Creative briefs are only as good as the effort put in. When kicking off a branding project, a creative brief is extremely valuable. Within this brief, the scope of work for a branding project should be tailored based on the goals and expectations of each client. According to Mollie Rosen, EVP Agency Relations and Membership at the American Association of Advertising Agencies, highlighted that "a well-written brief is at the crux of great creative output."
“When it comes to marketing strategy and creative execution, the output is only as good as the input, so you need the right people in the room making sure you’ve asked the right questions early enough upstream to help set up for success downstream.”
Take this example: you as a client are looking for a chef and get in touch with the famous Jacque Pepin. There's several creative (culinary) briefs that you, as a client, can send his way.
1. "Cook us a dinner."
There's very little parameters or direction here. Without the specifications, he'll have to come up with a concept himself.
2. "Cook us a dinner with duck, potatoes, and vegetables."
Although we've narrowed the scope with specific foods, there's still no direction provided.
3. "My in-laws are coming in to town for a last minute anniversary weekend, and I don't have the time to cook."
Here, we find a problem that needs to be solved. With an obstacle of insufficient time, Jacque will be required to come up with the dinner concept himself but now there's a clearer problem that he'll need to solve.
4. "We have to be mindful of gluten allergies and vegan options to the meal. We'd like a mix of meat heavy (steak) and vegetable only options (squashes and root vegetables that are in-season)."
Jacque how has direction but he's limiting creatively in what dishes he can cook.
5. "Create a meal that celebrates the love and romance of a 30-year marriage that is carried through their family's lineage."
There's now a theme and goal of creating an ambiance for this last-minute anniversary dinner. Jacque has the creative direction with a goal in mind but has the freedom to choose what types of dishes he creates.
Internally, a creative brief provides the baseline for the entire creative team to be on the same page. In order to maximize the efficiency in your brief, here's your checklist for the top items that need to be included.
Background: What's the general line of work? What's the industry analysis? Where does this brand fit in with other brands in the industry?
Value Prop: How does this brand differ from others? What makes it unique? Is it the level of customer service, the qualifications of its team, or perhaps the emergence of a cutting edge product?
Target Audience: Define who the audience is. As a minimum, include their gender, age range, and geographic location. Consider highlighting user personas. What does your target audience do for a living? Approximately how much do they make? What are their spending habits? What are they interested in? Also, where is the target audience in the funnel? For example, is the purpose of the creative brief to increase brand awareness as a first step or is it to increase user engagement from those that are already aware of the brand?
Call-to-Action: Define what you want the audience to do. There has to be a clear expectation of what you want as an end result. This should directly correlate with a business objection. Are you looking to increase sales from a new product launch? Or are you trying to increase the number of new topics on your blog's website? The expectations will clearly define the goal.
Decision Maker: Who's making the decisions? If you have multiple people on a client team (with varying degrees of weight based on their titles), you'll want to have one person that ultimately makes the call. One of the easiest problems to avoid is to appoint someone on the team as the decision maker.
Guidelines: What are the guidelines that are an absolute must? Has the client provided any branding stylebooks or messaging that been ingrained in a company's core? There's usually something that a client feels strongly about - whether that's a specific requirement of no pale pinks or old-school calligraphy. This will limit the creative freedom but leads to a better client result.
Tone of Voice: Reference any previous content that was considered "in-line" with the tone and feel of the brand. What has worked? What hasn't? Has the tone changed based on the goal or audience?
Clear and Concise: Creative briefs should not have any ambiguity in direction. It should have enough direction to accomplish a goal, but with the creative flexibility to try new designs and marketing techniques.
Expectations: Keep expectations realistic. If there's a deliverable that is delayed because you haven't received the assets from a client, make sure these pre-requisites are presented prior to the start of the engagement. If there's only X number of revisions included within a specific timeline, include those details as well.
In Uber's recent rebrand (poignant for some), one can imagine how their creative brief read. Women@Forbes Contributor, Emily Fields Joffrion writes in her open letter to Uber's CMO, Rebecca Messina:
"If the goal of the creative brief was to make Uber’s logo less masculine and more approachable and inclusive to a global audience, why not choose one of them to tell the story of their work and gain the recognition and notoriety that is almost always reserved for men? By choosing spokespeople who don’t represent the audience you are trying to include, you automatically bring into question the authenticity of the project and the intent. It feels like "femwashing."
So when it comes time to drafting your creative brief, take your time in making it clear, concise and insightful. Don't have your end goal become a thesis paper filled with paragraphs and monotonous filler text. Maximize the efficiency within the document. If your reader doesn't leave with a clear understanding of the value prop, target audience, and call-to-action, then it's time to revisit, and reintroducse the creativity back into your brief.