Advertising grabs us in, manipulating us to change our desires and make us think we need the newest product. A touching message can pull at your heartstrings or a racy message can get your heart pumping. And once your emotions have taken over, you won’t be able to resist making a purchase.

Many companies reach out specifically to LGBT consumers through their advertisements. Some of these companies already have LGBT-friendly policies in place and have shown that they support the message they advertise, such as Levi’s and Subaru. Levi’s and Subaru both got a 100% rating on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, meaning both companies treat their LGBT employees well. But they have gone far beyond that — Levi’s publicly endorsed gay marriage and Subaru was a sponsor for The L Word.

The LGBT community is often quick to form alliances with these companies, grateful that the companies are LGBT-inclusive. And usually, these alliances are beneficial for both the company and LGBT people.

But sometimes LGBT-directed advertising is strictly a business move and is used in attempt to manipulate LGBT people. In 1998, California Proposition 10, called “The Children and Families First Act” was introduced to raise cigarette taxes. The tobacco industry, opposed to the tax raise, directed advertisements at LGBT people to try to change the minds of LGBT voters. In an internal memo, the Tobacco Institute discussed strategies for winning over LGBT voters, including discussing themes such as “lifestyle regulation, government intrusion into private lives, and removing choice as an option for one’s life decisions.”

Whether or not LGBT people should support a tax increase for cigarettes is a different issue altogether, but what is clear is that the Tobacco Institute was only reaching out to LGBT people for the tobacco industry’s own financial gain.

LGBT people and allies should be cautious about the decisions we make and the products we buy. Buying from companies that support LGBT rights is important, but advertisements don’t necessarily reflect the beliefs of a company. Witeck Combs, an LGBT communications company, outlined a variety of tactics companies can use to reach out to LGBT consumers. Among the suggestions are providing equal workplace benefits, marketing directly to LGBT people, and including images of LGBT people in advertisements. They also advise companies to avoid only partially committing to the LGBT community.

Companies should follow the suggestions offered by Witeck Combs, and not merely try to buy LGBT consumers through emotional manipulation. It is important for companies to support a diverse workplace and have policies in place to ensure equal treatment and benefits for their LGBT employees. Simply advertising to LGBT people, or partially committing to the LGBT community, is not enough.

Photo credit: SuperFantastic

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