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In an era of data-driven insights, brand experiences are more important than ever for agencies

By , Head of Digital Operations at CBR Marketing.
10 Aug 2023
Dylan Balouza, Head of Digital Operations, CBR Marketing.
Dylan Balouza, Head of Digital Operations, CBR Marketing.

Agencies today have access to powerful tools and large datasets that provide more audience insights and information than ever before, but an over-reliance on these data-driven insights can actually detract from an agency’s impact and effectiveness.

How can you write ads, design or come up with a strategy for something you’ve never experienced before? How can you write ads for someone else to test drive a car if you’ve never been through that experience yourself as an agency? 

In the early days of Facebook pages (2011) and content creation, I was tasked with managing a page for a luxury car brand. However, other than what I’d seen on Top Gear or YouTube, I had barely any experience with this brand. But I was lucky enough to have access to this dealership barely 2km from our agency offices and was even luckier to be able to spend a full week at the dealership spending time with the sales managers, the service department and some of the customers.

I still look back on this as one of the most valuable experiences I’ve ever had as a marketer. Hearing the stories from people who’ve had more brand experience than I had at the time gave me a completely new perspective on the brand.

I’ve always encouraged everyone in our agency to visit our clients and get as much hands-on experience as possible with their brands. For instance, by experiencing what clients experience, social media managers can better empathise with their situation and ultimately provide better customer service and create uniquely relevant content.

In fact, one of the greatest benefits of this hands-on approach is the ability to capture spontaneous, unique content. As an example, team members on one account spent a weekend experiencing the services of a client in the hospitality industry firsthand. This immersion gave them insights into the customer experience and allowed them to capture authentic moments that beautifully showcased the client's brand. These moments, when shared on social media, resonated with the audience, leading to higher engagement and brand awareness.

These are reasons why we place a high value on such experiences at our agency. We have an ongoing initiative where team members across different roles are encouraged to interact with our client offerings. This could be anything from booking a test drive in a client's electric vehicle to getting a behind-the-scenes tour of a factory or spending a couple of days at a client's game lodge. These varied perspectives not only add depth to our understanding of the brand but also provide valuable feedback for our clients and other team members.

The knowledge and experiences gained from these interactions play a significant role in our strategic decisions and creative outputs. It adds a layer of understanding that goes beyond what is available online or in brand books. It helps us create advertising campaigns and social media content that speaks directly to the consumers' needs and desires because we have experienced the brand in the same way they do.

While we acknowledge the increasing influence of AI and data in marketing, we believe that the human element remains irreplaceable. While AI can sift through large volumes of data and generate insights, it cannot replicate the human ability to connect with a brand on an emotional level. The nuanced understanding and empathy that comes from actual experiences with a brand can significantly enhance the accuracy and effectiveness of our work.

However, despite the clear benefits, there are potential challenges that we must address. Gaining hands-on experience is time-consuming and may not always be feasible due to geographical constraints or other factors. Furthermore, there is often a fine balance between getting too close to a brand and maintaining an objective perspective.

In conclusion, we believe that the direct experience of a brand is an invaluable asset for an agency. It not only enriches the work we do but also contributes to more authentic and impactful brand representations. As we move forward, we will continue to advocate for these experiences, adapting our approach to overcome any obstacles and maximising the benefits for our clients and our work.

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