Beloved_Logo1

How to write an Effective Creative Brief

bbi adThe best Advertising is well planned, not some random creative thing that happens.  The value of a creative brief is focus!  Like a good positioning statement, you’re taking everything you know and everything you could possibly say, and starting to make choices on what will give you the greatest return on your media dollars. If you’re not making choices then you’re not making decisions.  

Unlike other creativity, advertising is “In the Box” creativity.  The best advertising creative people  are problem solvers, not blue sky thinkers.  Therefore, the role of the creative brief is to create the right box, enough room to move, but enough direction that defines the problem.

Advertising is a balance of freedom and control.  But, oddly enough, most Brand Managers allow too much FREEDOM on the strategy but want to exhibit CONTROL on the creative.  It should be the reverse.   Brand Managers should control the strategy not the execution.  Briefs with multiple objectives or many main benefits send the signal to agencies that you aren’t quite sure and want the agency to pick the strategy.  But a long list of mandatories sends the signal that even though we don’t know the strategy, we do think we know what we want the creative to look like.  This is where the marketer should get a bit more comfortable in dealing with ambiguity and allow some creativity to come about.

The agency should write the brief.  I’m not sure why this is so contentious–but it seems that half of brand people still want to write the brief.  Let it go!  You can still write an advertising strategy, but let the Agency Translate it into a brief, in their words and their format.   You can still debate every word for hours or even days to ensure that it aligns to your strategy.   But having them write it, allows the agency to own it and believe in it.  It also allows the account team to communicate with their creative teams–which is the main role of that brief.  Using the agency format makes it simpler for the creative teams.  This is the first step in giving the agency some freedom, while still maintaining control over the strategy.

The smaller the brief, the bigger the idea.  A good brief should be brief.  One page maximum.  I’m still in shock when I see briefs reaching 5 or 6 pages.  That’s not a brief, that’s a long!  Take the pen and start stroking out words, forcing yourself to start making decisions.  Avoid the “just in case” type of thinking.

The Brand Plan and Advertising Strategy

In the smallest of words, the brand plan should be focused

  • We have some long-term thoughts on where the brand can go (vision) and the special assignment to get us on our way.  (mission)  And help shape the things we want to achieve with our brand (objectives) To get started, the brand has different options (strategies) for how to get there (tactics)
  • We try to find a slice of the population (target) to get them to take an action (expected result) that makes our brand bigger.   We then find out what to say and how to talk to them to trigger that action (main message) We need to re-enforce why we can do it and others can’t (support)
  • We then create the most motivating stimulus (product, ad, promotion) to get them to take action and put it in part of their life where they are most likely to hear it and act on it (the medium

Within a good brand plan,you should have an advertising strategy that should answer the following six key questions.

  1. Who Do We want to sell to?  (target)
  2. What are we selling?  (benefit)
  3. Why should they believe us?  (RTB)
  4. What Do We want the Advertising to do?  (Strategy)
  5. What do Want people to do?  (Response)
  6. What do we want people to feel?   (Brand Equity)

For those looking for a basic creative brief format, the best I like includes something that outlines a) the long-term consistent brand essence and strategy b) consumer knowledge including target definition and insights and c) the core of the brief, outlining the problem to solve, focusing on stimulus and response.

Slide1

Most Brand Managers struggle with the target.   I once sat in a room where a brand manager had a target of 18 to 65, current customers, potential customers and employees.  Basically, everyone but prisoners and tourists.   While it’s tempting to sell to everyone, you should focus your resources on those most likely to buy, pays off.  Focus on those who may love you, not everyone who just might tolerate you.  Spreading your limited resources across an entire population is cost prohibitive.  While targeting everyone with a “just in case” attitude might make you feel safe at first, it’s actually less safe because you never get to see the full impact.  You should use consumer insights to bring the target to life.  The dictionary definition of the word Insight is “seeing below the surface”.   Too many people think data, trends and facts are insights.  However, these facts are merely on the surface—so they miss out on the depth. Insights can be sorted into three types: life Insights, brand insights and category insights.   You are really looking for these “aha” moments that brings the focus onto the consumer.

blog ad 1

 

