How To Write A Creative Brief
Remember the days when you had to develop a creative brief to kick off a project? You know, when budgets were not an issue and the three-martini lunch was standard?
Yeah. Neither do we and we’ve been at this for over 40 years.
But, don’t let that stop you from taking advantage of this great tool. Creative briefs can make your job much easier, help avoid mistakes and keep your project focused from start to finish.
What is a Creative Brief?
A creative brief is a planning and guidance tool. It outlines the critical information that’s needed to deliver a successful project.
It’s a simple document, usually one or two pages, that keeps the project team focused on what matters by answering important questions.
Creative briefs typically provide the following information:
General project information
Project purpose and goals
Target audience info
Requirements and restrictions
Why Use a Creative Brief?
A creative brief helps the project sponsor set the project up for success by allowing them to think through the important questions before diving into the project.
A good brief helps the creative team by defining boundaries. Many people think of the creative process as something that should be wide open. They’re afraid that the results might be stunted if they impose limitations. But, oddly enough, the opposite is true! We deliver our best work when we have boundaries.
It also helps all the stakeholders by defining what a successful project will look like. You may be an experienced marketer and can tell good design when you see it. But, can your boss? How about your board? What about your business partner?
Not everyone understands marketing, but many times they are put in a position to evaluate or even approve a design project. A creative brief spells out the problem, project goals and target market, giving non-marketing stakeholders a focused, logical set of data that they can use to evaluate the project’s success, keeping them away from subjectivity.
Elements of A Creative Brief
So, what should a good creative brief contain? The following elements should provide you with a guide to creating your own creative brief.
The name of this element is self-explanatory. Right?
Trebuchets R Us Store Promotion Campaign
A brief summary of the project in a few sentences.
The Trebuchets R Us Store Promotion Campaign is designed to drive traffic to our new retail location in Miami through a direct mail campaign.
Explain your current situation, challenges, what’s wrong, what needs to be changed and what’s working. Talk about why you need to do this project and what you hope to achieve by it’s successful execution.
Trebuchets R Us recently opened a store in Miami, FL. This is our first retail store. We are having trouble getting people to visit the store.
Market research shows that people do not know about our store and they don’t know what a trebuchet is or how it can be useful to them. We want to alert people of our existence, educate them about trebuchets and communicate the value of a trebuchet for the average suburban home.
Here you define your audience and identify any unique characteristics it may have. This section should include any demographic information you have, distilled, of course.
Our target audience is grouchy white males, aged 56 to 75. We know that they are not worried about their safety. But, they do worry about neighbors walking on their lawn and want to find a way to keep people off it without building an expensive fence. These men take great pride in their lawns, live on a pensioner’s income and drive a GM vehicle.
What are the primary goals of this project? It’s important to have goals that are measurable because without measurable goals you can’t know if the project was successful. You’ll be left evaluating things like how much your coworkers liked the direct mail piece or how nicely it was to work with the agency.
The general goal of Trebuchets R Us is to drive traffic to our new retail location in Miami. Specifically, we have 10 people a day visiting our store. We need to increase daily traffic by 50%, which equals 15 customers a day.
Requirements and Restrictions
In this section we define any requirements that have to be met and any restrictions that need to be placed on the project.
Typically, both requirements and restrictions are technical in nature. You don’t need to address things like budgets or the fact that your CEO wants to approve everything before it goes.
- Three mailings executed within one month
- All printing to be done by InkMaster’s House of Printing
- All mail fulfillment handled by Stuffer Sam
- Mail piece format must be based on USPS standard sizes
- Restricted to existing marketing database. No new names will be purchased
This is where the project’s schedule gets defined. It can be as specific as a timeline with dates or more general with blocks of time assigned to each phase, or simply a due date.
Project complexity will drive the level of detail needed. As always, simple is best. If you want tons of detail, leave it out of the creative brief and make a Gantt chart.
Jan 2 - Project kick-off
Jan 18 - Initial concepts
Feb 3 - Final concepts
Feb 6 - Final concepts approved
Feb 7 - Files to printer
Feb 22 - Printed assets to fulfillment house
March 1 - First mail drop
March 15 - Second mail drop
March 30 - Third mail drop
Here you identify who has a stake in this project and what their involvement will be.
This helps you think through who to include in the process, both internally and externally.
Also, this helps the creative team to know who they need to consider when doing the project. If it’s clear from the outset that accounting gets final approval then the agency can present their solution in terms that make sense to the accounting department.
Ed Big, CEO - Ed will have final say on pretty much everything
Wilma Barney, Product Manager - Wilma will take part in initial brain-storming session and sign off on all copy
Chet Armstrong, Marketing - Chet is project sponsor and will be involved in all aspects of the project
Sam of Stuffer Sam - Sam will handle all fulfillment aspects
Michelle Breeze of MB Creative - Michelle will art direct the project and handle all client and vendor relationships
Who Should Write A Creative Brief?
Finally, who should write the creative brief, the client or the agency?
Of course, there’s no hard and fast rule--either can do it. The key is not really who writes it, but that the document is a collaboration.
The marketer sponsoring the project at least needs to be able to help answer the key questions: general information on the project, its purpose and goals, the target audience, requirements, restrictions and timelines.
The agency can take the lead on developing the creative brief and help the client flesh out their answers. Both the client and the agency need to approve the document once it’s done for it to be valuable.
Now you know all you need to develop a creative brief for your next project. Make sure to leave a comment and let us know if you found this post to be helpful.