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Why marketing teams should write a creative brief

Ask any advertising agency what kick-starts their creative process and almost unanimously you’ll hear “the creative brief.” While agencies obsess over conveying every nuance in the brief to elevate the final creative product, this process is seldom practiced outside the agency setting.

Why don’t more marketing departments or communications teams use the creative brief in their own planning process? It’s not a complicated process. Here, we’ll tell you why you should use a creative brief – from the perspective of a strategist, a creative director, an account manager, and finally, a client. And at the end of this article, you can download a handy creative brief template that you can use and feature-packed guidelines and examples of how to make a great creative brief.

From a Strategist:

“The best briefs are clear, simple and resonate with emotional insights that connect with audiences to achieve a goal. This focus acts as a springboard for creative inspiration.  And great work."

"The first step in writing a great brief is concisely stating an objective. What are we trying to DO with this brief? (Make love, not war, is not a good answer.) It should not be stated in complicated marketing terms or be really vague. The direction should be is simple, straightforward and clear.

Second, a great brief offers compelling target insights.  A word to the wise:  if you are not the target audience, don’t presume that you know how they think.  Let them do the talking – which means, speak with them, find research online, be resourceful and dig for clues that prompt different ways of connecting.  This connective tissue is not formed by rational attributes; it is built on emotions, drivers, the reasons why a target might begin to care about what you are selling.

Third, accurately and emotionally convey the product’s strengths and why the target should care about them.  This strategic statement has many labels:  the brand truth, the position, the promise, the ONE thing, the essence and so on.  This is the hard part.  The thinking part.  The – I need to have some more time -- part.  You are trying to express a number of things simultaneously, yet simply, with focus.

Some guidelines: 

1) Offer truths… you can’t sell something that can’t be delivered. 

2) Find relevancy so you connect authentically.  

3) Be distinctive.  So many products and services say the same thing with a small twist to “differentiate”.   We are cheaper.  We smell better.  We are portable now!  Sound familiar?  Do you care? 

Building a great creative brief takes time and some blood, sweat even tears.  When a brief is thrown together it shows.  In the brief itself — it usually lacks focus and emotion. If you are not jazzed, why should they be?  And in the work.  Enough said.”

From a Creative Director:

"A great brief begins with asking the right questions, because the answers lead to insight for tackling the challenge at hand."

“The writing of a great brief begins well before you put pen to paper or start tapping on a keyboard.  Looking at the information gathered, from every conceivable angle, and distilling it into a critically thought out statement of purpose¬– the key message solidifies the strategic direction of a great brief. This creates the single guiding point for all conceptual thought. Clear, lean support points and all specifications and details of delivering the final product bolster the key message.

When it comes to a great creative brief, less is always more. Quality of thought will win over quantity of support points every time.  Keep it simple and clear and it will be the first step in the production of effective, creative work. “

From an Account Manager:

“A great creative brief needs to be concise, informative, and inspirational.  After reading the brief, you should be able to picture the situation, the opportunity or problem, and ways to go about creatively solving the issue."  

"A brief needs to provide the right amount of background information for proper context and help paint the landscape of why you’re working on this project.  It all comes down to the key message.  What is the one thing, if you read nothing else, that you want to convey?  Think of it as a newspaper headline. If that key message isn’t capturing your interest…you’ll have a hard time capturing a great idea.“

From a Client:

“From the client perspective, having a creative brief in place helps me be sure the agency “gets” what we’re trying to convey."

"Many times, the initial creative meeting involves senior leadership members that are not typically involved in the day-to-day marketing efforts. So when they do get the chance to sit in front of our agency contacts, their enthusiasm to convey lots of information often derails the process to get to the overarching message of that particular campaign. Having a brief in place allows me to be sure the important details, as well as the overall sentiment, have been captured before the creative work begins. This saves a ton of time (and money) when we get those details correct from the beginning of the process.”

Next time you begin a marketing project, consider the clarity of goals, focus on objectives, and time saving benefits a singular creative document could bring to the table. When you put the time into developing a creative brief ahead of your meetings with creative teams, you have a much better perspective on your own challenges, those of your target audience, how they feel about it and what you want them to do.

So, are you ready to get started? We are pleased offer you a template that you can use for your own creative briefs. We also have a handy guide that is chock-full of examples on how to complete a creative brief. This will help you further guide the process. Both of these are available to you for free in one PDF here.



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