Brand Managers also struggle with the main message.   Sell the Solution, Not Just Your Product.  Keep in mind that “people don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole!”   Agencies use so many tricks to get it down to the ONE THING.  And whatever works for them or you, the better.  If it’s a

postcard, a bumper sticker, “what would you say to get someone to marry you”….find your own way to think about one thing.  One of my favourites is the “SHOUT FROM THE MOUNTAIN”.  It forces you to want to scream just ONE THING about your brand—keep it simple.  Yelling just one word is so much easier than a 13 word sentence or even worse, a long list of 6 bullet points.  Another good exercise, once you are close on the brief is to challenge yourself to go through the brief one more time, and see if you can take out 5-15 words.  You’ll be surprised how much better it gets.  And lastly, I always have fun throwing three objects at people, starting one at a time and then all 3 at once.  It’s so much easier to catch one than all three.

To read about how to write a mini version of a brief follow this link.  How to Write a MINI BRIEF

The Smaller The Brief the Bigger the Ideas

To read more on Creative Briefs, follow this presentation

Slide1

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

strategy ad

belovedbrands

http://beloved-brands.com

Graham is the voice of the modern Brand Leader. He started Beloved Brands, knowing he could “Make Brands better and Brand Leaders better™”. His Beloved Brands blog has 2 million views, and his public speaking appearances inspire Brand Leaders to love what they do. The idea behind Beloved Brands is the more love you can generate with your consumers, the more power you have in the market which drives higher growth and profits for your brand. As a brand coach, Graham helps to find growth where others couldn’t, creating Brand ideas consumers love and Brand Plans everyone can follow. For Brand Leaders wanting to reach their full potential The Brand Leadership Center offers workshops on strategic thinking, analytics, planning, positioning, creative briefs, judging advertising and media. Graham spent 20 years leading some of the world’s most beloved brands at Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, General Mills and Coke, rising through the ranks up to VP Marketing. Graham played a major role in helping Pfizer win Marketing Magazine’s Marketer of the Year award. Beloved Brands has a robust Client list that includes NFL Players Inc, NFLPA, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, Earls Kitchen + Bar, 3M, 649 Lottery, Sunlight, Carlsberg, Slimquick, Red Racer, Shagri-la Hotel, Canada’s Wildlife Health and Fluke.

View more posts from this author
120 thoughts on “How to write an Effective Creative Brief
  1. Aubrey

    I’d like to complement your post about briefs by not restricting the commentary to advertising. We are a branding and design agency that expresses the majority of our work as consumer packaging and the merits of a well-written brief are every bit as important for this aspect of brand expression. In fact, I contend that it is more important in that every CPG brand has a package by definition while an increasing amount of brands are challenged by trade spending and cannot afford the luxury of advertising so must rely on shelf presence and retailers’ flyers to create awareness and stimulate consumer purchase (and repurchase).
    When we introduced our quality program within our agency almost a decade ago, the first thing that our designers asked for was better written briefs. The better written the brief is, the better the yield will be from the designers’ work.

    PS: Love your posts – keep up the great writing

     
    Reply
  2. Wendy

    When I read, “even though we don’t know the strategy, we do think we know what we want the creative to look like”, I had the strange feeling you have been in too many of my meetings! Well done. This should be required reading for clients.

     
    Reply
  3. Hilton Barbour

    Nice one Graham. Delightful articulation of all the headaches that plagued my years in advertising. A brief seldom is. When it isn’t, it just communicates a lack of discipline and focus. Those factors directly impact creative team morale, rounds of revision and, ultimately, agency fee. There is a financial impact for every poor brief. I wrote a similar piece on my blog too: http://www.hiltonbarbour.com/wordpress/?p=474

     
    Reply
  4. Pingback: How to Run a Brand with the Brand Leader Front and Centre | Beloved Brands

  5. Melissa Macaulay Federico

    This posting can be applied to ANY communication project — From Ads to Press Releases to Websites to Social Media. Any and all of these channels should be using creative briefs at the outset of every project. But, to your point, it seems like the process is so daunting many decide to wade in without it and pay the price in budget losses, time lost, brands diluted and [sadly] sometimes with their jobs.

    CLEARLY this post was based on your real world experience. Thanks for tackling this phenomenon so rationally and eloquently. (I especially like the quarter-inch drill vs. quarter inch hole analogy — perfect).

