Wednesday, April 14, 2010


By Joey Amato

In 1990, a young entrepreneur named Andrew Isen had a vision. He was a successful young man who felt like corporate America was not speaking to him. “I was openly gay, had a large disposable income and I was not on anyone’s marketing list.” This may be seen as a positive for most people who get bombarded by junk-mail every day, but for Isen, this was an opportunity.

Working off his kitchen table with nothing but an IBM and a phone, Isen started WinMark Concepts, Inc., a company which became an award-winning, full-service marketing and communications firm targeting the gay and lesbian community. Note that I did not say LGBT community. Isen tells SFGN that his company “Doesn’t use LGBT in their marketing materials because in the business world, companies aren’t seeking to reach bisexual and transsexual consumers.”

The success of WinMark was helped by Isen’s extensive education, receiving both his BBA and MBA from George Washington University. Throughout his career, Isen garnered experience in strategic planning, program development, experiential and field marketing, on-line marketing and consumer research, services which are now offered by WinMark.

Long before the era of MySpace and Facebook, direct mail was the most cost effective way to reach a specific market. Isen began with his company with a cooperative advertising campaign called Direct Male, which targeted gay men, 90% of which were unreachable by any other means. The highly successful campaign caught the attention of tobacco-maker, Philip Morris, which Isen shares, “Was my first client and the first company I sent an invoice to.”

Philip Morris hired WinMark to conduct a survey regarding the smoking habits of gay men, which was printed as a feature story in the New York Times. Since then, Isen has worked with over 700 companies, both large and small, all trying to target the gay and lesbian community. The Washington D.C. based company is now celebrating its 20th Anniversary.

“We discovered in our very first year the tremendous buying power of the GLBT market. Gay and lesbian consumers can be very loyal to specific brands that appeal to them, and they show their support in buying goods and services from these companies,” continues Isen. “And we have worked with many Fortune 500 companies that embrace these ideals, and offer for their own employees’ domestic partner benefits, non-discrimination policies, and financial support for organizations supporting equality. We’re thrilled that more and more companies are joining this roster and offering these benefits to all their employees, and we applaud their efforts.”

WinMark was the first company to work with the British Tourist Authority to launch a gay and lesbian marketing initiative. That campaign, generated over $450 million in revenue to the British economy. Furthermore, WinMark was the first company to work with Fannie Mae. “We were hired to provide an advertising campaign to show imagery of what middle class gay and lesbian households may look like.”

According to, the buying power of U.S. gays and lesbians is expected to exceed $835 billion by 2011. Additional research shows these groups are more likely to seek out companies who advertise to them, and are willing to pay higher prices for premium products and services. They also show that twice as many gay and lesbian Americans are to have graduated from college, twice as likely to have an individual income exceeding $60,000, and twice as likely to have a household income of $250,000 or more.

“We’re proud to celebrate WinMark’s 20th anniversary and are also proud to be the first full-service marketing and communications firm to truly recognize the immense power of gay & lesbian consumers,” Isen states.

A busy work schedule has not deterred Isen from devoting part of his life to philanthropy. He is a large supporter of the Point Foundation, an organization which provides financial support, mentoring and leadership training to meritorious students who are marginalized due to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Furthermore, Isen contributes heavily to both the Human Rights Campaign as well as the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Named one of OUT Magazine’s “OUT 100” and with nearly 30 years of integrated marketing experience, WinMark’s Isen has made an endurable mark on the gay and lesbian community.

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