When executing a creative project such as an ad campaign, whether an in-house or external project with partners or clients, getting everyone involved on the same page is imperative. This increases the chances of success and reduces the number of hindrances and frustration associated with a project due to misaligned or unclear intentions. A creative brief can also be used as a roadmap. It is one of the different tools to outline what the team intends to achieve and how they intend it.
At its core, a creative brief is a planning and communication tool; it lays out the project’s implementation and communicates to the team members what needs to be done to achieve predetermined objectives (client’s vision and mission).
What is a Creative Brief?
A creative brief is a planning document outlining a creative project’s overall implementation strategy, objectives, and components. The essential features of a creative brief are the project name, objectives, stakeholders, target audience, key message or the big idea, due date, competition, and distribution/campaign delivery.
When and Why Use it?
Creative briefs are highly flexible and can be used in multiple projects to create harmony among the project team and meet client expectations. This article will discuss areas of application and reasons for using creative briefs.
Creative briefs are ordinary in advertising, marketing, and design. As a result, they are often prepared through close consultations among members involved in each creative project. Therefore, you should consider integrating a creative brief in the following situations.
Non-standard, non-iterative, highly conceptual work
Briefs are essential, multifaceted, and highly conceptualized when working on projects outside standard business operations. This is because they eliminate the ambiguity of the project by outlining a rational plan of execution, thus providing the team with a roadmap that shows what is expected of them. A creative brief of such a project has to be detailed and may take longer to prepare to get everyone involved on the same page.
Execution of previous work across deliverables
Briefs are also used when doing projects for clients you have previously worked with. Such briefs are less detailed than for novel clients since the deliverables, vision, and mission are often already defined. While you may already know the client’s expectations, it is always good to have a guide for your work to refer to as the project is carried out.
Creative briefs can be used for template work. This is work or projects that use standard procedures and practices but can be edited and revised to suit clients’ expectations. Such briefs are the least detailed and are often a formality and simple guide describing the critical aspects of the project for the team to refer to.
There are many reasons why a creative brief is necessary for creative projects. Primarily, it acts as a blueprint for the entire project. Therefore, it helps everyone involved in the project have an idea of the project scope, goals, target audience, client expectations, tone, and attitude to reach the target audience and evaluate the competition targeting the same audience. In some cases, a brief is considered a standard agency practice as it communicates your understanding of the project.
Other reasons why you should use a creative brief include:
You need a plan
Having a plan is a huge determinant of success in any project. Going further and documenting the plan makes things easier, especially when managing the project. This means everyone involved in the project or joining at a later stage can get an overall but in-depth idea of what the project entails, from purpose, and objectives to expectations and deliverables, in one or two pages.
Saves your time
As a management tool, a brief can guide the schedule of project meetings, thus ensuring meetings are conducted efficiently without back-and-forth discussions, thus reducing the time spent on making decisions. Briefs also reduce misunderstandings among team members by stating the direction the project should take, especially regarding the tone and attitude of the vital message.
Maintains accountability and communication
By outlining the project scope and deliverables, it can determine if the client is getting value for their investment. Therefore, it promotes accountability within the creative team. By promoting accountability, a brief helps build trust among stakeholders from the onset of the project.
To process requests and approval faster
A creative brief is used as a communication tool, thus facilitating administrative decisions such as approvals; for example, the brief can determine if an idea positively impacts the project’s objectives, thus speeding up the approval of suggestions and proposals. In addition, by clarifying the expected results, a brief speed up the final project review and approval process. This further reduces the wastage of resources on objectives that vary from the client’s expectations.
To produce products of higher quality
A creative brief lets the creative team clarify what the project is expected to accomplish. It allows them to be objective with their ideas, resulting in high-quality end products. Also, a brief ensure resources (money and time) are appropriately allocated to areas that greatly influence the quality of the product.
Who is in Charge of Writing a Creative Brief?
Commonly, a project team member is appointed to craft a creative brief. Consequently, the person designated to write the document will vary from one situation to the next. For example, a project manager will typically be the most appropriate person to write the brief for in-house projects.
Whereas, for agencies dealing with external clients, the facilitator between the agency and the client will ordinarily be responsible for drafting the creative brief. The person appointed to write the creative brief then collaborates with other involved parties to develop a comprehensive brief.
How to Write a Creative Brief?
A creative brief should be written concisely and explicitly such that anyone who reads the document, be it a designer, marketer, or client, can understand the general concept of the project. Below is a guide on creating a solid creative guide for any project.
Step 1: Company’s background information
A description of the company should be provided, giving context to what the company does, vision and mission, and core values. The background information should align with the project and not a company’s general history. You can discuss the need for the project and the challenges that necessitated the project’s initiation.
Step 2: Your project name
The brief should then indicate the name of the specific project. More often than not, the creative team will be handling more than one project. It is, therefore, important to give the project a unique name that distinguishes the project from other names. The name can be based on what the target audience is being urged to do, the name of the campaign, or the product/service in question.
Step 3: Objective or big idea
Next, define the project objective(s). The objective represents the need for the project and what the company intends to achieve with it. It is the end goal of the company. For example, does the company want to attract more college students to sign up for its services, or how does its product/services intend to solve the target audience’s problem?