     
    Reply
  6. Pingback: How to Write an Effective Brand Positioning Statement « Beloved Brands

  7. Pingback: How to Think Strategically « Beloved Brands

  8. Pingback: How to Manage your Marketing Career from ABM to CMO. Free Download « Beloved Brands

  9. Pingback: How to Drive Profits through Your Brand « Beloved Brands

  10. Pingback: How to Write a Monthly Report? And why you should have one on your Brands. « Beloved Brands

  11. Pingback: How to get an Assistant Brand Manager job « Beloved Brands

  12. Pingback: Does a Brand Vision Statement Matter? « Beloved Brands

  13. Pingback: Is a Car Ad without Cars kinda Crazy? « Beloved Brands

  14. Pingback: Brand Focus: Great Marketers use the word “or” more than “and” « Beloved Brands

  15. Pingback: The Top 10 worst types of Advertising clients. Are you one of these? « Beloved Brands

  16. Pingback: Some of the Best Christmas Ads I’ve Seen « Beloved Brands

  17. Pingback: 5 Ads that will Give you Goose Bumps « Beloved Brands

  18. Pingback: 5 Ads that Will Make You Burst Out Laughing « Beloved Brands

  19. Pingback: Confession: I Killed Two Doctors in 2006 « Beloved Brands

  20. Pingback: Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” is Stealing away the Olympics again!!! « Beloved Brands

  21. Pingback: Five Great Ads Based on a Unique Consumer Insight « Beloved Brands

  22. Pingback: Five Best Sports Ads of 2012 « Beloved Brands

  23. Pingback: New TV ad from Samsung: Is it “smart” to Take on Apple? « Beloved Brands

  24. Pingback: How to ask Big Questions that get to Big Strategic Answers « Beloved Brands

  25. Pingback: I love Big Ideas that start off Small and cost Very Little « Beloved Brands

  26. Pingback: Finding your work Work Life Balance makes you a Better Brand Leader « Beloved Brands

  27. Pingback: Starbucks creates Magic at Christmas « Beloved Brands

  28. Pingback: 2012: Worst in Branding for the Year « Beloved Brands

  29. Pingback: Ten Resolutions for Brand Leaders in 2013 « Beloved Brands

  30. Pingback: How to Write a Brand Plan « Beloved Brands

  31. Pingback: Focus on Your Target: Make sure you Matter to someone that Cares. « Beloved Brands

  32. Pingback: Focus Your Target by Making sure you Matter to someone who Cares. « Beloved Brands

  33. Pingback: How to Be a Successful Brand Manager « Beloved Brands

  34. Pingback: Brand = Culture: How Culture can Help Your Brand Win « Beloved Brands

  35. Pingback: Manage Your Own Career with an Honest Self Evaluation « Beloved Brands

  36. Pingback: Manage Your Own Career with an Honest Self Evaluation « Beloved Brands

  37. Pingback: How to Be a Successful VP of Marketing « Beloved Brands

  38. Pingback: Best Customer Service Letter Ever « Beloved Brands

  39. Pingback: Apple: What Goes Up, Might Come Down « Beloved Brands

  40. Pingback: Love = Power = Profit « Beloved Brands

  41. Pingback: Everything Starts and Ends with the Consumer in Mind « Beloved Brands

  42. Pingback: REJECT OK, because OK is the enemy of Greatness « Beloved Brands

  43. Pingback: Ten Best Super Bowl Ads of All Time « Beloved Brands

  44. Pingback: How to be a Great Assistant Brand Manager…and of course, get Promoted to Brand Manager « Beloved Brands

  45. Pingback: Is Blackberry ripe for a Comeback? « Beloved Brands

  46. Pingback: Brand Management: Be a Great Brand Leader « Beloved Brands

  47. Ann Druce

    I strongly agree that the marketing team should control the strategy. The evaluation of the creative against that strategy should determine whether the creative is right or not. Does it answer the brief?
    If so, great. If not, it is necessary to go back to the drawing board. It is very disheartening when a creative submission is received with a comment along the lines of “I don’t really like it, but I’m not sure why.”
    Far better to analyse it objectively and decide if it is right. That is not to say that the ad agency cannot contribute to the strategy, but their input should be incorporated into the brief.
    In other words, adjust the creative to meet the strategy, but don’t amend the strategy to suit creative that people have fallen in love with.

