GIGO is an acronym that analysts use to explain why the results of their labours are not very meaningful. It describes the situation in which no matter how they look at the data that they are working with, no useful insights are derived, and the reason why is simple. The data itself was poor, hence GIGO, which stands for Garbage In, Garbage Out.
I’m not sure that there is an equivalent acronym in the creative world, so I have decided to create one, whilst taking care not to be sued by a well known taxi service – UBUR – which stands for Useless Brief, Useless Results.
Who’s to blame?
It’s fairly obvious, but when an agency is given a poor brief, it’s very hard for them to turn out work that will delight their client. It’s not that the standard of the work will be poor, rather that it will fail to achieve what the client is looking for. Is that the agency’s fault? No, of course not, they will be doing the best they can with one arm metaphorically tied behind their back.
So, it’s the client’s fault, is it? Well, no, not really. The client is not a designer or copywriter, if they were, they’d be doing the work themself. This is actually a classic example of everyone doing their best, but the process needs to be clearer so that the communication makes more sense.
Great projects start with great briefs
The agency needs clarity, and the client needs a clear understanding of how to provide that. That way, they can produce a brief that will enable the designers and content writers to create work that delivers the results that everyone wants.
What goes into a creative brief?
1. A name for the project
Give your project a name so everyone involved will have a clear understanding of what they are working on. If you’re creating a new promotion or product launch, you don’t want any confusion, especially given that for many members of your team, this will be something completely new. Come up with a name that describes and inspires, and get people excited at the opportunity from the beginning.
2. The brand and project background
Provide a paragraph or two about your company in the context of this project, and explain why the project is important. What are you trying to achieve and what impact will this have on your business? Is it awareness, sales growth, engagement, a change of image etc? Is the timing of the project significant? Is it unique in the market or is the campaign going to compete head-on with competitors? Is this the first campaign of its type that you are running or is this the next in a series? How much of it needs to be brand new, and how much needs to refer to the legacy of previous activities?
3. The objectives
Specifically, what is the project trying to achieve? Give an idea of the audience that is being targeted, the response that you are hoping for, key dates and any key challenges that you can foresee. Explain what success looks like and the benefits that it will deliver. The better the agency understands this, the more nuanced the agency can make the project.
4. Your target audience
In as much detail as you can, describe the segment of your audience that your campaign is aimed at. This is a critical part of the brief and the more specific you can make it, the better. Think about the demographic make-up, age, income, education, occupation and so on. Consider their behaviours and the trends that are affecting them. Look at the customer history of this segment – are they regular buyers, lapsed customers, or a new audience? Have they had any contact or experience of dealing with you in the past? Do you understand their emotional journey and what will motivate them to respond to your project?
5. What is your competition doing?
Will your project be launched in direct competition against other companies? What have your competitors done previously that worked well or flopped? What can you learn from their activities as well as your own project history? Let the agency know who the competitors are that you are concerned with so that they can get a feel of who you are up against and find ways to differentiate you.
6. Your key message
The key message refers to the “so what?” of your project. Why are you launching it? What pain points does it address? What problem does it solve and how? Does it save time or money? Does it improve efficiency, comfort or flexibility? Does it simplify something or does it open up new opportunities? This is the part of the brief that you will have seen us refer to as the emotional journey of the customer. How do they feel now and how will they feel if they buy-in to your project?
7. What’s your tone?
Visually, and in the choice of language, what is the tone or attitude that you wish to portray through this project? Try to provide emotive language for the agency that will allow them to really understand the look and feel that you want. Is your use of language to be formal or informal? Do you want a design that is brash, understated, bright, muted, funky, traditional, edgy, safe, contemporary, nostalgic and so on. The more authentic your choice of adjectives, the closer to your vision the designs will be!
Another acronym – CTA stands for Call To Action, in other words, what is it that you want the audience to do in response to your activity? If there is no clear CTA they will see your brochure, advert or website and think “hmm, interesting” but then do nothing. You have to be clear if you want them to request more information, ask for a sample, download a demo or trial, submit contact details and so on. Your project may have more than one CTA, but it is best to have one primary CTA that links in with the objective (see number 3 above).
9. Distribution plan
When the project is done, you’ll need to make sure your audience actually sees it. List a few channels or platforms on which you plan to announce the launch, as well as any promotional content you plan to create. When drafting this section, think about your target audience. Don’t waste time on a promotional strategy that they won’t see. For example, if you’re promoting a project to Gen-Z, you’ll want to invest in social media rather than billboards or newspaper ads.
10. Share your brief with stakeholders
Once you’ve drafted a creative brief, share it with the team you’ll be working with and around the company. If you’re a consultant working outside of a client’s company, encourage your clients to share the brief internally. As you or your clients spread awareness, you should be open to answering questions or taking feedback from colleagues in case they have any great ideas. This strategy will improve team alignment, increase support of the project, and ensure that all of your colleagues are on the same page.
Once you’ve got your brief, all that’s left is to find the right agency to interpret your strategy and sprinkle it with creative fairy dust! At Focus7 we love working to support our clients’ strategic thinking and to bring their projects to life. You can see some examples in our website.
If you’d like to talk to us about your projects, we’d love to hear from you. Please do get in touch via our website.
That’s our CTA BTW!
David Langdown is co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Focus7, a purpose-driven, brand-led growth agency. David has been a Fellow of the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing since 2003. He has an Advanced Professional Diploma in Psychotherapeutic Counselling and is a practising counsellor.