It may be as big a disappointment to the marketing types as the Y2K bug wasn't to internerds; that the lucrative pink dollar is about as real as monopoly money. Drew Lambert looks at how effective recent marketing efforts have been at capturing the gay market.
It's great being gay. Just ask your queer work mate. The one who's always out partying, drinking copious amounts of wine, having far too much style for his own good and gives single girls someone to hang out with on a Saturday night. And did I mention cash -- he's got oodles of it thanks to his university education and zero kids.
Or does he? Does being gay really mean you also have the right of passage to being a trendsetter? With Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras being top of mind right now, I spoke to a few wine industry types about capturing this lucrative market via sponsorship.
Mildara Blass' Yellowglen brand is the current wine sponsor of the event that puts a strain on the world's glitter supplies. Linda Knock spoke on behalf of Yellowglen. "Gays and lesbians do tend to have a large disposable income and they're also probably risk aversive in that they are willing to try new things.
"We've done a lot of research on the segments of the market we work in and also the segments we have previously had little success in and this sector stood out. Not necessarily as in a gay segment, but as in the pubs and clubs market."
Interestingly, one of the hardest nuts for a wine company to crack is getting their premium wines listed in bars and clubs. Quite often these venues will only buy the cheapest of wines (costing as little as $4 per bottle) and mark them up by a whopping 500 percent. By listing a more expensive wine, the proprietor risks losing money (their extra-curricular habits are quite expensive you know).
Another reason people won't buy well-known wine is because of today's labels, labels, labels mentality. Remember, a glass of Bollinger looks exactly like a glass of crap in a dimly lit meat market.
Look at the success of Stoli Lemon Ruskis. Is it really the taste or is it that people just want to be seen holding the brand name "Stolichnaya"? And how does a competing wine company overcome that? With their new brand name-friendly 'Piccolos'. And with their Mardi Gras sponsorship, Yellowglen is hoping every gay man and lesbian in Sydney will jump onto the bandwagon and gradually seed its newly released piccolos into club-land...They hope.
How Yellowglen will do this was not made clear. But it does appear to be a muted campaign if it is to be compared to last year's Killawarra effort. I should know, as I ran it. There was colour, movement, a drag queen named Claire de Lune, a seven foot Dutch Adonis and not forgetting the frock made to resemble a glass of champagne.
I asked Southcorp's Sparkling Wine Brand Manager for Killawarra, Craig Young why he decided to pull the wig on the sponsorship after a five-year involvement. Could it be because gays and lesbians aren't trendsetters after all? Was there no value in the sponsorship?
"No, not at all. The gay and lesbian market is still a very important segment for Killawarra to be aligned with. Just as people who are in the fashion or artistic industries are also important. Unfortunately Lindemans sponsorship of the Olympic Games and the subsequent drain on resources prevented the company from entering its sponsorship this year. We will definitely return to sponsor the gay and lesbian community in some form or another in the not too distant future." OK, you're off the hook.
Recently, Sydney gay rag, the Sydney Star Observer poled their readers (minds above the waistline please) and found the following damming proof on this niche happy 10 percent.
The results of the income section of the survey showed that many respondents' gross wages sit at the upper level of earnings compared to the rest of the population. However, while 19.4 percent of respondents earned over $75,000 in the previous 12 months, 13.3 percent earned less than $20,000 per annum. More people earned less than $20,000 (13.3 percent) than earned more than $100,000 (10.6 percent). This information would appear to belie the impression that gay men and lesbians are rolling in the pink dollar and instead, reflects the diversity of the community as a whole. -- SSO Issue 543 by Sarah Bacon
From the same newspaper is Brad Johnson, he's like the Alan Jones of gay media. "The pink dollar is a bit of a fallacy really. Sure there are a lot of rich queens running around with high disposable incomes but this is hardly universal. I think this mistaken belief is often reflected in the sort of advertising and marketing campaigns they come up with.
"Last year Stoli represented the community [in their advertising] without one single woman. Companies either rely on base sexual innuendo or really tired visual cliches. I think a certain subtlety is needed."
Brad went on to say the flip side of being an early adopter is that gays and lesbians are also early denouncers. If they feel like they're being condescended to, the market will certainly react.
"I really don't know any person who has changed their buying habits because they have seen an ad in the Mardi Gras guide," concluded Brad. "I don't know anyone who is that gullible.
It would appear the jury is still out.