All marketers want to produce great creative—powerful, resonant communications that motivate customers and build their brand. While there are countless ways to end up there, one thing is consistent: starting with a strong creative brief.
What is a Creative Brief?
At its most basic, a creative brief is a one- or two-page document outlining the strategy, objectives, and details of a project. Of course, within that broad definition lies a wide range of possibilities. Not all creative briefs are created equal.
So, what makes a successful creative brief—one that goes beyond a collection of facts and leads to out-of-the-box creativity?
What Makes an Effective Creative Brief
It’s Got All the Nuts and Bolts
At a minimum, a creative brief provides all the key project details the team needs to know. Things like technical requirements, the list of deliverables, background information, deadlines, etc.
A good brief isn’t a long, rambling info dump. It’s a tightly edited, focused document that contains the necessary information without a whole lot of superfluous fluff. While it may include links to sources of additional information, the creative brief itself is quick and easy to read and digest.
It Provides a Precise Target
Every brief should clearly outline the objective, messaging strategy, and how success will be defined within the context of the project. This ensures everyone is on the same page and understands the expectations.
It Sparks Creative Thinking
A next-level creative brief doesn’t just communicate information, it sets the tone for the project and gets people thinking. It contains ideas and insights. It’s a launchpad for the creative process. Ideally, it doesn’t just kick off the creative process—it’s PART of the creative process.
Here are a few examples of what a finished creative brief looks like:
How to Write a Strong Creative Brief
Okay, so now that you know what makes a strong creative brief, how do you write one? Here are 7 tips:
1. Structure Is Important, but Allow for Flexibility
It’s helpful to use a creative brief template with all the key information areas already in place (you can find plenty of online resources for this). That said, it’s also good to leave room for creativity. There are no rules that say a creative brief can’t itself be creative. Would pictures help tell the story? Would it be more impactful to communicate the strategy as a story? Or maybe a video? Anything you can do to inspire the creative team is helpful.
2. Use Plain Language
Avoid marketing speak in your briefs. Since you want your document to be clear and easy to read, it’s more important to get the information across in a casual, conversational way. This is the time to inspire people, not overwhelm them with smart-sounding technical jargon.
3. Leverage Your Insights
To take your briefs to the next level, make the most of your brand expertise and audience insights. By including insider information that helps the team really know and understand your brand, you’ll help them produce better, more resonant work.
4. Make It a Collaboration
Since everybody needs to be on the same page with the project, why not include them early in the brief writing process? The account and creative teams will likely have ideas and perspectives to add that can make the brief—and the final project—stronger.
5. Don’t Shy Away from the Hard Truth
A lot of creative briefs avoid stating uncomplimentary truths because marketers don’t want to sound negative or find fault with their brand. However, the more honest a brief is, the better the whole team can get a true sense of the brand and the challenges it needs to overcome. So be sure to describe your brand’s weaknesses as well as its strengths.
6. Walk in Your Customer’s Shoes
This one’s big. To set the creative team up for success, they really need to understand the audience—who they are, how they think, what they want. Remember, the best marketing is based on an emotional truth born out of genuine insights and understanding. So, while including technical audience data can be helpful, extrapolating the data into emotional insights the creative team can build on is much more helpful.
7. Embrace Your Inner Creative
Think of your role as not merely handing off the details of the project, but as being part of the creative process. Feel free to add whatever insights, brainstorming ideas, etc. you deem relevant. Don’t worry about stepping on people’s toes. Great ideas come from anywhere. The ideal situation is one in which nobody holds too tightly to their job title. It’s not about ego, it’s about ending up with the very best creative product.
An Effective Creative Brief Template
Ready to write one of your own? To start you off, here’s a template containing all the key elements:
If you’d like a downloadable template so you can create your own creative brief, click the link here.
As you can see, a strong creative brief isn’t something you can dash off in a hurry. It takes a fair amount of research, analysis, and creativity to get right. But taking the time to craft your creative briefs is worth it. There’s no doubt a thorough, well-thought-out brief goes a long way toward setting your marketing project up for success.