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Coming out of the Closet

Exploring LGBT Issues in Strategic Communication with Theory and Research

Edited By Natalie T.J. Tindall and Richard D. Waters

Despite representing significant portions of the advertising, marketing, and public relations work force, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community has largely been ignored by scholarly research in strategic communications. With the exception of case studies that document strategies that can be used to secure the LGBT consumer dollar, little has been done to understand the LGBT community’s experiences with strategic communications efforts. This edited volume fills this gap by sharing research on the impact and interaction of campaigns and programming from advertising, marketing, and public relations on internal (e.g., practitioners and employees) and external (e.g., consumers, activists) stakeholders from the LGBT community. Several chapters in this volume highlight a significant change in the focus of strategic communications that recognizes the long-term benefits of having legitimate partnerships; others, however, counter this optimistic trend by discussing the continued struggles of practitioners working in strategic communication and the LGBT community at large.
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Chapter 10: Absolut Vodka: Defining, Challenging, or Reinforcing Gay Identity?

Extract

Christopher Chávez and Katie R. Place

In 2011, Absolut Vodka launched a $4 million campaign celebrating its 30-year relationship with the gay community. While it may seem opportunistic to tap into the subcultural zeitgeist in an effort to market vodka, the company has built a strong loyalty among LGBT consumers. Over the course of three decades, Absolut has placed advertising in gay-targeted media, maintained a presence in community events, and contributed to important LGBT social organizations. In 2009, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) publically thanked Absolut for its investment in gay-targeted media and its inclusive portrayals of LGBT individuals in mainstream venues (GLAAD, 2009). During a 2011 interview in The New York Times, Maxime Kouhnir, vice president of Absolut’s parent company, Pernard Ricard USA, described Absolut’s involvement in the gay community as “a loyal affair between us and the LGBT community, a journey together…yes, we’re a business, but at the end of the day, it’s our choice to have invested for 30 years behind this” (Elliot, 2011).

This tension between social advocacy and profit motive warrants further examination. There is a rich literature supporting the notion that the practices of the marketing industry inherently reflect ideological positions that often go undetected by its practitioners. Given Absolut’s apparent success in targeting gay consumers, how does the brand reconcile social advocacy with marketplace logic? Focusing specifically on its “In an Absolut World” campaign and its surrounding efforts, we examine how the brand’s advertising...

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