In the mid 1990’s, Subaru was struggling quite badly. Other big car companies such as Ford and Toyota were destroying them, and Subaru looked on its way out. However, one crucial decision not only saved the company but also paved the way for gay and lesbian marketing. After Subaru fired their advertising agency, it decided to return to more of a niche advertising campaign instead of competing head on with the other brands. It didn’t take long before Subaru learned that lesbians “loved” their cars because of the “dependability and size, and even the name” (Mayyasi, 2016). However, Subaru was still at a crossroads when making this discovery; would they want to go all in on gay and lesbian marketing when those people made up such a small amount of the population? Besides, a president just passed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, so why would a company openly run with this strategy when it wasn’t widely accepted within political circles or even among society? But Subaru decided to run with this strategy nevertheless, and it ended up “[pushing] gay and lesbian advertising from the fringes to the mainstream” (Mayyasi, 2016). What’s so ironic about this is that Subaru started advertising on the wrong end of the culture war, and now it looks like they’re on the right side of it, perhaps because they started this trend.
Coke Adapting to the Mainstream
Coke was and still is in a war with its riven Pepsi. It seems like these two companies are always trying to differentiate each other, since let’s be honest, they both taste the same (to most people). Coke may have found their secret weapon in gay and lesbian marketing. This is an example of a great job of having a good read on where the market was going and adapting quickly to it. Of course, Pepsi has followed in Coke’s footsteps, but Coke’s move to reach out to gay and lesbians as well as millennials has ensured a successful future for years to come. Coke’s even started marketing on twitter, making a “#TasteTheFeeling campaign” (Fox News, 2017). As opposed to Subaru, Coke didn’t really need to do this to stay relevant, but they did because it has allowed them to take their operation to a new level. Therefore, whether a company is struggling or churning out an economic profit, adapting to the change in consumer tastes and preferences will usually reap good results for a producer.
Oreo’s Faulty Ad
Like many other companies, Nabisco, the company that makes “Milk’s Favorite Cookie,” tried to adapt to the current consumer, but had both good and bad results. Nabisco decided to post an ad with a rainbow-colored filling Oreo in their support of gay rights (Lee, 2012). The ad was both greatly supported…and greatly boycotted. Of course, nothing would really destroy the image of Oreo, a cookie that Americans have been eating for 100 years. However, companies need to strike the sweet medium when it comes to sensitive issues such as gay rights, especially when trying to advertise to a more sensitive generation in millennials. Additionally, Nabisco miscalculated their overall consumer makeup, as they most likely did not understand how many of their consumers were pro-LGBT. Thus, it’s important for companies to understand what their consumers want before acting on society’s changing culture, especially when the company is already in a stable state like Nabisco.
My Outlook on Cultural Market Strategies
In my opinion, I believe that it’s important for companies to adapt to a changing consumer distribution, and to hire people from all generations to understand what their consumers want. I think that while it’s important to adapt, it’s also important to be known for something, and that means keeping some tradition in the company so that people always know it for something. Since companies are always competing for media attention, it seems smart to try and gain an advantage over the other in making a move first. However, it’s important to understand whether making the move will help overall, and whether the cultural change is just a fad that will die out in a couple of months or here to stay. Therefore, I believe that companies should always be looking to improve and change to attract new consumers, but they also need to make sure that these changes do not destroy their original base. Entering into new waters for a company is tough and will always be a risk, but the payoff is usually worth taking the risk for larger profit. In conclusion, I believe that as society moves towards a more millennial driven society, more and more companies will start marketing to gay and lesbians because more of their consumers will be pro-LGBT rights.
What Does This Mean for the Future?
So does marketing strategy shape culture? Or does culture shape marketing strategy? Evidence points to both being true. Take for example Subaru and their strategy. They started targeting people in the LGBT community before it was popular, while Coke and Nabisco started doing this while it was already becoming mainstream. It’s much riskier to do what Subaru did, but it was also necessary because they were struggling. However, the payoff for pioneering a new culture also has a much bigger payoff than entering the market after other companies have done so before. Hence, society will keep changing, and companies will change their market strategies as well to keep up with the incoming generations who will make up most the consumer market. This is why marketing will always be relevant in the real world no matter how well companies are doing.
- Lee, T. G. (2013, September 06). Oreo stacks up for LGBT Pride Month. Retrieved May 17, 2017, from http://www.msnbc.com/melissa-harris-perry/oreo-stacks-lgbt-pride-month
- Mayyasi, A. (2016, May 23). How an Ad Campaign Made Lesbians Fall in Love with Subaru. Retrieved May 17, 2017, from https://priceonomics.com/how-an-ad-campaign-made-lesbians-fall-in-love-with/
- News, F. (2017, March 06). People are loving Coke’s gay-friendly ad. Retrieved May 17, 2017, from http://nypost.com/2017/03/06/people-are-loving-cokes-gay-friendly-ad/