‘Brand science for the data age’: well-known industry players switch on new agency

As the world becomes increasingly digital and intuition steadily gets banished to the naughty corner, data has become a new currency—and a language that needs to be learned by marketers. And Krunch, a “data-centric agency” being run by ex-auto marketer Darren Kirkland is hoping it can teach clients how to speak it.  

Kirkland says it’s very early days for the new agency, which also counts Martin Gilman, Adnan Khan, Daniel Carrol and Robert Moritz as employees, and it’s hardly even got paint on the walls, but he says it saw a gap in the market “helping brands move from an analog approach to a much more digital approach” and, just a few weeks in, he says there’s already a good amount of interest.  

On its website, it says Krunch is a process, not a product: “Listen, learn, execute, measure, repeat. It’s our proprietary formula for delivering meaningful value to our clients.” And it splits its offer into four sections: data + insights, storytelling + content, marketing automation, and media + reach. There’s a consultancy layer in there as well, he says, and it’s almost part agency, part education provider because he says a big part of its strategy is to try and upskill clients and then send them on their way once they’ve figured it out. Most agencies try to keep clients for as long as they possibly can. But Kirkland says there won’t necessarily be “massively long engagement” with this model.

“What we’ve set out to do is to get clients and brands to a point of self-sufficiency; to give them the skills and the tools they need to do it themselves.”

And he believes there’s currently a knowledge gap in this area. He says the skills students are being taught at university are still very traditional. That’s changing slowly, but the industry is moving very quickly and, as the rapid changes in the broader business world show, the rise of digital—and particularly mobile—can not be seen as just a small change for marketers. 

“You have to get out there and be prepared to embrace that change.”

He doesn’t believe this model is a challenge to traditional agencies and he says “there’s a bit of white space to exist in”, but with the world’s most progressive agencies doing a lot more in the digital space and increasingly needing to combine data and creativity to be successful, that’s debatable.

Both Kirkland and Gilman have a longstanding relationship with the GS Group, which distributes the Hyundai, Isuzu and Renault brands in New Zealand, so it’s not surprising that he says it will continue to do a bit of work with the company. But he says Krunch is a standalone agency and he believes “there’s a broad opportunity in the marketplace to work with a number of clients and categories”.  

The Companies Office shows there are a few old automotive connections involved, however. Inspire Global Networks is listed as owning 50 percent of Krunch.co. And Howard Spencer and Shine’s James Hall are listed as directors of the company, with Shine’s Simon Curran and Lucien Law listed as shareholders. This isn’t all that strange, however (especially for Korean companies). Hyundai and Kia set up an in-house agency, Innocean, around ten years ago and it has been trying to add other clients to its roster in recent years (Moritz was managing editor at Innocean US). And Chiel Worldwide was also seen as Samsung’s in-house agency before trying to escape its shadow a few years ago. 

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