What goes into a good Creative Brief.

What goes into a good Creative Brief.

I think that if Creative and Strategy didn’t have the Creative Brief to argue about, someone would have to invent it. Everywhere I’ve ever been – and I’ve been on the agency side and the client side, in traditional agencies and in-house creative groups — the discussion pretty much goes the same:

“If only we had the PERFECT Creative Brief, we’d never have another argument over whether we hit the target! Right?”

Debatable, of course. But let’s run with it. How do you get to that “Perfect” Brief? Opinions vary…

“Hey, Creative Director, why don’t YOU fill out the Creative Brief, and I’ll look it over and let you know if you’re on the right track, hmmn?”

“Actually, I’ll just go ahead and tell you exactly what you should say. I’ll even suggest some images. That will make it easier, right?”

“You creative folks are never satisfied, are you? So, you know what, I’m just going to tell you EVERYTHING, and then you pick out what you think is important.”

So why does it matter so much? Because, when it’s done right, your Creative Brief provides the insight and inspiration that empowers your creative group to come back with something like this:

So Sterling Cooper isn’t real, and there never really was a pitch for the Kodak Carousel that really went like that. I get that … But still, let’s imagine there WAS a Creative Brief.

What SHOULD go into a good Creative Brief?
And, on the flipside … What has no place in a good Creative Brief?

The Audience

Sometimes, Creative Briefs can be a little, I don’t know, undisciplined. They can go on and on and on for pages, with very little apparent thought having been out into what is truly important for the creative team to know. The Audience section, in my experience, can be a particularly dicey area. While it may be, at some level, interesting to know about every single person that might potentially be exposed to the message, it’s far more valuable to learn as much as we can — psychographically even more than demographically — about the type of person with the greatest likelihood to be persuaded. Who’s going to buy what we’re selling?

You may have heard this audience segment described as the Sweet Spot. You may have even seen Personas created that reflect a fictionalized avatar of the actual person you are looking to attract. (A fantastic tool when done right.) Whatever technique is used to describe the audience, it’s important that we think of the audience as being a group of people who share a particular consumer insight.

What’s a consumer insight?
For advertising and targeted marketing to be effective, it must be based in consumer insight. And for the creative team to be able to get there, the creative brief itself should be a clear and direct distillation of actionable consumer insights.

So what, exactly, is a consumer insight? There are many definitions. Here’s mine:

A consumer insight is a problem, need or desire that actual real people have, in their everyday lives that can be activated or answered through a marketing message. A consumer insight is NOT a list of product features or benefits, or what we would HOPE the consumer might think after receiving our message. It’s something that is already there. It’s GOT to be on their minds. If it’s on their minds AND in their hearts, then you’ve really got something.

For the Kodak work, it could have been something like “Life goes by in a blink of an eye and if you don’t capture the good times, they’ll fade away forever.”

Here’s another good example. The consumer insight for Snickers isn’t that it is Packed with Peanuts. That’s a product feature. The insight is You’re Not Yourself When You’re Hungry. So the next time a consumer feels him/herself getting a little cranky, what message are they more likely to connect with … the product feature or the emotional payoff?

This, by the way belongs in the Consumer Insight Hall of Fame, because it works EVERYWHERE, as seen here:

What do you want them to do?
This is a trap we as marketers fall into all the time. We just assume that everyone will understand, innately, what we want him or her to do. But it’s not always so clear. And, I would argue, in the digital/social age, where every communication can inspire a response, we should probably START with what we want the recipient to do. Do we want them to buy something right away? Consider us for the next purchase? Tell a friend about the mind-blowingly cool marketing they just received? Or get out their credit card and buy the entire Time-Life collection of Country Love Songs?

You get the point. As marketers – as creative teams – we need to understand when we are pushing and when we are pulling … and build our messaging and communications strategy off that platform. The best way to do that is to …

Know where are you in the conversation?
Among the most important aspects of a marketing strategy – and the one that is perhaps most often overlooked – is a simple and straightforward understanding of where you are in the conversation.

Is this your marketing “hello”? Are you looking to differentiate and distance yourself from the conversation? Let your brand flag fly, and go for the wow factor. But don’t fall in love with Awareness. It only takes you so far. Remember that you must, ultimately, get a consumer to TAKE AN ACTION. If you are a fan of the classic sales conversion funnel, you probably think about this as the conversion stage – when a prospect becomes a customer. If THIS is the communication that will drive your sales numbers, then make sure your creative team knows that … and make sure your creative brief articulates your brand promise, your USP, or whatever other specifics will get that consumer over the hump.

So what’s the answer? What should go into that killer Creative Brief? In a word … inspiration. You will get the best work out of your creative team when you provide inputs that help to inspire new and innovative approaches and solutions. As a mentor of mine once told me, a great creative brief kicks off a great conversation between agency and client (or creative and account.) Consumer Insight holds the key to those great conversations. Be interesting, be inspiring and be provocative. Avoid the temptation to give your creative team the solution. As long as your effectively depict the problem you are trying to solve, and the opportunity that exists when you do … your creative brief will give your creative team the fuel it needs to blow you away.

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