Trust is the key to getting the best creative from your agency | Insights

How to build trust with your agency and drive the best creative work

February 2021

  • Justin Renvioze, Creative Director
  • Ariel Hitchcock, UX Design Lead

Given how rapidly the marketplace can change, brands that incorporate outside help from an agency gain the agility that may not be possible with just an internal team. Whether it’s coming up with a campaign to target the latest social media platform or simply providing design support, a creative agency supplies the extra kick you need to bring a project to completion.

But handing the creative reins to an outsider is always a nerve-wracking experience. An agency may claim to understand your needs, but how can you be sure they “get” your brand? In creative collaborations (and in life), every relationship is built on trust. Before you can trust your agency, you have to look for signs they know your brand well enough to produce the great work you need.

From the beginning, the right agency will demonstrate they know who you are as a company. More than just knowing the right placement for your logo, an effective creative partner must know your voice well enough to speak on your brand's behalf. So, how do you find and evaluate that agency?

Trusting an agency starts with their respect for your brand

When you’re building a relationship with an agency, the first step is for both sides to learn about one another. Realistically, the reason you’re contacting an outside partner is to create the work you need with a fresh perspective. But before that process can begin, your agency needs to begin the work of learning who you are.

A creative agency has a variety of tools at its disposal to start understanding both your brand and its history. From multiple approaches to research to audience testing around responses to your current products, your agency can gather a wealth of data from your current audience and the customers you hope to gain.

If you’re working with the right agency, you should expect a wealth of questions about both your brand’s approach and its history. Along with conducting their own research, an agency may ask for any data you have acquired about your brand or its products. By gathering that backstory, an agency can ensure they’re not flying blind when creating the work you need.

Sometimes, the effort to share information can feel a bit like pulling teeth. Brands are understandably protective of their internal research. However, if your agency places their request in the context of what they’re looking to accomplish or improve with that information, then you can build a sense of trust around the request. Or, if internal information is unavailable, your agency can then conduct further research on its own.

By taking that initiative to pursue answers, your agency underscores its commitment to quality work. In the process, your organization may trust the agency with your internal data next time.

The right agency will understand the ‘why’ behind your brand story

Along with building an understanding of the past and present details that helped create your brand, your agency needs to establish the reasoning behind that identity. Knowing who you are is critical. But just as importantly, your agency needs to recognize what your brand is trying to achieve.

Before any agency can adequately support a brand, it needs to understand the reason behind its approach to forming an identity with its customers. And, in the process, it must also recognize how that informs their products. The better a creative team knows the motivation behind why a brand operates, the better they can understand how to reflect its goals.

Forming a brand connection requires a personal approach

In the end, your agency can’t only pursue data-driven research to develop a picture of your brand. When We The Collective began working with Pokémon, our effort to get to know the brand began with exploring everything we knew about the brand internally as well. Once we established whether we had Pokémon fans in the office, we looked for ways to share that interest and understand what it meant.

By asking about the existing relationships our team had with Pokémon and what excited us about it, we were able to gain a better appreciation of who they were as a company. Fundamentally, most of us are fans of the brands we support. As a company, that connection allows us to create our best work.

An informed agency partner has the tools to break new ground for your brand

When you partner with an outside agency, you want to ensure it can deliver work that’s consistent with your brand’s voice and tone. However, you’re also looking to an outside partner to supply the new ideas that will propel your brand forward.

To help your brand break new ground, your agency has to walk a delicate line. If they go too far in their approach, it could be seen as a wild swing that reaches outside of who you are. A creative agency may be eager to move your brand ahead, but it should also understand that change can be a gradual process.

Ultimately, your agency has to be prepared to challenge your perception of your brand, while also understanding the boundaries.

In our case, we often present two approaches to a specific problem. One idea conforms with what you think we were going to produce, and another may make you a bit uncomfortable. With this method, we can deliver what a brand has asked along with an option that will go a bit further. If that idea feels like too far for your brand, then you can fall back on option one.

Whether or not you follow your agency’s lead, you should be able to trust their choices because their approach was built on data. Once you have a trusted agency partner, you gain additional expertise not only in creative campaigns, but your brand itself. That’s been our process for building better relationships – and work – from the beginning.

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