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    The gay male demo has both the means and the motivation for cosmetic procedures. Sector specialists say that reaching them starts with reaching out


    A cosmetic industry advertiser's dream, the gay male demographic is known to have high discretionary income and its members tend to put a premium on personal appearance. Even better news: it is relatively easy to effectively and affordably reach this market, if you understand its nuances.

    "There are certain areas of luxury that are very common in the gay and lesbian community, with the most popular being travel, electronics, fitness and fashion. I think plastic surgery would be right up there, and plastic surgeons could be very successful in targeting gays and lesbians," says David Paisley, senior project manager of Community Marketing, a San Francisco marketing and consulting company that specializes in outreach to the gay and lesbian communities.

    THE GAY UNIVERSE Truly understanding the size and scope of the gay male market is tricky. The U.S. Census does not take sexual orientation into consideration, so the data gathering is left to third-party researchers, says Wesley Combs, president of Witeck-Combs Communications in Washington, D.C., a marketing, communications and public relations firm specializing in helping companies reach the gay market.

    According to Witeck-Combs Communications/Packaged Facts, it is estimated that there are between 8.5 and 9 million gay men in the U.S. over the age of 18. Other Witeck-Combs research suggests that 6.7 percent of the U.S. population (or 15 million people) older than 18 years are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT).

    Wesley Combs
    WHAT ADVERTISERS NEED TO KNOW These are loyal consumers. Gay men and lesbians make up a highly brand-loyal market segment, observes Mr. Combs, who is coauthor of Business Inside Out: Capturing Millions of Brand Loyal Gay Consumers.

    "They are much more likely to purchase products and services from companies that specifically target them," Mr. Combs says. "By targeting them, that means not only just placing advertisements in a GLBT publication, GLBT Web site or sponsoring a GLBT event, it also means achieving relevance. Advertisers have to include the right imagery...or language that speaks to a GLBT person."

    HIGH DISCRETIONARY INCOME Gay male households tend to have more discretionary income than the average household, largely because only 20 percent to 25 percent of the population has children.

    "This means they have that much extra money to spend on themselves," Mr. Combs notes.

    Further, "There is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that gay men are more vain and have a tendency to put more emphasis on their personal looks than the rest of the population."

    David Paisley
    Although this and many other surveys include the entire gay market (GLBT), without specifying gender, a study by Witeck-Combs in March 2005 suggests that GLBTs have more of some cosmetic procedures than the general population. Specifically, in the cases of teeth whitening, bonding or other kinds of cosmetic dental work, 15 percent of GLBTs surveyed said they had some kind of cosmetic dentistry versus nine percent of heterosexuals. In the facial skin resurfacing treatment category, seven percent of GLBTs reported having some sort of facial rejuvenation versus only three percent of heterosexuals, and twice as many GLBTs (four percent versus two percent) used Botox compared to heterosexuals.

    AN INTERNET-FRIENDLY DEMO GLBTs are also more likely to turn to the Internet for health-related information. "Twenty-five percent of gays and lesbians search the Internet once a month or at least every other week for health information for themselves versus 17 percent of heterosexuals," Mr. Combs relates.

    For the cosmetic surgeon wanting to reach the audience, it means having a strong, professional-looking Web presence that speaks to the gay male in the way of visuals, language and services offered, according to Mr. Paisley. Some businesses, he says, set up separate micro-sites on their Web sites for the gay community, specifically addressing the concerns of gay men or men in general.


    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton is a writer in Boca Raton, Fla., who heads up her company, Words Come Alive.


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