     
    Reply
  48. Pingback: 10 things that Good Advertising Should Do « Beloved Brands

  49. Pingback: Start a “Hate” page for your Brand, and See if People Show Up « Beloved Brands

  50. Norm Williams

    “Brand Managers allow too much FREEDOM on the strategy but want to exhibit CONTROL on the creative”. Well said. Most briefs I’ve seen seem lazy. In those cases, it’s almost as if the marketer sees the document as an administrative step required to get the agency to start working on stuff (“I’m not sure what I want, but I’ll know when I see it”). The consumer insight often isn’t one or, even worse, is described in terms of the product you’re trying to sell as opposed to the feelings and motivations you are trying to address.

     
    Reply
  51. Jeff (@jeffdmadden)

    Good post. Nice job summarizing what needs to be in a brief. I agree, too many briefs are too long. A good creative team will get their head around a single idea and create solid options that fit the strategy. I believe there are at least three reasons why many ad messages are so weak: 1) brands are trying to reach everybody; and nobody pays attention 2) brands have not dug deep enough to uncover their true relevant difference 3) brands are too product focused; they should shift to the consumer.

     
    Reply
  52. Pingback: Finance 101 for Brand Leaders « Beloved Brands

  53. Pingback: Keys to Being a Successful Marketing Director « Beloved Brands

  54. Pingback: Happy Valentines: A Love Story For Brand Leaders « Beloved Brands

  55. Pingback: Does the Sacred Cash Cow Still Exist? « Beloved Brands

  56. Pingback: How to Judge Advertising Copy: Approve the Good. Reject the Bad. « Beloved Brands

  57. Pingback: Ten Nike Ads that Will Inspire You « Beloved Brands

  58. Pingback: How to Build Your Media Strategy « Beloved Brands

  59. Pingback: How to give Feedback on Advertising Copy « Beloved Brands

  60. Pingback: How to Drive Innovation into Your Brand « Beloved Brands

  61. Pingback: Should Non-Political Brands ever get Political during these Politically Divided Times? « Beloved Brands

  62. Pingback: How to Run a Brainstorm Session « Beloved Brands

  63. Pingback: 8 Leadership Behaviors that Great Brand Leader Master « Beloved Brands

  64. Pingback: Forget the 4 P’s. Build Your Brand through the 5 sources of Connectivity « Beloved Brands

  65. Pingback: Finding Your Love in the Art of Being Different. « Beloved Brands

  66. Pingback: The Brand that Defies Logic: The Toronto Maple Leafs « Beloved Brands

  67. Pingback: The $1 Billion Brand that Defies Logic: The Toronto Maple Leafs « Beloved Brands

  68. Pingback: Top 5 Things Brand Leaders Should be Worried About « Beloved Brands

  69. Pingback: How to Get Fired as a Brand Manager « Beloved Brands

  70. Pingback: BMW Films: Branded Content Light Years ahead of its Time « Beloved Brands

  71. Pingback: Ritz Carlton: Meeting the “unexpressed” needs of Guests « Beloved Brands

  72. Pingback: Be a Better Brand Leader by saying “Let’s cut to the Chase” more often « Beloved Brands

  73. Pingback: A Beloved Brand commands the Power of a Monopoly « Beloved Brands

  74. Pingback: Special K Case Study: Moving From Indifferent to Beloved « Beloved Brands

  75. Pingback: How Beloved Brands Fall From Grace « Beloved Brands

  76. Pingback: How to Write an Effective Key Issues Presentation « Beloved Brands

  77. Pingback: How to Determine your Brand’s Health using Brand Funnels « Beloved Brands

  78. Pingback: Why does “My” University Keeps Changing It’s Name? « Beloved Brands

  79. Pingback: 12 Thought Starters Quotes to challenge and inspire Brand Leaders « Beloved Brands

  80. Pingback: 12 Thought Starter Quotes to challenge and inspire Brand Leaders « Beloved Brands

  81. Pingback: What to Do when your Brand is Stuck at “Like It”? « Beloved Brands

  82. Pingback: 10 Annoying Things that give Marketers a Bad Reputation. STOP IT! « Beloved Brands

  83. Pingback: How to create a Brand Strategy Road Map « Beloved Brands

  84. Pingback: How to go Deeper on the Analysis of your Brand « Beloved Brands

  85. Pingback: The new Burger War: 5 Guys vs In-N-Out « Beloved Brands

  86. Pingback: How will Brand Leaders Win with Media in the Future? « Beloved Brands

  87. Pingback: A Brand Leader’s view of what makes a Good Advertising Agency « Beloved Brands

  88. Pingback: Can McDonald’s win the Coffee War? Not a chance. « Beloved Brands

