Watching panel after panel at Advertising Week New York, it soon becomes clear that customer experience (CX) is at the forefront of brand strategy. Launching a truly authentic experience takes creativity, insights and above all—the ability to listen to consumers.

During a session called “Go Big or Go Home,” Anheuser Busch vice president of consumer communications João Chueiri explained how the brand uses sponsorship opportunities to curate CX.

We live in an experience economy, he said, adding that brands are built with these experiences. Chueiri went on to say that there are more passion points that brands need to address than 10 years ago but the same old pain points remain. Anheuser Busch tries to eliminate some of these pain points with incentive-based components such as the ability to reserve food and drink while purchasing tickets for a sporting event.

Creating authentic brand experiences relies on being agile. Chueiri relayed the story of how Bud Light gave away free beer to Philly fans when the Eagles won the Super Bowl. The promise to give free beer to the city became integrated into Super Bowl engagement from the fans to the sportscasters and athletes themselves. In fact, Eagles fans made the “Dilly Dilly” slogan their own by changing it to “Philly Philly.” They were able to jump into the conversation because of an internal news team checking social media for just such an opportunity. As a result of the free beer promotion, Bud Light’s revenue jumped 30 percent in Philadelphia.

Marketing was traditionally a top-down experience in which marketers told customers what they need and want to buy. The marketplace has been turned on its head and CX cannot be delivered authentically or improved without listening to the consumer.

In another panel called “Stop, Collaborate and Listen,” Accenture Interactive revealed the findings of a newly released study on CX. Lack of collaboration was listed as the biggest obstacle to CX, marketers said, and 91 percent see third-party collaborators as a critical part of their strategies.

Subway found out first-hand that the right collaboration can make a huge improvement in CX. When chief digital officer Carissa Ganelli joined the company, she was horrified to find a mishmash of disorganized in-house and outsourced efforts. The resulting chaos wasn’t delivering the kind of CX Subway hoped for, especially with email marketing. When a vegetarian communicated that they weren’t interested in a beef and cheese sandwich, for example, Ganelli said that marketers’ attitude was to send the message anyway, saying, “. . . but maybe they have a friend.”

Collaborating with an outside firm allowed Subway to use its data more effectively. Now, email correspondences are matched with the kind of sandwich a customer usually buys, down to the type of meat—or lack thereof. Subway now sends over 222 variations to its customers via email. Simply changing the photo to match customer behavior resulted in an eight percent lift in purchases made.

MasterCard’s senior vice president of global media Ben Jankowski echoed the importance of collaboration in its business. Like Anheuser Busch, sponsorships are a key component of MasterCard’s CX strategy. To achieve the best experiences, Jankowski says that brands need to adopt a “collaboration over control” mentality because they won’t have the expertise to do everything they need.

On both the aforementioned panels, marketing leaders continually stressed the importance of data. Jankowski recommends trying small scale, agile partnerships and uses data to prove examples of success to the board. Radisson Hotel Group’s VP of digital Rémy Merckx allocates 10 percent of Raddison Hotel Group’s marketing budget to such experiments.

When designing CX for a brand, Merckx told the audience to stop putting customers in boxes. “How you act at 8:00 in the morning is different than you act at 8:00 at night,” he said. “Companies need to change from brand-centric to customer-centric.”