Step 4: Target audience
The following section in a creative brief should identify the project’s target audience. When identifying the target audience, you can categorize and define them based on demographics, behaviors, psychographics, and geographics.
- Demographics define the target audience based on age, education, ethnicity, occupation, and income.
- Behavioral characteristics categorize the target audience based on purchasing behaviors and patterns based on historical data.
- Psychographics define the target audience based on consumer psychological characteristics – how they feel about the company’s products or services.
- Geographics are characteristics that classify customers based on where they are located. Different geographical regions will have varying market attributes like price, preference, language, etc.
Any identified customer characteristics would be helpful in tailoring end products that suit the identified target audience.
Step 5: Stakeholders
In every project, key stakeholders within or outside the company have to review the creative brief and offer feedback before the project begins. The stakeholders should be briefly identified, and their contact information should be listed. The stakeholders can also be ranked in order of authority and critical roles so that the team knows who to contact when issues arise.
Step 6: Key message
The project’s key message you want to communicate to the target audience should then be derived and included in the creative brief. An excellent key message should indicate the purpose of the project. Therefore, a suitable question to ask yourself is, “we are undertaking this project so that we can?” and the answer can form the basis of the vital message.
In addition, the selected key message should identify the main point, the target audience’s experience without the main point, and how your product/service impacts that experience. The customer takes center stage in the narrative and is more likely to pay attention to what you want to share.
Step 7: Any technical requirements
The next item on the creative brief should be a list of the project’s technical requirements. Technical requirements will include the number of designers, brand guidelines, deliverable dates, specialists, equipment, etc.
Step 8: Any challenges
After outlining the technical requirements, the creative brief should mention any challenges the company currently faces in reaching its target audience. It is advisable to include the notable general challenges as the creative brief is expected to be concise.
Step 9: Competition
The brief should then provide an assessment of the company’s competition. This involves identifying the competitors, their projects to achieve similar objectives, their products and services, and the points of similarity and differentiation in their strategies. Examining the competition can help develop novel ideas that have not been experimented with or build on existing approaches.
Step 10: Consumer benefit
Next, indicate the main benefit, crucial consumer benefit (KCB), the target audience is expected to gain from using the product or service. Note that even if there are multiple consumer benefits from one product/service, only the KCB should be indicated, which is the benefit that addresses the target audience’s most significant main point or problem. Identifying the KCB requires consultations with the stakeholders and evaluation of consumer data so that the selected KCB can be objective and supported by statistics.
Step 11: Tone and attitude
Tone and brand voice influence how a customer associates with a company and its products or services. Tone and attitude are used to get the critical message to the target audience effectively. The tone and voice should reflect the values that a company upholds and the assurances they give its customers.
Copywriters use adjectives to influence tone and brand voice, while designers use font, color, size, logo specs, shapes, etc. To illustrate an example of the tone and brand voice, you can indicate in the brief that the product is fun, reliable, and efficient while the brand is mature, trustworthy, and affordable. Since tone is dependent on the target audience, some companies will use a formal tone, whereas others use a casual tone.
Step 12: Call to action
A creative brief can include a call to action (CTA) if you intend to convince the target audience to do something after interacting with the project’s end product. While having more than one CTA is acceptable, if the campaign targets primary and secondary customers, try to use a single CTA. Note that not all creative briefs have a CTA since some campaigns could aim to change the target audience’s thoughts or perceptions without taking action.
Step 13: Your scope
The last item on the brief is the project scope. The scope can outline the project’s due date, budget, and time frame. The timeline can be provided in the form of an action plan with due dates for every deliverable.
Creative Brief Templates
Ordinarily, creating a solid creative brief will take a significant amount, more so for large projects. Using creative brief templates like the ones provided here can help in shortening this duration. The templates are predesigned, reusable, and fillable forms that you can fill out to write a comprehensive creative brief. Since different projects will have different requirements, the templates are customizable every time you want to write a new creative brief. The templates are readily downloadable for free and in different designs.
Effective Practices for Writing a Creative Brief
You can observe the following writing techniques to ensure that the creative brief effectively serves its intended purpose:
- Be thorough but concise: An excellent creative brief should be exhaustive but concise. It is advisable not to get into tertiary actions and elements of the project, especially when indicating what needs to be done.
- Focus on measurable results: Always try to include deliverables that can be quantified or qualified to measure progress and performance. This helps in the review and approval stage and in measuring a project’s success.
- Get input from your team: You should always involve your team when creating a creative brief. This way, everyone is on the same page from the beginning. Including other stakeholders from other departments or external stakeholders is advisable.
Coordination is significant when executing creative projects. A project’s creative brief is a document you can use to ensure this is possible. While it takes time to write a creative brief, its benefits are unlimited. It provides your team members, stakeholders, and anyone involved with a summary of the ins and outs of the project. Creative briefs are popular among designers, web developers, and marketers. The brief documents what the project is expected to accomplish and your team’s strategy to make this possible.
While each creative project is unique, you can craft a creative brief using the different templates available. Even if a designated person prepares the document, consultations with stakeholders must be done. A creative brief is created in the initial stage of a project before any activity has started. However, it is utilized in the subsequent stages of the project cycle until the review and approval stage.