Much of the unfocused marketing crap we see in the world comes from a lack of focus and discipline. This post is about a document that will change all that, creating a sharp focus for all of your messaging.
It’s called the creative brief, and it’s been used to devastating effect in the famous “Got Milk” campaign, when Jon Steel turned research into a sharply focused campaign to get more people to drink, of all things, milk.
But why don’t we do it? We think we can be undisciplined with marketing because so much of it is subjective. But the truth is, we’re wasting our time and money if we’re creating messaging that fails to connect…that just bounces off the person who’s hearing, seeing or reading it.
If you’re ready to get disciplined, the following truths will challenge you, but they’ll do it in the same way exercise does. You’ll be sore, but it’ll be a good sore.
First off, let’s frame the brief. It’s one story about your audience and how you fit into their situation.
If you get this story right, you’re creative can deliver a single, focused, relevant truth. This is the holy grail of persuasive communication.
But there are consequences of not writing a brief. For example:
- Product isn’t described in a way that resonates with the client.
- We don’t know the audience well enough to apply the product to their life (hint: they don’t do the work of making the connection; they move onto the next thing).
- The argument isn’t compelling, because you can’t accurately define why the heck the audience would care about the offer or you leave the creatives to guess.
We need to know what the product is, who it’s for and why it matters to them.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” -Albert Einstein
It’s not poetry; it’s a business assignment. Keep the brief brief.
Here’s what happens when you don’t; your creatives read the brief, feeling responsible for all the words, even the ones they don’t understand. They don’t ask about everything because they think they might understand.
But if it’s concise enough that everyone thinks each word is important, they’ll ask. In other words, make them depend on a set of words on one page to understand the assignment.
You’ll be more in-control (and also more accountable) because every word matters.
3 Essential Parts
“Pursue one great, decisive aim with force and determination.” Karl Von Clausewitz
The brief tells the creatives what you’re selling, who it’s for and why it matters to them.
If you’re not clear on these things, your creatives won’t know where to focus their efforts. Your creative options will be all over the place, and it’ll probably be shallow.
What are we selling?
Think of your product. What about your product is the most compelling to your audience and their greatest felt need?
Who’s it for?
Who’s your audience? Is it someone who makes sense and are knowable? Tell us about their life at least enough that we can understand how they need what you’re offering.
Here are a few things to watch for:
- Too stereotypical. This shows a lack of research. Including attributes found in research into your brief doesn’t make it weaker, but adds more texture. As long as it’s typical enough to be realistic.
- Too demographic-based. Demographics are for media buying, but they’re hard to write a letter to. If you can’t write a personalized letter to this person because you can’t imagine who they are, then you’re too demographically based.
- Too ideal. If you want to know what this looks like, check out the Hallmark Channel and look at the perfect lives of the characters. Does your target audience own a bakery that’s clean and cozy, but never charges anyone for anything? They might be too perfect.
Why does it matter?
Here’s where you connect the need with the product. If your audience is the hero, then what does your product do to help them live better? If it’s not interesting, it won’t sell. So make sure to be honest with yourself.
In the end, if it doesn’t resonate with the creatives, you probably need to rewrite or go back to research. So be a good judge and you’ll save yourself a lot of time.
Sections That Support
Here are a few sections that can support your brief. Some are essential.
The Single Most Important Thought (SMIT) or Single Most Compelling Idea summarizes interestingly and briefly. This is essential.
Can you summarize in a simple sentence? “The audience should buy Red Bull because it will help them do better on their exam, even if they didn’t study.”
This implies that the audience wants to live like they have no exams, but wants to do well on them anyway. Maybe the research showed that they’re losing a bunch of sales because students are drinking another energy drink before exams because they only think of Redbull when they’re snowboarding or partying.
Now the creatives can make a campaign that connects Redbull to that time before the exam.
Why should they believe the claim?
Some claims require evidence. If you’re telling people RedBull can help you read the minds of those around you (hopefully people who’ve studied) during the exam, your ad is now about a product (which might be okay in this case), not the audience, since the innovation is so interesting by itself. If that’s the case, you may want to substantiate that, since people might not believe it.
This section isn’t always important. You may not have to prove a claim. If that’s the case, then leave it out.
Background: What are we trying to accomplish in a sentence or two. Make sure this is consistent with the marketing goal.
A great content strategy engages your audience in a journey. By putting everything you say into service of that one goal, and in a way the audience cares about, you’re expanding their mind, helping them think differently. Not only that, you’re giving them actions to take that will improve their situation.
One thing to think about before you embark on this journey. Compelling content is great, but if your brand doesn’t earn their trust, it might compel them to get someone else to help them. At Resound, our system focuses on brand first, positioning you as the one who can help. Contact us to find out more.
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