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Arguably things today are moving faster than ever. With the advent of new media options such as social, digital and search media, the list of tactics is longer than ever. Opportunities come to brand leaders needed quick decisions and even faster execution. Brand Managers are running like crazy to get everything done. Quick phone calls with the agencies and emails to keep everything moving along. So many times I’m seeing teams spinning around in circles of execution and I ask to see the brief and the answer is quickly becoming “Oh we didn’t have time to do a creative brief”. You always need to take the time to write it down.

Elements of communication strategy

First off, I would hope that every brand has the discipline to do 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?  (Reason to Believe)
  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?   (Big Idea/Brand Soul)
  7. Where will you deliver the message? (Media Plan)

Once you have these seven questions answered you should be able to populate and come to a main creative brief.  To read more about writing a full creative brief follow this link:  How to Write an Effective Creative Brief

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Back when we only did TV and a secondary medium it was easier. We’d spend months on a brief and months ago making the TV ads. The brief was approved everywhere, right up to the VP or President level. But now the problem is when you’re running around like  a chicken with its head chopped off, you decide to wing it over the phone with no brief. It’s only a Facebook page, a digital display ad going down the side of the weather network or some twitter campaign Who needs a brief.

If I could recommend anything to do with communication: ALWAYS HAVE A BRIEF.

The Mini Creative Brief

Focusing on the most important elements of the brief, you must have:

  • Objective: What do we hope to accomplish, what part of the brand strategy will this program.   Focus on only one objective.
  • Target:  Who is the intended target audience we want to move to take action against the objective?  Keep it a very tight definition.
  • Insight:  What is the one thing we know about the consumer that will impact this program.   For this mini brief, only put the most relevant insight to help frame the consumer.
  • Desired Response: What do we want consumers to think, feel or do?   Only pick one of these.
  • Stimulus:  What’s the most powerful thing you can say to get the response you want.
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Going too fast sometimes takes too Long

If you choose to do it over the phone, you’re relying on the Account Manager to explain it to the creative team. Days later when they come back with the options, how would you remember what you wanted.  If you have a well-written communications plan, this Mini Brief should take you anywhere from 30-60 minutes to write this. The Mini Brief will keep your own management team aligned to your intentions, as well as give a very focused ASK to the creative team.   When you need to gain approval for the creative, you’ll be able to better sell it in with Mini Brief providing the context.

Pressed for time? Next time, try using the mini brief


To read more on Creative Briefs, follow this presentation

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

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Graham Robertson

Graham spent 20 years in Brand Management leading some of the world’s most beloved brands at Johnson and Johnson, General Mills and Coke, rising up to VP Marketing. In his career, he has won numerous Advertising, Innovation and Leadership awards. Graham played a major role in helping J&J win Marketing Magazine’s prestigious “Marketer of the Year” award. Graham brings a reputation for challenging brand leaders to think differently and to be more strategically focused. Graham founded Beloved Brands in 2010, to help brands find growth and make brand leaders smarter. He leads workshops to help define your Brand Positioning, build your brand’s Big Idea, and write strategic Brand Plans that motivate and focus everyone that works on the brand. Our Beloved Brands training programs will help your team, produce exceptionally smart work work that drives stronger brand growth and profits. We cover everything a brand leader needs to know including strategic thinking, planning, positioning, execution and analytics. Our robust client roster has included the NFL Players Association, Reebok, the NBA, Acura, Shell, Miller Lite, 3M, Jack Link’s and Pfizer. His weekly brand stories have generated over 5 million views.


miriam hara · July 6, 2013 at 11:03 am

Great post Graham! The best way to evaluate if you have a good brief (when you create one) is to keep it brief (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) while incorporating all the “need to haves”.

jamesgangcreative · July 6, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Got two questions for you: Do you still find you have to write the creative briefs, or mini briefs, to win the account? Or, are you getting the account or the commitment prior to the brief?

Back when we did all that creative time as you mention, the months of work, etc., we were actually on the clock. Sometimes we had to do huge spec jobs just to get the client to say okay (MadMen, but most of the time we pitched the client on our “laurels” unless it was a huge account. Now, it seems more people are shopping for the quick answer, hence the quickie idea before committing.

It’s this conundrum about briefs and plans now that is hard to get past since so many potential clients just put out RFBs (requests for bids) from everywhere: down the street or over to New Delhi. How do you handle this?

The second part of the question is, what if the client wants part of the plan, the tactics so to speak, the “how” – (Facebook or radio, tv or tweeter) in addition to the brief in order to commit?

I find I’m being put in the position of giving them the positioning statements, the creative process, in the brief … spending that ton of time again rather than saying, “you can see the quality of the past work. That’s what you’ll get. Are you interested in my going on the clock to produce this?”

You offer some great advise here. And I’m “relearning” lots, refreshing my process with your posts. Thanks for sharing. It’s also refreshing. (One of my bugaboos is how unwilling so many “creatives” are to share from past experience).

Lusa Dunbar · August 5, 2013 at 7:59 am

I couldn’t agree more. With 7+ years of consulting…Unfortunately I still see this in small and large brands. Crazy! Another great post Graham!

Copywriter Collective · October 1, 2013 at 11:32 am

Love your Post Graham!

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.

Keep rocking!

Lauren · January 2, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Great article on creating a Mini Brief, it’s been a God send!

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