back” and saying “this is who I am,” he said.
Mr. Johnson maintains that “soft lines” and a “vibrant personality” — say like those on a Volkswagen New Beetle — are typical attributes of a gay man’s car, and fashion-forward red gauges and other styling cues, for example, make the Pontiac G6 more of a gay car than its sibling, the Grand Am, because the features express a taste for freedom and fun.
Neither automobile manufacturers nor dealers compile statistics on the sexual orientation of buyers.
Subaru has been the most prominent company to embrace the gay market. As long ago as 2000, the automaker created advertising campaigns around Martina Navratilova, the gay tennis star, and also used a sales slogan that was a subtle gay-rights message: “It’s not a choice. It’s the way we’re built.” Little wonder that many lesbians refer to their Outbacks as “Lesbarus.”
Even General Motors recently began to include questions about sexual orientation on some internal market surveys, although data are not yet compiled, said Adam Bernard, who tracks the product strategies of G.M.’s competitors and who also coordinates an advocacy group for gay employees at the company called GM Plus. Since 2003, he said, the group has consulted with marketing executives at the company about increasing sales to gay consumers.
Company executives, he said, do not seem to feel skittish about losing market share among straight consumers if gay buyers suddenly seize on a particular model. “I don’t think internally we ever asked the question, ‘If we put Cadillac in The Advocate, are we going to lose straight Cadillac buyers?’ ”
“Frankly,” he added, “the money’s all the same color.”
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