A brief is not just an instruction for work to be done, it's a strategic and creative document, meant to summarise effectively the task at hand in a way that inspires great creative output.
I shouldn't have to remind you of this, but the reason you should want (in fact, insist on) great creative work is simply because it works harder and better. The IPA and researcher Peter Field recently updated their research on the effectiveness of creativity: "the findings revealed a direct correlation between strong advertising creativity and business success, and that high levels of creativity make advertising campaigns some 12 times more efficient at increasing a brand’s market share".
So, what does a good brief need to make it good?
Did you see the size of the brief in the Stop Sign video above? And did you see the chaos that followed? And the resultant confused and jumbled output?
Sadly, many briefs are problematic - they don't articulate the problem carefully enough , they have too many - or too vague - objectives, their target audience is indistinct, there is no insight into the consumers' behaviour, no clear idea of the behaviour change required and no jump off point for how to bring the brand beneﬁt to life. More than that, most of them are wishful (and dare I say it, sometimes rather arrogant) thinking.
Many briefs use the From - To, or the Get - To - By, format, which are both useful. In essence, your consumers are at Point A, and you would like them to be at Point B. What are the messages that would persuade them to change their behaviour, at what stages in their decision making journey should you interact with them, and how?
But a strong area of insight is identifying what might get in the way of them simply doing what you want them to do, following your instructions like sheep? What is the brand hurdle, or tension between Point A and B? Even if you managed to get them to change their minds about their beliefs about the brand, might there be an obstacle that stills stands in their way?
By adding that into your brief, you will acknowledge that you consumers too have choices. And maybe you're not one of them. Yet.
Other top tips:
1. Really truly drill down into the objective - what is the problem or opportunity that communications can solve or achieve? Why are you doing this? To acquire new customers, or retain existing ones? What are the measures of success and how best will you achieve them? My favourite example of this is Sainsbury's "Try something New Today" campaign - it's an old example but an exceptional one in terms of setting clear objectives. All they needed to achieve a massive growth target (+£2.5 billion over three years) was to ask their existing customers to spend an additional £1.14 each time they shopped. Watch the case study of this campaign here . There's a lot that works in it, but take a moment to marvel at the simplicity and clarity of the objective, and how it clearly directed the creative and media strategy.
2. Be clear who your core audience is. Famous for his Volkswagen ads, copywriter Bob Levenson said, "I always started by writing Dear Charlie, like writing to a friend. And then I would say what I had to say, and at the end I would cross out Dear Charlie, and I was all right." If your creative team can't imagine who they are speaking to, what will they say and how will they say it?
Simply put, you want to understand the sometimes hidden motivations that drive behaviour. Actually no, you NEED to. Consumer insights are little secrets hidden beneath the surface, that explain the underlying behaviours, motivations, pain points and emotions of your consumers. Although they are sometimes quite generic, they are always truthful and a really powerful one will immediately generate an emotional reaction - a laugh, a smile, a tear, a sense of - oh yes, that's me.
The real power of the insight is when the insight (or human truth) OVERLAPS with the brand beneﬁt. That's the sweet spot.
I am a fan of the Venn diagram when trying to extract insights - use two or three circles and see where you overlap. When you hit the intersection between the brand and the human motivation in the category, you hit truly powerful territory.
One of my favourite examples is the Always Like a Girl campaign. Or the Sanlam One Rand Man campaign. Making up stuff for insights (ie not basing them on actual observations & data), and leaving them in space that is too generic, is where things get ﬂuffy.
How does that motivation that you've identiﬁed link unlock brand growth?
Think Omo's "Dirt is Good". "The campaign had resonance because it addressed the inherent tension between moms’ controlling instincts (visá-vis dirt) and their desire for their children to be free to grow and develop through play. Moms found the message relevant, meaningful, and evocative. Before this campaign, it could be argued that most moms (and most makers of laundry detergent) thought of dirt as the enemy, but this big idea made us think about dirt in a very different way. It made us think of dirt as an ally in our children’s development." The idea was not only disruptive, it was based on a universal insight, so was able to resonate (with a few regional tweaks) across the world.
|The Book Of Dirt, a recent execution off the long running idea, 'Dirt is Good'.|
"in an academic world, a positioning articulates the competitive added value of a brand. It is deﬁned vs competition, whereas a value proposition deﬁnes what the brand brings to its audience and is consumer-driven. Some people deﬁne value proposition with the claim e.g Airbnb's proposition is “feel at home anywhere in the world”, whereas it's positioning could be the anti-hotel brand".
|My Venn diagram, based on info from the Effies case (link above).|