Marketing Notes: Karen Sparks Flashes Creative Briefs [Plus Free Guide]

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What is a creative brief?

It’s accountability. It’s the agreed upon truth. It’s a document that’s created at the beginning of a new marketing project that all the key players should review and sign-off on. Gaining that consensus means you can go back to it for guidance, when you find yourself on round seven of a project, when many have lost sight of the project’s core purpose. Instead of debating if the word “innovative” or “ground-breaking” is more appropriate, the creative brief leads you all back to what’s important. It’s the fundamental constitution of a project and it sets the bar, so you can measure your success at the end of a project.

Why write one?

Many times a product manager, a marketing exec and an agency all think they are speaking the same language and sharing the same vision, when in reality they’re not. This document says: you as a team are trying to make potential customers do X, you want them to know Y, and you want them to understand we are different from competitors because of Z. You will know you succeeded if you have an X% increase in web traffic to the landing page, if Y new leads fill out the lead gen form, if you hear someone talking about Z in the bathroom at the big tradeshow. That all needs to be written down and agreed upon.

What should be included?

It depends. Is this a product launch, a pricing promotion, a whole new brand identity? As a rule, there are 11 universal questions that you should be able to answer, for almost any kind of project. Depending on your project specifics, you can add on more focused questions after that.

What’s the main objective of this project?
How will you determine if this assignment is successful? What are the specific measurement criteria?
What does the competitive landscape look like (messaging/visuals, etc.)?
Who is the target audience?
What does that audience already think or feel about your company or offering? Are there preconceived notions you need to overcome? What do you want your target audience to think after this project has been completed?
What is the ONE key benefit to be conveyed? Note: this does not mean many commas with a list of features, what is the ONE thing you want people to walk away with?
What are the proof points that support that one key benefit? Particularly in life science marketing, audiences want proof – not bold, unsupported claims.
What action do we want the audience to take as a result of this effort?
What kind of adjectives should we use to describe this communication? What is the tone we are trying to achieve? Are you groundbreaking or reliable?
Who are the stakeholders/approvers on this project and what is each responsible for (e.g. who will review for brand consistency, for technical accuracy, for creative appeal)?
What are the tactics/deliverables and technical specifications associated with this project e.g. we’re making a print ad, html5 banner ad, landing page, tradeshow booth handout, direct mail piece, etc.

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What’s the hardest part?

In my experience “the one key benefit” is the place where things get a little muddy. Most products, companies, services, have many claims to fame; we’re the fastest! Least Expensive! Most data! Cleanest data! Best executive team! While all these things may be true, your audience can’t digest all of that in the bite-sized ways we communicate today. If you try to be everything to everybody, you won’t have the focus to support those statements with data. You have to pick. Choose something you think will resonate and own it. Back it up with facts. Once your audience believes that about you, then you can think about communicating secondary messages.

The second hardest part is committing to circling back at the end of the campaign or project. The job is done but it’s not reviewed. What did you set out to do? How did you do? Did you meet the goals agreed upon? If not, why? What should you do differently next time?

What do you do with the Creative Brief once it’s complete?

Anyone can write the creative brief. As an agency we like to write it ourselves early on, because it forces us to dive deeper to understand the project fundamentals. Sometimes clients prefer to write and vet their creative briefs internally, before sharing it with us. Regardless of who actually writes down the information, the real value lies in talking through it together. Ideally you should schedule a kick-off call that includes everyone that will have approval rights, from start to finish. Whoever wrote the brief drives the call, explains their thought-process and opens the floor up for some healthy debate.

In a perfect world creative, copy, digital and all the other folks who will touch the project will attend to hear first-hand the primary objectives of the project. All at the same time, so there is no confusion or gray-areas to interpret later on. When the individuals and teams unite to build a formative creative brief, you can really see the benefits, the clarity and the cohesion in the final product.

About Karen

Karen is a rare breed. Not only is she one of the very few living San Diego natives walking the Earth, but she is also an exceptional life science marketer. Karen is also our resident ray of sunshine who juggles strategy, tactics and process armed with 15 years of account management experience, a “can do” attitude, and a passion for definitive guidance and efficient project management.
Catch up on the latest marketing intel from Karen, or reach out to her on LinkedIn!