Here are the smart and ugly examples, showcasing some of the most common mistakes in writing the Creative Brief.
We go through line by line of the creative brief to show the ugliest versions we have actually seen. We are begging you not to repeat these problems.
Why are we Advertising?
Smart briefs have one very clear objective. Ugly briefs try to do too many things in one brief.
- An ugly unfocused Brief: Drive trial of Grays Cookies AND get current users to use Gray’s more often.
- A smart focused objective: Drive trial of Grays Cookies by positioning it as “The good tasting Healthy cookie”.
Too many briefs try to do both penetration and usage frequency in one brief. You will just confuse and muddy the creative development process. This means two targets, two objectives, two messages and likely two different media options. It really should be two separate briefs and two separate projects. When you have two objectives your agency will come back with one ad that does penetration and one for frequency. This means the creative then picks the strategy and that’s a weak position for a Brand Leader to take.
What’s the Consumer Problem we are addressing?
Smart briefs start with the consumer. Ugly briefs start with the product.
- Ugly Product-Driven Brief: Gray’s market share is still relatively small. It is held back by low awareness and trial and the product usage is not on par with the category.
- Smart Consumer-Driven Brief: I’m always watching what I eat. And then BAM, I see a cookie and I’m lost. As much as I look after myself, I still like to sneak a cookie now and then.
We recommend that you start with the consumer’s enemy as the pain point for the consumer. While most products started by solving a problem, every brand should fight off an enemy in the consumers life. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and look at how the brand fights off what might be bugging the consumer every day. Just like an insight, it is usually below the surface level.
Who are you talking to?
Good briefs have a highly focused target market. Ugly briefs try to target everyone with a just in case attitude.
- The Ugly “target everyone” Brief: 18-50 year olds, current customers, new customers and employees. They shop at Grocery, Drug and some Mass. They use 24.7 cookies a month.
- The smart highly targeted Brief: “Proactive Preventers”. Suburban working women, 35-40, who are willing to do whatever it takes to stay healthy. They run, workout and eat right. For many, Food can be a bit of a stress-reliever and escape even for people who watch what they eat.
Avoid trying to target everyone. The great Marketing myth is to think that the pathway to getting bigger is to target a bigger audience. Having a 30+ year age gap is far too wide. Your agency will give you one ad for 25-year-olds and one for 50-year-olds. This means that you will be picking your strategy based on which of the two ads you like best. Brand Leaders want CREATIVE options, not STRATEGIC options. We recommend a very tight target market. For instance a maximum 5 year age gap will give your ad tremendous focus. Also, you must decide whether it is current or new users. You can’t do both.
Smart briefs use insights to bring the consumer to life. Ugly briefs just jam a bunch of stats into the brief.
- An ugly “stats driven” Brief: Gray’s product taste drives high trial to purchase (50%) compared to other new launches (32%). Consumers only use Gray’s 9.8 cookies per month compared to the Category Leader at 18.3 cookies.
- A smart “insights driven” Brief: “I have tremendous will-power. I work out 3x a week, watch what I eat and maintain my figure. But we all have weaknesses and cookies are mine. I just wish they were less bad for you”
The best ads are rooted in consumer insights as the connection point that enables you to move the consumer in a way that benefits your brand. Bring insights into the brief as ways to tell the story to help inspire the creative team, so they can build stories that connect with your consumer. The best ads are those where you can almost see the insight shining through the work. As we mentioned in the positioning chapter, we recommend that you frame your insight by starting with the word “I” to force yourself into their shoes and put the insight in quotes to force yourself to use their voice.
What do we want consumers to see, think, feel or do? (Desired Response)
Smart briefs get the consumer to do one thing. Ugly briefs hope the consumer does a lot of things
- An ugly convoluted Brief wants the advertising to do everything: We want them to THINK that Grays Cookies are unique. We want them to FEEL they can stay in control with Grays and it will keep them feeling successful in living their healthy lifestyle. And we want them to TRY Grays and see if they like the great taste.
- A smart focused Brief tries to just ONE thing: We want them to THINK they can stay in control with Grays.
You should choose only ONE of see, think, feel or act, not a combination of any of the two. We like to say that good advertising can only move one body part at a time—the eyes, mind, heart or feet. Very few ads in history have directly moved two at once. You have to decide on which response you want, or else your agency will show you creative options for each of these strategies and the best ad will decide your brand strategy. If you keep pushing the agency to jam them all into one ad, you have a severe mess on your hands.
What should we tell them? (Main Message)
Smart briefs focus on the consumer benefits. Ugly briefs focus on the product features.
- An ugly feature-oriented Brief: Grays Cookies are the perfect modern cookie, only 100 calories and less than 2g of Fat. For those looking to lose weight, the American Dietician Society recommends adding Gray’s to your diet. You can find Gray’s at all leading grocery stores.
- A smart benefit-focused Brief: With Grays Cookies you can still have a great tasting cookie without the guilt.
The ugly example here takes the features and puts them into the main message. They are basically the support points. The best ads speak in terms of benefits, not features. Focus your main message stimulus on what consumers get (rational benefit) or how consumers feel (emotional). Also, narrow down what you TELL consumers to ONE THING, not a laundry list of things. One great Marketing Myth is that if we tell the consumer a lot of things, at least they will hear something. False, if you tell them too much, they will hear NOTHING but a mess and shut you out.
Smart briefs have few mandatories. Ugly briefs use mandatories to try to steer creative.
- Ugly briefs use mandatories to try to steer creative: Avoid humor, as a sarcastic tone will not work with our target market. Preference is for real customer testimonials supported by before/after with our 90 day guarantee tagged on. Ensure brand shown in first 7 seconds. Use Snookie, as our spokesperson. Ad setting in pharmacy will add credibility.
- Smart “open minded” brief gives freedom to creative: The line: “best tasting yet guilt-free pleasure” is on our packaging. At least 25% of Print must carry the Whole Foods logo as part of our listing agreement. Include the Legal disclaimer on the taste test and the 12 week study.
If you think the first list is fictional, it’s not. I’ve seen every one of those mandatories in creative briefs. With the second list, you’ll notice that none of them steer the creative advertising ideas. I have seen Brand Leaders write long mandatories lists, that makes it so prescriptive that the creative agency ends up backed into a creative corner. To tick off each mandatory, it creates a messy, ugly “frankenstein” ad that pieces everything together.
Simple rules for a good Creative Brief:
- Make sure you have a tight target: Spreading your resources against a target so broad, everyone will think your message is for someone else. Make it feel specific and personal. Target the people most motivated by what you do best. Don’t just randomly target competitive users that are most desirable to us, without knowing if we can actually win them over.
- Benefits not features: Consumers don’t care what you do, they selfishly and rightfully so care about what they get. Always talk about what they get or how they will feel. Don’t just tell what we do, so that it makes us appear the best in the category.
- Drive one objective at a time:. Focus on getting consumers to do only one thing at a time: see, think, feel or do. Make a choice instead of trying to get new users to buy and getting current users to use more at the same time.
- Drive one main message at a time: With so many messages, people won’t know what you stand for, and you’ll never get a reputation for anything. Use your big idea to organize everything.
- Connect with our target where they are most likely to engage with our brand story: While efficient media is important, focusing solely on efficiency and ROI might lead us to staying beneath the consumer’s radar. Consumers hear 7,000 efficiently placed messages a day, and quickly reject boring messages all day long. They likely will connect and engage with 5 messages a day. Will it be yours?
Trying to be everything to anyone, makes you nothing to everyone
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