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When a marketer approaches an agency to develop a creative concept, that request usually takes the form of a “brief”: a short statement that defines the request, provides enough detail to anticipate a creative team’s questions, but is vague enough to give them the freedom to be creative. Marketers who overwork their briefs and use them to flex their own creative skills invariably stifle the agency and miss an opportunity to get the true value that comes from a good agency relationship.
Here’s a quick guide to how to compose a brief without resorting to a generic template. There are different types of agency briefs that cover everything from the selection of the agency itself to briefs for short-term campaigns or more extensive creative briefs for a complete re-branding and rethinking of the corporate brand from its name to its logo.
A good creative brief is … duh… brief. It’s called a ”brief” for a reason and if there was ever an occasion to tell yourself to “spare me the details” it’s when you start composing. Try to keep it short and tight for the agency will respond with questions to help them clarify the request. Resist the urge to over-share since the soul of a good brief is the objective, the data, and some directions -- not concepts -- to get the agency started.
When approaching an agency for the first time it’s crucial to preface the brief with a concise statement of what the company’s current definition is. This should include a quick history, the corporate value proposition, it’s key products, competitors and customers. Look at the boilerplate on your press releases or your corporate website’s “about us” page -- that’s what you’re telling the outside world at that point in time. Don’t overthink the corporate definition and resist the temptation to speculate about any problems or issues. Just state the facts -- company size, global reach, number of customers and name a few of the key ones, awards, revenue, and existing agency relationships.
Then turn to the corporate strategy and cut-and-paste into the brief your vision, mission and purpose statements. If you have a tagline or slogan, include that as well but be sure to share the corporate strategy with the agency. That’s the “north star” or compass heading that the company is all steering towards, and ultimately the goal the brief is trying to support.
Write that background preface once and then save it. It can be reused on future briefs. If the agency comes back with a request for more information or background, use those questions to modify and sharpen the background information. Questions are indications you may be omitting some obvious information.
Start the brief with a problem statement: “Acme will announce a new driverless car in the spring of 2018 and needs a name, logo, brand guide and global campaign for the new model.”
Then define the challenges and opportunities relevant to the brief. This is a chance to be candid about competition, delays, price.
Here’s an example of how to set up a new product launch brief:
- We are late to the driverless car market and must launch a new model at the Detroit Car Show on March 1, 2018…
- The competition is Tesla, BMW and Chevrolet but we also see competitors from services like ZipCar and Uber.
- We believe the market for this new model is $15 billion USD in the first year and anticipate building 20,000 units to fulfill demand.
Some agencies specialize in market research and prefer to conduct their own discovery process to quantify and qualify the target market and opportunity. This section is where you can share your own research and internal data to help inform the design of the campaign or the re-branding exercise.
- Our research indicates the target buyer is a man in his late 20s with a preference for performance but a budget under $400 per month for a new car or lease.
- Our dealership data indicates the 2nd quarter of the calendar year is when most Millennials start researching new cars, perhaps tied to graduation and end-of-school milestones.