Since the early 1990s, national marketers and advertisers have recognized a new specialized market segment: gay consumers. Prior to this, advertising targeted to gay men was primarily in local gay-oriented newsletters and newspapers and national circulation gay erotica. Personal classifieds and advertisements placed by local gay-owned businesses were the primary sources of advertising income for the newsletters and newspapers. By contrast, advertising in the erotica was quite limited and did not include national advertisers of recognized brands of consumer goods and services. In just a couple of decades, all this has changed to the point where media directed to gay men have expanded considerably and are supported in large part by the paid advertising of well known brands like Budweiser, United Airlines, Nike, Ralph Lauren, and the like.
Gay consumers now constitute what marketers refer to as a niche market, that is, a special market segment with its own characteristic profile that is large enough in size and affluent enough to warrant special consideration. In addition to gay consumers, other important niche markets include African Americans and Latinos—both of which also constitute sizeable and affluent sets of consumers that garner the attention of marketers.
Marketing research firms in the late 1980s and early 1990s conducted surveys that attempted to assess the income of gay consumers. Their research established the notion that gay consumers are typically better educated, earn higher incomes, and are more likely to occupy professional positions than their straight counterparts. Along with these findings came the idea that gay households typically have two incomes and no additional dependents. Although difficult to determine actual numbers of gays in the population, many marketers simply followed the one-to-ten number proposed by Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s in estimating the size of the gay population.
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