When Chevrolet prominently featured gay and lesbian couples in a family-focused commercial titled "The New Us," marketing experts saw it as a breakthrough.
And they think other automakers will come to see it the same way.
Justin Bell, CEO of Arc & Arrow Creative Group, an agency focused on connecting brands with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender market, calls the spot for the Traverse crossover, aired during NBC's Olympics broadcasts, "monumental," and says it was "no tiny move for Chevrolet" to include three families headed by gay couples among the 12 who were spotlighted.
Bell says he expects to see other brands "stepping up to the plate to market via a story of inclusion."
It's a tantalizing prospect for an agency such as Bell's. While automakers have long advertised in a targeted way to the LGBT market, they have typically avoided the kinds of bold marketing moves that could alienate segments of their customer base or muddle their brand image. Those concerns have kept LGBT messaging and imagery largely confined to media viewed only by the gay community.
But high-profile moves such as Chevy's, along with growing public acceptance of gay rights, could embolden other automakers to bring their LGBT messaging into the mainstream as part of establishing a more inclusive brand identity.
Scott Seitz, owner of SPI Marketing, an LGBT marketing and promotions agency, points to a March Washington Post/ABC News poll that found 59 percent support for same-sex marriage, up 10 percentage points from 2009. As that support grows, he says, more marketers, automakers included, are recognizing the LGBT consumer demographic as a means to get "their message through the clutter to the buyer."
LGBT consumers, he says, are "watching to see brands walk the walk."