September 22, 2014
Great Advertising comes from a Balance of Freedom and Control.
One of the worst part about the current state of Brand Management is that most Brand Leaders allow too much freedom on the strategy, but want to have full control over the creative execution. It seems odd because Brand Leaders should be doing the opposite.
Brand Leaders should control the Strategy and give freedom on the Execution.
While clients are always asking agencies to see a range of work, what I think they really mean is to see a range of “creative” options, not “strategic” options. But when you write such a BIG WIDE BRIEF, what you get is a range of strategic options that address various parts of your BIG WIDE BRIEF. Right away, you give up control over the strategy.
A Good Brief Should Be Brief, Not Long!
My simple rule of thumb is that a good briefs should have:
- one objective
- one desired consumer response
- one target tightly defined
- two consumer insights to tell the story
- one main benefit
- one or two main reasons to believe
- zero creative mandatories
Look at your most current brief and take your pen and stroke things off your BIG WIDE BRIEF! Once you make your brief smaller and tighter, you’ll see how clearer things will become. Get rid of the “just in case” lists of things. Stop putting things your boss wants. Stop putting things global wants in your brief. While putting those things into your brief might help you sleep at night, it won’t get you better work and will eventually cause you nightmares. Before even getting to the brief stage, make sure you do all your homework with an Advertising Strategy that answers the following questions:
- Who do we want to sell to? (Who is your Target Consumer?)
- What are we selling? (What is your main Benefit?) and why should they believe us? (Reason To Believe)
- What do we want the Advertising to do for the brand? (Strategic Choices)
- What do want people to think, feel or do? (Desired Response)
- What’s the long-range feeling the brand evokes (The Big Idea)
The brief should isolate the task to coming up with creative solutions to the defined strategic problem. Never use the advertising process and what ad wins the copy test to come up with your brand strategy. The strategy frames the execution–the execution never determine the strategy.
Stop the BIG WIDE BRIEF and focus your Strategy
The first flaw of a BIG WIDE BRIEF is the Advertising Objective where I’m seeing lists of 3-4 objectives instead of just one objective. Right away, the brief is headed in the wrong direction. Too many briefs have both penetration AND usage frequency listed as one objective. That’s two separate strategies that leads to two targets, two messages and possibly two different media options. Here’s how different these two strategies really are:
- Penetration ads get someone with very little experience with your brand to consider dropping their current brand to try you once and see if they like you.
- Usage Frequency ads get someone who knows your brand already, motivating them to change their current behavior so they can fit your brand into more parts of their life.
I see this all the time. Your agency will come back with one ad that does penetration and one that drives frequency and call that a creative range. You just gave up control over the strategy and now the best ad execution decides your brand strategy.
The next flaw of the BIG WIDE BRIEF is an unfocused Target Market. I once worked with a Brand who had their target listed as: 18-65, current customers, new potential customers and employees. My first response was “why did you leave out prisoners and tourists?”. They were worried about alienating some consumers. Isn’t alienating a synonym of Targeting? Good advertising should alienate. I expect Beats by Dre advertising to target 17-year-old urban kid with his hat on backwards. I still want those damn headphones. I don’t feel alienated. At Beloved Brands, we recommend a maximum 5-year age gap (e.g. 35-40) in your target definition to ensure that your Ads are focused. Many briefs have a 20-year age gap (e.g. 30-50) and that is too wide—your agency will give you one ad for 30 year olds and one for 50 year olds—and you just gave up control over the strategy one more time. When thinking of your target, you have to matter most to those who care the most about what you’re selling. It will be easier to move them towards your brand by making them feel special. Trying to matter to everyone will just confuse the most motivated and leave them feeling like they don’t matter any more than those who don’t even care.
The third flaw of the BIG WIDE BRIEF is the Desired Consumer Response. Great advertising can only move one body part at a time: the head, the heart, the feet or the soul. Pick one. As more brands are trying to move to “emotive” advertising, you still have to remember that your brand strategy is dependent on where your brand stands now, before you can use Advertising to try to move your brand to a new place. At Beloved Brands, we use a hypothetical Brand Love Curve to map out where the brand is now, as brands move from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally to the Beloved stage. If you’re a NEW brand or at the INDIFFERENT stage, you should be focused on the HEAD, so that you can get Consumers to THINK differently about your brand. It is rare that a brand can move so quickly to the love it stage (Beats by Dre might be one exception). Put it this way, while everyone in life wants to hear the words “I love you”, it’s kinda creepy and meaningless if you hear it on the first date. If your brand is at the LIKE IT stage, focus on moving the FEET so you can drive ACTION to get consumers to buy and create a following. If you are at the LOVE IT stage you can focus on the HEART and get current Loyal users to connect emotionally and LOVE you even more. Advertising alone cannot make a consumer love your brand–they have to love you before you tell them to love you. If you are at the BELOVED stage, focus on the SOUL and get those who love your brand to FEEL a part of the Brand. If you don’t decide what body part your ad should focus on, the agency will likely show you a range of emotional and rational ads, and once you pick the safe rational choices you’ve always picked, you’ll only be demoralizing your creative team.
The final flaw of BIG WIDE BRIEFS is too many Messages. The current generation of Brand Leaders try to say as much as possible. I’m not always sure why, but you need to stop believing that “if we tell them more than they’ll retain more”. No, the 100 years of marketing says that if you say too much, there is a risk that they’ll hear nothing. What if I told you that in today’s crowded world of advertising, the consumer now sees about 6000 brand messages per day? Would you still want to give them 5 messages? I hope not. Narrow down your message to say ONE THING only. When list of messages, the agency will likely give you one of those crappy “marriage of benefits” ads just to make you happy. Or the agency will pick out ONE of the benefits and put the rest into some list that gets read within the ad. Now you’ll be happy with the list, but really you’ve just given up control of what the ONE thing is you want to say. The only other possible solution is they just get the Voice Over talent to read the script at an even faster pace than normal. When I was a month into my job as an ABM, at a voice edit the agency told me that our voice over talent made about $500k a year. I said “what makes him so good?” and the account executive said “he has this unique talent to be able to speak twice as fast as other voice overs and still remain clear, so he’s in very high demand”. That’s not a good sign for our industry, is it?
On the flip side, the current generation of Brand Leaders are trying to control the Creative with a long list of Mandatories. A well-written brief should have ZERO mandatories. Mandatories feel like a cover up for the insecurity of a badly written brief. The best Brand Leaders give freedom on the creative execution. At the first creative meeting, you should be surprised by the Creative work, but like it as soon as you see it. You shouldn’t have a clue what the ad will look like. Stop the long list of Mandatories, that makes it so prescriptive the agency ends up backed into a creative corner. Why bother having an agency then?
Use the Brief to control the Strategy and give freedom on the Execution
At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop on HOW TO GET BETTER ADVERTISING, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:
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