View All

Memory Making at LGBTQIA+ Events: Powered by SOLE Science™

In March 2023, GMR launched the inaugural GMR Brand Experience Index© (GBEI), a report based on data we’ve collected at more than 500 branded experiences over the past 3 years. Our data science practice, which we call SOLE Science™, uses this data to rank more than just brand activations—it informs our client solutions, deepens our strategic insights, and educates our StoryMakers on the power of live experiences, which is where I’m focusing today.


In partnership with the agency’s DEI team, GMR’s Laurence Velcoff (Executive Strategy Director and co-lead of GMR's LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Group, Prism), Dr. Joseph Cera (Head of Data Science) and I analyzed the uniqueness in events specifically tailored or known for their LGBTQIA+ inclusivity. Leveraging our expansive set of live event measurements through SOLE Science™, we uncovered key differences in how brands can successfully create sticky, brand-embedded memories.

Bigger does not always mean better

As experience designers, our instinct can be "go as big as budget allows." After all, bigger footprints attract more attention, leading to higher volumes of attendees engaging with the brand.


SOLE Science™ research supports that larger footprints correlate with a higher likelihood of creating a brand-embedded memory at most events. However, at LGBTQIA+ events, smaller footprints tend to overperform and bigger spaces have diminishing returns above medium size spaces. That means that, when considering an activation footprint at an LGBTQIA+ event, going big doesn’t matter as much as it does at other events.

But why?

Attendees at identity-focused events seek to feel belonging among like-minded individuals while preserving their own individuality. GMR’s Experience EQ defines this intersection of Self-Expression and Community as Cultureship. It’s a disposition and desire that Laurence has expertly described as “The Me in We.”


Brands can provide benefit to the LGBTQIA+ community by creating more intimate spaces where 1:1 connection can be fostered.

How do we ensure those interactions are memorable?

Your people are the key

Humans matter. We know this. Just as an over-attentive or under-attentive waiter can tarnish a dining experience, the interactions we have at brand activations influence the memory we make with that brand. Through the String of Lights Effect, we know those memories can impact whether a consumer considers your brand when the moment of choice comes around.

A Brand Ambassador is your brand!

Our research shows that unengaged, passive brand ambassadors lead to poor outcomes at all events. According to the LGBTQIA+ event analysis, brand ambassadors are a key differentiating factor between an amazing or a sub-par experience.


The success of your brand activation hinges on the personal connections with attendees. There is no substitute for having community-immersed brand ambassadors able to say “I/we” vs “You/they.”

Understand the context

"Showing up isn't the same as being all-in. People will welcome brands into environments they care about, but not if they feel ignored, or stereotyped." - 2022 GMR Brand Experience Index©


The LGBTQIA+ community has unique needs and desires when attending an event. For example, showing up to Pride with the cookie-cutter activation you take everywhere else communicates that you don’t genuinely understand the community or do not care to invest the time or resources to show you do. Yet, we see way too many brands continue to do this. We have heard firsthand from our data collectors they would rather brands guilty of this “just not show up at all.”


We've seen over a thousand activations in the last couple years. A standout example of a brand connecting authentically at an identity-focused event was Vital Proteins at Chicago Pride last year. Their headline of "Love is Vital" seamlessly blended their brand while communicating their heart for the community. Their partnership with a local Chicago artist resulted in a paint-by-numbers experience with the collaborative artwork being donated to LGBTQIA+ youth-focused, The Trevor Project. It was authentic to the Vital Proteins brand, impactful to the LGBTQIA+ community, and relevant to a Pride event.


As we move forward, let’s lead with a posture of inclusivity to shape our decisions in crafting experiences for LGBTQIA+ and other identity-focused events. Let's engage our colleagues in these communities for their perspectives. Let's prioritize the attendee's human needs over what assets are already available in the marketing closet.


By doing so, we can create memorable, authentic experiences that create memories that matter. And we can use our data to help you do the same.