Many European and American companies have focused on gay consumers for at least two decades now. However, this trend is only starting to catch on in Japan, as here same-sex relationships still lack legal recognition and are rarely discussed in public.
But polls show that homosexuality is more and more accepted and companies such as SoftBank or Dentsu have already applied gay-oriented marketing.
“They know that there is a market,” Masaki Higashida, a former Deutsche Bank AG analyst said. “The majority of gay people can not get married or have kids, leaving them with more discretionary income.”
SoftBank, the Tokyo-based mobile-phone company, and Alfa Romeo were among the sponsors in 2013 of the Tokyo International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival and the Tokyo SuperStar Awards, a gala to recognize contributions to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Other sponsors of the awards included Google, Dentsu, IBM, Ernst & Young LLP, Deutsche Bank and Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.
“We believe LGBT people should be appreciated as individuals, and that is why we decided to be a sponsor,” said a spokeswoman for Dentsu.
About 5 percent of the country’s 127 million people identify themselves as gay, lesbian or transgender, according to a 2012 market survey by Dentsu.
Although progress is being made towards gay-acceptance, there might be necessary for around 20 more years to pass for Japan to enact significant gay-rights legislation, as the country is run by a “conservative political elite,” said Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University in Tokyo.