Automobile brands have targeted the gay community for over 25 years. Recognizing the buying power of the gay community and many car buyers’ penchants for buying the top-of-the-line and owning the best there is, auto manufacturers have noticed, marketing specifically to us directly. Here are profiles on six automobile brands and how they’ve reached out to gay consumers.
Toyota has always been a very friendly brand to the gay community. In fact, their very first advertisement geared toward gay car buyers aired in Australia all the way back in 1990. At first Toyota hired outside marketers to execute these ad campaigns, because they felt they didn’t know the gay community well enough. They learned quickly: since then they have created a number of commercials specifically aimed at the gay market — the most memorable of which aired during the Super Bowl in 2012, advertising their popular Camry model. Happy with the response, Toyota has aired gay-themed commercials on US television every year since.
Considering how friendly Toyota has been to the gay community, it is no surprise that Scion, a brand of cars manufactured under the Toyota Motor Corporation umbrella, would advertise in a similar fashion. The brand debuted nationally in 2004 and as soon as they hit showrooms, Scion was advertising in gay media. At the time, the national head of marketing described their plan thusly, “The Scion brand is about personalization, we celebrate people who enjoy accessorizing their vehicles…We strive to reach people who are creative, innovative, and influential.” Scion is still invested in gay media over a decade later, and it has paid off for them; it is one of the ten most popular brands for gays and lesbians today.
Italian automaker FIAT returned to the U.S. market in 2007 after 27 years, and when they did, they entered with a bang. The Fiat 500 redesign immediately resonated with gays, and within two years it became one of the most popular cars being bought in the gay community. Since then, FIAT’s European division has aggressively marketed the car in advertisements that boast its customizable nature. The ads featured what the FIAT 500 would look like as a disco ball, or what it would look like if a bear or a drag queen drove it. These ads quickly made their way to U.S. media, where they were hits.
Sometimes brands have to realize that they have a good thing. That’s what happened in the case of MINI, and in particular, the MINI Cooper. The brand, owned by BMW, inaugurated their current version of the hatchback in 2001, and immediately gay men stateside snatched up the cars. By 2004 there was talk of the hatch being one of the “gayest cars in America,” and USA Today and The New York Times wrote articles, wondering aloud if the manufacturer meant for the model to be so popular with a specific segment of the general population. In 2007, obviously noticing this growing trend, MINI offered full benefits to same-sex couples, and has been a staple at gay pride events and in various forms of media ever since.
Subaru has been a gay-friendly brand for two decades. It was the first major automobile manufacturer to offer benefits to same-sex couples in the United States, and their first advertising campaign to target gays and lesbians occurred in the mid-1990s. The slogan “It’s not a choice. It’s the way we’re built” was heard loud and clear, and many new car buyers made their choice a Subaru. In particular, Subaru automobiles are very popular with the lesbian community. Always wanting to be at the forefront of gay-specific advertising, Subaru even hired an all-gay advertising agency to produce their television ads, starting in 2005.
Volkswagen first tested the waters with a television ad that might look ambiguous upon first glance, but was actually a measured campaign. The 1997 ad “Sunday Afternoon,” featuring two men riding around in the VW Golf, bought air time during the famous “coming-out episode” of Ellen DeGeneres’s sitcom, and while other brands shied away from her after she came out, Volkswagen upped their advertising. Since then, Volkswagen has produced multiple television and print advertising campaigns targeted at the gay community, not just in the United States but worldwide as well. (One memorable ad, from Germany, was ranked by Ad Week as one of the top five gayest ads of all time.)
Did you know there is a automotive website that targets the gay community too? Find out which cars are the gay-friendliest at gaywheels.com.