12 important points to consider every time you put pen to paper when pondering how to get to that key insight>
Great creative briefs have one primary function — to inspire your creative team to come up with the most brilliant and effective communications response to solve a particular problem. Its secondary function is to confirm back to the client that you “get” her problem, strategy for solving it, and the objective you must achieve.
So what makes a “great” brief? Clarity. Brevity. Inspirational language (which may include slang and swear words). The creative brief isn’t being published online to the masses for approval, nor does it need to be PC for your client’s board of directors. It does need to grab your creative team by the heart and get them so excited they become obsessed with solving your client’s problem and do so expeditiously.
A great creative brief answers the following questions:
1. What’s the problem?
Describe the problem you need to solve. Don’t just write down what the client says. She may not even realize the problem is deeper / different than what she thinks. When the client is briefing you, dig at this like dentist doing a root canal. You want to excavate until all the junk is cleared out. Only then will you understand what the “root” of the problem really is.
2. Who has this problem?
How are they solving it now? What other options do they have? Communications all boils down to influencing a change in behavior. To change it, you first have to understand what they’re doing now and what options they have that they’re (not) embracing.
3. What’s hidden under the “problem” that’s really in the way?
Going back to #1, keep digging. Honest. You’re going to have to come at this from 10 different angles before you finally nail it. For example: Apple’s focus has always been on making technology easy to use. Why? What’s really at the root? People’s frustration with technology and fear of it. Apple is all about creating an effortless, frictionless, fun, and seamless brand experience. But until Chiatt/Day got “frustration” and “fear” as the root, how could they communicate “easy to use” in a way that related to the ideal buyer? Go watch 1984, again.
4. What’s the product/service/brand that we’re selling as the solution?
Seems self-explanatory — just remember that a confused mind says “no.” Keep your positioning clean and easy to understand. Also, don’t confuse the potential buyer with so many choices, she tunes out.
5. Why should these people believe us (rational and emotional reasons to buy)?
The brand makes a promise (#4). So make the buyer care about it. What is it about that promise that is going to change her life for the better? There needs to be an emotional subtext to all of the rational proof we offer (X% of doctors recommend brand Q over any other brand). Make the person receiving your messages give a damn.
6. What will we say and how will we say it?
What are the key messages, what are the key points you need to say? What words, images, sounds, and even scents – best convey #4 and #5?
7. In what ways will we communicate our messages?
Print advertising? Social media? Trade shows? Billboards? TV ads? Podcasts? Talk shows? Video ads? What communication channels will you use, how will you use them? How do they build on and support each other? What are the best vehicles to reach your intended audience?
8. What action do we want people to take once they receive our messages?
Obviously you want them to become your client’s customers. But each communication channel and vehicle that you use needs to have a call-to-action (CTA) that helps the buyer move forward at that stage in her buying process. And that CTA should leverage the medium it’s delivered in. A video ad CTA will be different than a print ad CTA that’s different from a CTA in a blog post. They may not all say the same thing and they may not all result in the same thing being delivered. Mapping out the buyer’s journey identifying her questions and concerns along the way, and where she goes for her information will help answer this question.
9. How do we want people to feel about our solution?
We all now know that science has proven all decisions are emotional and are rationalized after the choice has been made. This means you need to understand what feelings you want to evoke in buyers during their decision process and after they’ve bought what you’ve sold. What are those feelings and when do they feel them?
10. What will tell us that we’ve solved the client’s problem?
How will your client measure the success of what you’ve done? What metrics will show that you’ve moved the needle and achieved her goal? You may also have your own metrics that you’ll want to track regarding success that are secondary to fixing the client’s problem. For example, increased agency efficiencies, decreased costs, etc.
11. What’s non-negotiable?
Examples: tagline, logo, images, signature sound, timeline, budget, approval process, stakeholders.
12. What is your agency’s point of view?
Clients pay for your insight, expertise, and opinion. They want to hear your strong opinion — especially if it keeps them from making big mistakes. The best agencies always bring that opinionated perspective to the table. And in the creative brief, it’s essential, especially if the client has left something out, or demanded something, that’s going to interfere with the solving the problem.
This is a section where you get to mouth off (appropriately). Keep it short, keep it clean, and use it only when you really need to. Your client may not always like hearing what you have to say, but if she’s smart, she’ll at least hear you out. Don’t use the POV to weasel out of reaching the goal. Use it strategically to help a client help herself.
Own Your Creative Brief
The creative brief is your tool to motivate and inspire your creative team to do its finest work. Be sure and own what’s in it, even if it means completely rewriting what your client may have given you. We find that most clients write briefs to cover themselves at work. They mistakenly assume that they, their boss and all stakeholders are the audience for the creative brief. While it will take time to educate them to the contrary, don’t keep going round and round. Get agreement, even if the brief is imperfect and over-deliver against it. Next time, she’ll be more ready to listen to you.