3 Key Takeaways from Brand Innovators at SXSW

Lumen Research partnered with Brand Innovators during South by Southwest in Austin, Texas for an action-packed three days of sessions, where there was a lot of thought-provoking discussion about why brands must adapt to a new era – and why. 

Many of the conversations focused on the changing shape of the consumer journey. With so many devices and channels to discover a product today, the consumer path to purchase is being redefined as something that is nonlinear and often unpredictable. 

Among the many great sessions throughout the event, Lumen’s Scott Linzer had the chance to speak with Ivonne Kinser, VP of Marketing and Innovation at Avocados from Mexico. Ivonne’s lessons were clear: brands must think about measurement from a broader perspective and it all starts with understanding the customer behind the screen.

Here are three highlights from the sessions: 

1. Impressions Must be Redefined for a New Era. 

Ivonne explained that the Avocados from Mexico team measured impressions across three core categories: Digital, TV, and PR. Between 2015 and 2022, the team delivered 50 billion impressions. Starting in 2015, Avocado from Mexicos had launched the first-ever commercial about fruit during the biggest football game of the year – and continued to measure and optimize ad creative and ad messaging to improve results ever year since. The most recent ad, “Garden of Eden,” drove 12 billion impressions. On social, Avacodos from Mexico drove 2.8 billion impressions, tracking and measuring hashtags to see consumer sentiment.  

From TV campaigns to social campaigns, Avocados from Mexico has continued to innovate to reach the customer. Take for example, the Genius Music Lab from Avocados from Mexico, an AI-powered (Avocado Intelligence!) digital experience with a Spotify integration that has been visited by 2.5 million users looking to create their own songs. Next up: a food summit that’s all about avocados. 

By centering all advertising on the consumer experience with the brand and taking a broader look at all the metrics that are part of the consumer relationship, Ivonne and the team have gotten a full picture of the brand’s year-over-year growth and adapted to new trends with ad experiences that are unique and rewarding for each engagement. 

When looking toward the future of measurement, Ivonne and Scott highlighted Lumen’s eye-tracking attention technology as one of the most exciting new ways to measure and optimize for brand marketing and how attention can drive better experiences and better outcomes. Stay tuned for the full video and transcript soon!   

2. Advertisers Must Understand Consumer Patterns.

In a discussion with Jaclyn Ruelle, VP Head of Brand, Papa John’s, and Pam Scheideler, Head of Digital at Edelman US, Jaclyn talked about the importance of having a human approach when changing brand perception. Specifically, her goal has been to provoke change and become part of a brand evolution by having a creative ambition that meets culture. 

Papa Johns is adapting to the nonlinear consumer journey by entering cultural conversations to become approachable and authentic. As Pam explained, this comes down to embedding the brand in a consumer’s pattern and showing up in authentic ways. 

As Ivonne also covered by explaining the scripting and testing process for ads, Ruelle emphasized the importance of testing to drive better results. In short: testing is becoming a new bidding strategy for advertisers. Even when it comes to the pizza menu. 

During the February 2023 product launch around the Papa John’s Crispy Parm pizza, Ruelle explained that the consumer interaction with the pizza even influenced the messaging. When the team noticed that consumers would flip the pizza upside-down to see the cheese on the bottom of the crust, the campaign itself became all about a “flippin’ awesome innovation” to meet the customer exactly where they were. 

3. The Brand Renaissance Begins with Creative. 

In a talk about unleashing creativity, Linda Bethea, Head of Marketing at Danone and Eric Flinn, Executive Creative Director at Danone, spoke with Andrew Horlick, VP of Channel Partnerships at Caden about how to test content on new platforms and how metrics are starting to change with the consumer journey.

Linda and Eric highlighted the need for agility and flexibility, like when Danone discovered a viral post about the brand’s coffee creamer and decided to join in on the joke. Creative, at the end of the day, Eric explained, must evoke emotion to become memorable. A new media mix should be modeled as much on sentiment as on traditional metrics, because to understand true brand impact, sentiment is often more important to understand than engagement. In many cases, sentiment, like attention, comes before engagement. 

In another session, Chief Marketing Officer Jessica Jensen of Indeed.com echoed the statement by saying that this could be the year of the brand. Performance marketing is changing as cookies and tracking IDs become less reliable and CPMs get higher. Citing an Airbnb report that proved brand marketing drives more value than performance marketing, the panel agreed that there is a new kind of importance to the brand experience, from company mission to creative. Branding that educates, as it turns out, can be even more effective than deals and discounts. 

The Next Generation of the Consumer Journey 

Over the past few years, as attribution for performance marketing channels has been getting walled off into different platforms, there’s now a need to think through how brand marketing can really be measured – and what should be measured. 

At Lumen, we’ve discovered that attention-first advertising is the most direct way to understand brand impact both from a qualitative and quantitative view, whether the ultimate goal is ad efficiency, brand lift, or return on ad spend. As more companies focus on the consumer behind the screen – not just the numbers reported by the machine – we expect attention to become the go-to measurement layer that offers new transparency and new opportunities for brands to connect with the customer experience.