Nikkie Tutorials coming out: the real market value of influencer sexual orientation
LGBT marketing done right can have a huge impact, but can be more complex than you think. Here are some best practices.
Nikkie De Jager, better known as Nikkie Tutorials to her 13 + million YouTube subscribers, is not a shy persona. She is charismatic, has strong opinions, and is not afraid of sharing them. Recently, in the face of being outed by a blackmailer, De Jager decided to take control of her narrative by proactively coming out on her popular YouTube channel.
Her blackmailer made a sore mistake both in terms of who they chose to threaten as well as the substance of that threat. “You can be you, you are in charge of your own life. We are in 2020 and if there ever was a time, the time is now”, Nikkie states in her coming out video. And the fact is she is right! Not only has being LGBT become acceptable in most western countries and especially in the US, it has become ‘trendy’. Despite having to deal with very real discrimination and harassment issues, the power of gay individuals has taken many industries and brands by storm - from Marriott to Delta. Brands understand how valuable being LGBT-positive can be. According to The New York Times, the LGBT community market value in the US alone is approximately $70 billion.
In this context, Nikkie has proven her market value time and time again. Since she started her YouTube channel back in 2008, she has collaborated with many cosmetics industry leaders including:
- Marc Jacobs
- Lady Gaga’s Haus Labs
Nikkie Tutorials is currently estimated to be worth $6 million. But the value Nikkie has created for her own brand is but a fraction of what she has done the brands she has promoted. Back in 2017, Nikkie helped Too Faced launch a new product which grossed $9 million - in large part due to Nikkie’s brand recognition and loyal following. Consumers ended up being disappointed with the quality of the item she was promoting which did harm to her credibility for a while. But that is not the point of this anecdote. The point is that certain influencers have immense power over their audience’s purchasing decisions - and Nikkie is a prime example. The point is also that adding an LGBT element into the marketing mix can have a very positive impact in terms of brand awareness and social involvement.
As far as Nikkie’s coming out video is concerned, it got insane engagement metrics that most marketers can only dream of:
- 32,257,850 views
- 2.7 million likes
- 345,603 comments
“This is a huge story, this video alone got over 30 million views. If we wanted to buy that number of views we would be looking at a cool $3 million! Coming out has generated amazing value and lift for the brands Nikkie is working with”, commented Gilad Ben-Nahum, VP product here at Novarize. “Novarize helps connect brands with their best audiences and has recently launched influencer discovery - a feature which allows brands to identify influencers like Nikkie who genuinely resonate with their followers”, adds Philip Burns, Novarize Director of Marketing.
Monetizing sexual orientation
However, some members of the LGBT community were less enthusiastic, stating that sexual orientation shouldn’t be leveraged for profit so unabashedly. Still, it’s hard to see this shift in a negative light. We've written before about the power of inclusivity marketing, and the fact that brands are excited about promoting gay families and gay love is a sign of gay economic power - as well as the acceptance of homosexuality by larger parts of society. In fact, according to a Gallup survey, the acceptance of gay relationships from a moral perspective has already crossed the 50% threshold among Americans.
LGBT marketing done right
If you identify with the supportive American majority and don’t take issue with ‘monetizing sexual orientation’ then you need to start seriously considering how you will run an influencer or marketing campaign with a clear gay agenda. Starting a campaign or collaborating with an influencer without taking some preliminary steps is a mistake. Here are some best practices to consider beforehand:
Align company policies
If you really want to tap into the LGBT market, its not enough to hire a gay influencer and expect that gay and trans consumers follow suit. You need to put your money where your mouth is. You need to have company policies in place which are supportive of gay employees and their rights. This may include:
- Offering the same benefits you offer married employees to same-sex domestic partners
- Putting hiring practices in place which are non-discriminatory in terms of sexual orientation
- Allowing employees to comfortably be ‘out’ at work
Marriott illustrates this point nicely. The hotel chain ran a campaign entitled #LoveTravels which was meant to show real gay couples vacationing at their hotels. Some of these gay influencers included basketball player Jason Collins as well as Geena Rocero, a transgender model. The hotel wanted to show that it provided an accepting and safe space for gay, bi and trans couples to vacation. The campaign was a huge success - it positioned Marriott as a true supporter of gay family values.
