At the 2021 Connect THRIVE Summit in Las Vegas this past weekend, a cautionary thread (representing really solid advice) resonated in many of the expert-led #LGBTQ travel presentations.
What Not To Do
Simply put: Don’t just hang out a rainbow flag and/or talk about gay travelers during Pride Month in June. Inclusive tourism marketing needs a great deal more thought. As someone said, there’s no second chance to make a good first impression.
Voices at the Table
We talked about the importance of getting the approach right with Marc Liu, Head of Strategy & Operations / Founder at ELMNTL and Romey Louangvilay, Head of Communications & Creative Director. The multicultural full-service agency represents Thailand, among other destinations.
“We’ve been approaching diversity as a by-product of who we are. We know what questions to ask to create authentic storytelling. We make it a point to hire diverse talent but if we don’t have the voices at the board table, we’ll make sure to get them there,” said Marc.
And from Romey, “If you’re targeting lesbians, hire someone from that community to tell that story. Put the people you want to target on the team.”
The Holistic Approach
Importantly, when the ELMNTL team discusses diversity, they emphasize a wide range of considerations. There are different types of abilities and disabilities among people who enjoy travel, millions of baby boomers aging into a disability, websites that need to be ADA compliant, adverts and videos that should be captioned.
Moreover, the team says, “We recognize there are sub-groups within a group. Recognizing people as complete human beings is the holistic approach that we employ.” Importantly, Marc and Romey add, “We can help destinations reach people in such a way as to make a truly meaningful connection…the kind that turns people into loyal advocates.”
The Good & The Bad
Romey shared several standout examples—the good and the bad—of adverts that hit or missed their mark. Note: The homophobic Snickers ad, shown during Super Bowl XLI in 2007, was widely called out as being downright cringeworthy, prompting complaints from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the Human Rights Campaign and others.
Ad Age notes, “Snickers might also have tried to argue that the creative made fun of the protagonists precisely for their homophobia. But it’s hard to count on landing that sort of nuance on Super Bowl Sunday…” So, the lesson here is where we began, you only have one chance to make a good first impression.
- Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty
- Wai Wear
Romey explains, “Wai Wear, which is a men’s shorts line that steals inspiration from Northern Thailand designs, uses the word “wai” which in Thai is how we respectfully greet people by bowing our heads and raising our hands in a prayer motion, and they target gay men specifically with the models they perform sexually provocative dance moves. I have nothing wrong with brands being sexually provocative but since they are stealing our culture’s design and form of respect to sell sex just rubs me the wrong way. And none of their models are even Asian.”
Romey, who grew up as a gay Asian in the Bible Belt says, “I try to tell the client when you think about LGBTQ marketing, it mustn’t be all these buff white gay guys we keep seeing as models. We have a much broader community. And it’s more than just a rainbow flag or a drag queen on a poster.” Instead, he encourages marketing campaigns to show LGBTQ couples “in a normal setting.”