SXSW 2019 Recap: Creating Authentic Brand Relationships

Marketing Innovation

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SXSW 2019 Recap: Creating Authentic Brand Relationships

Marketing Innovation

I’ve recently returned from Austin, where SXSW 2019 just wrapped up. Much of the conversation at SXSW this year revolved around artificial intelligence and paradoxically,  human-based interactions. Specifically, brand marketers were focused on authenticity––what it means today and what lessons can be learned from direct to consumer brands (DTC) and large brands alike.

During a keynote for Brand Innovators Austin, which occurred in tandem with SXSW 2019, Viacom Velocity’s Senior Director, Mary Kate Callen, shared that customers are twice as likely to pay more to use products or services if they view the brand as authentic. While this stat and the need for authenticity is not a new concept, what it brought to mind is the need to connect customers’ feelings to actual results. Brands that understood this years ago and drew a line between brand love and their bottom line now have some best practices to share. Here are a few we learned:

Authenticity in product development

When evaluating how to shift the conversation from deals to ease of ordering, Domino’s wanted to change the way people thought about pizza and show they understood their customers. During a Brand Innovators Austin session, Domino’s Director of Digital Media and Marketing, Stephen Kennedy, explained that instead of trying to go head-to-head on promotions with their competitors, they focused on the customer experience. They developed ordering mechanisms across multiple platforms including mobile,Twitter, voice, and smart watches. Additionally, to better understand their customers at the individual level, the company also created a special “Points for Pies” promotion by having customers take a photo of their pies and share on the Domino’s app for points. This promotion, along with giving consumers multiple platforms to place orders, resulted in a more than 65% increase in digital sales, skyrocketing Domino’s share of the quick-service pizza category, an industry worth more than $41B.

Authenticity in marketing approach


In a fireside chat during Brand Innovators Austin, Burger King’s Global Chief Marketing Officer, Fernando Machado, shared with LiveRamp’s Chief Evangelist of Global Business Solutions Gayatri Bhalla, his obsession with great advertising and pushing the creative threshold.

To create successful campaigns, Machado keeps customers front and center in the ideation. Burger King consumers are fun, wacky, and enjoy things that push boundaries. Machado and his team channel this concept into their marketing, with cutting edge campaigns like “Whopper Detour,” a campaign that sent customers to their nearest McDonald’s to order a Whopper from the Burger King app, thereby driving it to the #1 spot across both app stores in a week, and the “Chocolate Whopper” April Fool’s campaign that went viral with user generated content. By embracing this playful spirit, Machado and his team have grown their brand value from $1.77B in 2010 to $6.56B in 2018.

Authenticity in data management

Finally, a conversation around brand authenticity would not be complete without addressing data ethics. In the SXSW 2019 interactive session “Modern Marketing: Authenticity in the Age of GDPR,” panelists from Monotype and Schlage Locks, along with our own Michael Bowie, LiveRamp’s Head of Data Ethics, discuss how brands can reach consumers accurately and push marketing boundaries authentically, while also maintaining compliance with current and upcoming privacy regulation.

Schlage’s Director of Consumer Marketing, Jason Owens, discussed how the company paused marketing initiatives that may have felt intrusive to consumers, favoring a general awareness approach. Similarly, Brett Zucker, CMO of Monotype, shared how their Olapic division, an influencer marketing platform, took advantage of news on increasing privacy breaches as an opportunity to sit down with each of their brand clients and have an open discussion about the changing data privacy ecosystem.

Expanding on Monotype’s approach, Michael invited the group to remain authentic to their brand when building their own data ethics policies. Rather than thinking of GDPR and privacy laws as another rule, he urged the audience to think of it as a competitive advantage and switch the narrative to ask, “What opportunities have/can the new privacy rules open up for your relationship with your customers?”

Michael emphasized that long-term customer relationships must be built on trust and transparency. Customers want a personal relationship and to interact with a brand that is true to its values, knows its customers, and doesn’t attempt to be anything it’s not. As businesses strive to make it easier to connect with customers, that need must be balanced against regulations like GDPR that allow individuals to know how their data is being used.

Marketers are matchmakers

Consumers want to have a personal relationship with brands, and that authentic relationship with your consumers starts with having a deep understanding of them. With the growing number of touch points, less becomes more. As King’s Hawaiian Marketing Director, Jason Waggoner, pointed out in a Brand Innovators Austin session, brands need to think about the message they want to get across to build that relationship, rather than the tools they want to use.

Brand Innovators’ interim CMO, Ted Rubin, sees this relationship with consumers as a two-way approach. He encouraged companies to change the advertising mindset of targeting customers, a one-way interaction, noting that no one wants to feel targeted. Rather, if you think about making a “match” with your customers, they will have a more positive experience with your brand.

To learn more about how LiveRamp can help marketers be matchmakers, take a look at LiveRamp’s Ideabook on second-party data. Also, to hear more about LiveRamp’s approach to authenticity, data management, and data ethics, check out our RampUp on the Road schedule and see if we’ll be in your neighborhood.