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7 Easy Ways to Make Your Creative Brief Work Harder

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Between us, the Bs have worked at about a dozen different ad agencies. Every one of them had their own creative brief template. Some were better than others (we have a pretty solid one here at B Direct — let us know if you'd like us to send it to you). Regardless, the format was never as important as the information included and, hopefully, synthesized into an actionable — and succinct — plan.

In our experience ... creative briefs are rarely creative. And, never brief.

The creative brief is a contract between client and creative. It's agreed upon direction. And, it should be used to judge creative concepts and executions.

Our favorite response when we present three or four or five concepts to a client is "I don't know which one to pick. They're all on target." That's what can happen when a hard-working creative brief informs the hard work of a creative team. Kind of like Kismet.


Here are 7 ways to make your creative brief work harder.

#1 Focus!
The most important part of a creative brief (and often the hardest to write) is the objective, which should be a "single-minded proposition." This should be one sentence detailing the single most important thing that the creative work needs to accomplish.

"Generate qualified leads" is short, but not that sweet. Get specific. How many leads for what product from what audience? 

Being single-minded makes the objective statement powerful and actionable. And, you'll have a specific mission against which to gauge results.

#2 Profile Your Audience
Make sure you have a rich profile of your audience and their needs. (This can be a gold mine for the creative team!)

Describe the audience with detail and color commentary. If you're in the B2B space, don't settle for job descriptions. Include demographics (age, gender) as well as the ideal prospect's "inner vision." They may be network managers, but think of themselves as superheroes.

#3 Add Lifestyle Research
Do you know your target audience's values? Their attitudes? Hobbies and special interests? 

Include information about their habits, purchase behavior, media usage and preferences, and typical. purchase patterns.

No matter where you are in the marketing conversation or what media you're using, you are selling to people, not "targets." get to know them.

#4 Describe their Needs
After you have a profile or a "persona" fleshed out, break it down even further. What are their needs? We're not talking about needs related to your product or solution, per se. ("I really need a cost-efficient, scalable VOIP solution.") We're talking about basic human needs.

Think in terms of: Security, Health, Approval, Power, Money, Knowledge, and Pride.

Then think about how that "cost-efficient, scalable VOIP solution" relates.

#5 Blend Emotion and Promotion
The most powerful direct marketing campaigns appeal to both the brain and the feelings. When you promote your. product or service, be sure to balance the two. Make it sound like a smart decision, and one that they can feel good about.

For B2B clients, we've had great success combining business offers (a free pass to an industry event; an informative white paper) with offers that provided more. personal gratification (a Starbucks gift card; a chance to win free concert tickets for a year).

#6 Ask Questions
The creative brief stage is the best time to ask questions. Even seemingly stupid ones. You never know when some small gem of information or insight will spark great creative.

What really makes the product compelling? Why would someone really be interested? What would really make them buy? Make sure you really "get it."

Because if you don't, your audience won't either. Really.

#7 Less May Be More
Let's try and keep the brief in creative brief. 

More is not necessarily better —especially if it get in the way or masks the important points the creative team should really be focusing on. Three keys to success here: Edit, Edit, Edit.


Creative briefs aren't the sexiest part of our job. But, they're critically important. With thought and preparation (and, when needed, a red pen), they ensure that all conversation touchpoints, regardless of media, converge into a persuasive and consistent overall message. One that moves your prospective customer from awareness to interest to engagement and, eventually, to becoming a loyal customer.








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