Why was this campaign so successful?
Using gay influencers as a ‘cheap trick’ to leverage your brand will probably do more harm than good and is very likely to backfire. Marriott was so successful with this campaign as it was aligned with their company policies. According to Kristine Friend, head of segment marketing at the hotel chain,"Marriott has had same-sex benefits since 1999". Marriott was also ranked as one of the best employers for LGBT people according to the HRC Corporate Equality Index. The success of this campaign can be attributed to the fact that Marriott used real gay couples as their influencers, and, more importantly, they already had gay-positive company policies in place going back years.
Another thing to consider is supporting LGBT events or causes. The reason this is a good idea is it shows your brand is not only trying to profit from this community but is also willing to invest and support LGBT causes. There are so many options in this regard, such as:
- Paying for a float at a pride parade in a city where you have a core audience presence.
- Sponsoring activities for gay youth at risk.
Delta is a great example of this.The airline encourages its employees to march in pride parades across the US, and contributes to said events. This is a great precursor to any campaign Delta may want to run in the future as it shows support for the community. Even if they never run a ‘gay influencer marketing campaign’, the event sponsorship in and of itself espouses authenticity and has monetary value in its own right. Eric Skains, the executive director of the St. Pete Pride Parade which is held in Tampa Bay, said that “More corporations got involved with St. Pete Pride a few years ago after a report showed the weekend event had an economic impact of $10 million”.
Aim to resonate
Many brands who want to reach a gay audience make the mistake of taking things to an extreme. Either they show eccentrically gay stereotypes or use gay symbols and iconography which are seen as inauthentic or disingenuous - the pride flag is a good example. On the other end of the spectrum you have companies who have ads which are ambiguous about the participants’ sexuality. They may show two men or women participating in an activity such as buying a piece of furniture. This is done in order to not offend audiences who are morally opposed to this lifestyle. If you really want to market to LGBT customers and resonate with your audience then attempt to make ads as real as possible. This may be two dads brushing their teeth with their children in the morning or two moms dropping-off their kids at school.
Remaining focused is very hard both on the brand and customer end. This is especially true when you try to resonate with a certain segment. On the one hand, you don’t want to come off too strong and get sucked into appeasement. On the other hand, you don’t want to be offensive. Most importantly, you want to maintain focus on your brand. LGBT people will appreciate you marketing to them like you would to any of your other audience segment.
A great example of a company and campaign that got this right is Allstate. The reason why I think they did such a good job is they were able to get their message across without compromising on their brand or message. In this short animated video they show a lonely man with an abnormally large hand who falls in love with another man who is ‘plagued’ with the same ‘deformity’. The large hands are an analogy for being different. At the end of the video, they fall in love and hold hands. Allstate gets their message across: ‘Being visible should never leave you feeling vulnerable. Everyone deserves to be in good hands’. In this instance Allstate was able to not compromise on their messaging, yet still resonate with their target audience.
They even took this one step further asking gay couples to take pictures of themselves holding hands in public and upload them using the hashtag ‘#outholdinghands’. This tapped into a genuine gay issue - holding hands in public and tied in perfectly with Allstate’s brand messaging.
Summing it up
“I wanted to share something with you today but under my own circumstances, and it looks as if that chance has been taken away from me”, said Nikkie in her coming out video. The fact that she was forced out of the closet is a really sad thing and I don’t think anyone deserves to have that happen to them.
But De Jager also said: “Today I am taking back my own power!” and that is very true! Not only did Nikkie’s blackmailer not get the opportunity to harm her and her business, it actually had the opposite effect. In my opinion, Nikkie being forced out of the closet will prove to be lucrative both for herself and for the brands she works with.
Doing influencer marketing for a very specific audience segment can be challenging, but when you gain real insight into what that audience needs and wants, as well as the right influencer to serve it to them, the sky is the limit.
Try Novarize’s audience discovery and insights tool today. And find real influencers that resonate with your target audience.