  89. Pingback: What will Happen when Teenagers Leave Facebook? « Beloved Brands

  90. Pingback: Is K-Mart’s “Ship My Pants” a good Ad? « Beloved Brands

  91. Pingback: If you Approve a 6 out of 10, then maybe you are the one to blame. « Beloved Brands

  92. Pingback: How to Analyze What’s Happening on Your Brand « Beloved Brands

  93. Pingback: A Powerful Vision Story: Dan O’Brien, US Olympian « Beloved Brands

  94. Pingback: Is Social Media is the new “Invisible Hand”? « Beloved Brands

  95. Pingback: What’s your view on Tiger Woods as a brand? #1 in golf, #1 in endorsements (again) « Beloved Brands

  96. Pingback: How to Manage Your Personal Brand « Beloved Brands

  97. Pingback: Brand Management: How to Be a Great Brand Leader - Marketing Talent Inc - Marketing Talent Inc

  98. Pingback: Should Celebritities Tweet By Themselves? « Beloved Brands

  99. Pingback: How to give Feedback to an Agency so the work gets Better « Beloved Brands

  100. Pingback: World Vision TV Ads: Do you think these are highly effective or disgusting? « Beloved Brands

  101. Pingback: How to write a “MINI” creative brief? « Beloved Brands

  102. Terence Savage

    Great article wish I’d seen it a tad earlier in my 40 years of working with agency clients. There’s one thing I disagree with, however. The client should write the brief, not the agency.
    Why? The client knows more about his products/services, customers & prospects, marketing plan…than the agency ever will. Consequently the agency brief must be sub-optimal. That helps no-one and discussing an agency version wastes time.
    OK I have only had one client – and I’ve had ones with $220m to spend to less than $20,000 – who has done so and I’ve written them. That doesn’t detract from my argument that agency initiated briefs don’t expose the creative team to the full challenge.
    In my experience, account planners can provide valuable insights to inform the agency’s distillation of the client brief to drive better creative – and media – proposals. A sub-optimal brief will generate sub-optimal outcomes.
    Of course we have to assume that the client can write a creative brief, many can’t and your presentation would be an ideal primer.

     
    Reply
  103. Pingback: How to best Execute your Brand Execution Plan « Beloved Brands

  104. Pingback: Building from Porter’s 5 Forces, up to 13 Sources of Brand Power « Beloved Brands

  105. Pingback: What is a “Blowfish” Strategy « Beloved Brands

  106. Pingback: How to Revel in the Ambiguity of the Unknown « Beloved Brands

  107. Graphic Design Singapore

    Appreciating the persistence you put into your blog and detailed information
    you provide. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same
    out of date rehashed information. Great read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

     
    Reply
  108. Pingback: How to pick your ideal Growth Strategy for your Brand « Beloved Brands

  109. Copywriter Collective

    “Brand Managers allow too much FREEDOM on the strategy but want to exhibit CONTROL on the creative”. Well said indeed. While weeks and weeks of research might go into a creative brief there’s something magical that happens when it’s forced to fit onto a single page. All the details and complicated data suddenly clarify into a single, single-minded vision of what the creative team is meant to achieve.

    More on the importance of a creative brief i did on this article.
    http://copywritercollective.com/howtobeacopywriter/why-the-creative-brief-is-so-important/

    Keep rocking!

     
    Reply
  110. Pingback: Better Brand Leaders, make Better Work and drive Better Results « Beloved Brands

  111. Pingback: New Google Ad will make you cry, without understanding a word that is said « Beloved Brands

  112. Pingback: Have your say: Is this Holiday ad cute or offensive? « Beloved Brands

  113. Pingback: Captivating Ad about Working Women rivals Dove’s “Real Beauty” « Beloved Brands

  114. Pingback: New John Lewis Christmas Ad (2013), from the company that does the Best Christmas ads « Beloved Brands

  115. Pingback: New holiday ad from Apple will bring a sweet tear to your eye « Beloved Brands

  116. Pingback: Is your Brand Team good enough to achieve your 2014 goals? « Beloved Brands

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Protected by WP Anti Spam