Dylan spends P16,000 a month for twice weekly nights out in gay clubs where members of the LGBTQIA+ are not judged for spending their money on what makes them happy, the same way engaged couples are free to spend years worth of savings for a grand wedding.
The 23-year-old's clubbing budget shows how "pink" money, estimated worldwide at $1 trillion, or 116 times Elon Musk's net worth, is a lucrative and mostly uncharted territory in conservative societies that ascribe male and female behaviors to spending behavior.
"It’s a trauma response," he joked to reportr, noting how being forced to stay at home during the pandemic led him to budget a part of his salary to partying.
Dylan said going to bars that are "designed for self-expression" renewed his spirit that was mostly restrained by the COVID situation, and so long as these spaces remain "safe" for him, he will keep coming through their doors.
"I recognized how privileged I am to be able to do this, both financially and as a cisgender homosexual man. The level of comfort in these spaces still varies within the community, but at the very least, unlike sa mga regular bars, sa gay bars, halos lahat kayo may shared struggle mayaman man o mahirap. You don’t have to explain who you are," he said.
Pink peso is power
The potential of this underrated global market was recognized as early as July 1991, when conservative newspaper The Wall Street Journal referred to the gay and lesbian community as a “dream market", a 2007 report by Outrage Mag noted.
By 2019, the queer community's buying power was estimated to be worth $1 trillion, data from a study conducted by Kantar Consulting and LGBTQ+ social media platform Hornet titled "$1 Trillion Blind Spot" showed.
Younger generations are more fluid in their sexual orientations and gender identities than ever before in history, signaling an opportunity for brands to take on more inclusive marketing, the report said.
In the Philippines, the impact of opinion leaders in the segment is "already undeniable", said Louie Lee, who teaches marketing at the University of the Philippines.
"Trend-conscious" industries of beauty, fashion, and entertainment, where brands like Close Up have been thriving with barrier-breaking campaigns, Lee said.
There is also the place held by Vice Ganda, an openly LGBT commedienne, who is among the country's leading celebrity endorsers. Recently, vlogger Mimiyuuuh has been having a similar moment, landing multimillion-peso endorsements since she shot to social media fame just three years ago in 2019.
As for the "more monolithic" food, home, and infrastructure industries that depend on the maintenance of the traditional happy Filipino family, Lee said they will "expectedly be slower to pivot" to such emergent markets, citing the concern of potentially alienating their core consumers.
Is turning 'rainbow' enough?
Inclusive marketing is a tricky endeavor. As with most strategies of brands taking a stand in support of a particular cause, sincerity is always in question.
"Simply using the lens of the capitalist enterprise to diagnose the needs of an entire collective interest tends to boil down their "needs and motivations" to the lowest common (and therefore most cost efficient to address) denominator," Lee said.
He noted how firms "often" get way with allusions to inclusion and acceptance during Pride Month that are "neither appropriate to their brand nor value-adding to the community". Burger King Austria came under fire recently for a Pride campaign that was seen as a "misinformed" nod to sex within the LGBTQ+ community.
So long as corporations continue to tie the relevance of marketing to the LGBTQ+ market solely to their purchasing power, and not for what they really are—"an 'othered' intersectional community that contributes to society but is still barred from enjoying all its benefits, and/or discriminated against and ostracized (as such, the need to celebrate Pride)", Lee said "rainbow capitalism will never really match the advocacies of Pride".
"At its most harmless, it is a trend that allows brands to pander to a popular focus group for incremental brand awareness once a year; at its worst, it is a smokescreen to prevent progressive communities from unearthing inconsistencies between a firm's CSR (corporate social responsibility) persona and any harmful business practices," he said.
So what, then, must businesses do?
Corporations can use their resources to provide sustainable economic support to underserved LGBTQ+ communities and individuals, all while designing inclusive and value-adding products or services that take as many of the intersectional nuances of the Filipino LGBTQ+ experience into consideration, Lee said.
Internally, "corporations have the power to improve the quality of life of their LGBTQ+ employees through specialized benefit packages such as those not exclusively available to traditional spousal or familial set ups," he said, adding they could also embody a corporate culture that ensures an avenue for LGBTQ+ employees to hold executive positions in their organizations.
Big businesses can take their cue from smaller ones that have been carving "safe spaces" for members of the community through the years.
Kris Sangalang, a partner at BGC's queer Nectar Nightclub, said "being outed prematurely" to his family made it hard for him to express himself growing up.
"I wouldn't want anyone else to experience what I experienced," he told reportr, explaining how in 2014, he established his own events management company that specializes in organizing queer events. He is also the head of Events and Onsite activation for The Red Whistle, a health and human rights volunteer organization that supports people living with HIV, people of diverse SOGIESC, and people struggling with their mental health.
"It was intentional for me to be in the events industry so I can provide the safe space I wanted during my teenage years to the new generations of queer people," he said.
Gureisu Okawari, a popular food and drinks spot at The Pop Up in Quezon City, has become the new hot spot for weekend nights out for mostly young members of the community, albeit by accident.
Owner Cassandra Laforteza, a "proud LGBTQ+ ally", told reportr there was no deliberate marketing strategy on their part, until her friend, international drag superstar Manila Luzon visited last November.
"We had a blast that night and a lot of people enjoyed the party and the vibe so they went back the week after and they just keep on going back and inviting more people, everything just grew organically — and it just happens to be mostly queer people," she said.
As a two-woman owned business, "respect to all genders" was a must for putting up Gureisu Okawari for Laforteza. Much like how she is with her friends, "customers are free to be whoever they want to be here."