Your Money and Your Heart

Understanding consumer behavior

When Brands Take a Stand on Gay Marriage

Amazon & Expedia both have ads supporting gay marriage. Is this a good thing?

Expedia and Amazon have both recently come out with ads portraying married gay couples. The ads are quite different, but in both cases, the brands appear to be taking a stand on this issue.

The Kindle ad from Amazon (click here to view) is subtle. A man seems to be flirting with a woman, but it turns out, his husband is getting him a drink from the bar, and so is her husband. It is a short simple ad, with a nice little twist at the end.

Expedia’s ad (click here to view), which already has over two million hits on YouTube, is both longer and far more emotionally impactful. In fact, in Ad Age’s competition for most emotionally impactful tear jerker viral video (click here to view), that Expedia ad came in first place by a land slide. It also got my vote.

So is this smart marketing or a sincere stand by the people of Expedia and Amazon? The truth is that it may be both. The executives at Amazon and Expedia have supported gay marriage for a while now. However, research that came out just this week shows that more and more of the country supports gay marriage as well, especially young and educated Americans.

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Specifically, a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll suggests that 81% of Americans under 30 support gay marriage, but so do 44% of seniors (including my own parents I am proud to say!). Both of these age groups have shown substantial increases in support over the past ten years. Along political lines, 72% of Democrats, 62% of independents and 34% of Republicans support gay marriage. Clearly, most Independents are siding with Democrats on this issue. Again, among all groups, support for gay marriage is on the rise.

Of course Chick-Fil-A took a very different stand on gay marriage, coming out against it. While I personally disagreed with the stand, I appreciated the great material it gave Jon Stewart of the Daily Show for one of his funniest monologues ever (click here to view).

Joh Stewart The Daily Show
Jon Stewart on Chick-Fil

All three of these brands got plenty of media attention as a result of taking a stand. In each of these three cases, some consumers reacted positively, and some reacted negatively, but just about everyone had an opinion. So what does the future hold? Will more brands come out with a stand on gay marriage? Will more brands move into other hot issues, such as gun control? Is all this a good thing or a bad thing?

Personally, I think the trend will continue, and that it is a good thing. Big brands have the power of making a statement on a large scale. So many of the ads we are exposed to each day seem irrelevant, boring and/or meaningless. They don’t manage to break through the clutter because so often, they don’t seem to be saying anything important or authentic. In contrast, the Expedia and Amazon Kindle ads are actually saying something, which apparently, more than half of Americans are likely to appreciate!

When brands (not to mention politicians and celebrities) take a stand on an issue, it gets people thinking more deeply, and talking to others who may agree or disagree with them. Maybe some people don’t want their brands getting involved in their politics, but given the millions of dollars in corporate campaign contributions currently affecting our political landscape, companies getting involved in politics isn’t new. One huge difference between huge campaign contributions and what I call brand-takes-a-stand-messaging is that marketing messages are far more transparent. We know who is taking what stand, and for a change, they are including us all in the conversation. We can choose to ignore such messages, or even to boycott the brands whose messages we disagree with. However, as the success of viral success of these messages suggest, there may be more to be gained than there is to be lost from brands taking a stand.

gay men Amazon
two women kissing

 For more interesting reading on relationships and psychology, see recent post on How Gratitude Can Make You Sexier

Michal Ann Strahilevitz, Ph.D., is a professor of marketing at Golden Gate University.

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