Death to the brief brief.

Kim McMullen

I cannot say this enough: A good brief is everything. 

It's everything. Details matter. Background matters. Competitive analysis matters. Truly know who you’re speaking to matter. Objective facts matter. Subjective opinions of key stakeholders matter. Understanding what the heck you’re trying to do and why you’re try to do it matters. Massively.

Well, if you want great creative, that is. (Doesn't everyone want great creative?)

Our creative briefs are plump—on purpose. We collaborate with our clients to author a document that both teams feel good about. It’s a meeting of the minds. If we all agree that the brief articulates the creative needs exactly, then it’s actually impossible to do shitty, off-the-mark work. Because the foundation of the work is the approved brief.

A good brief should contain at least the following information:

The history. Yes. All of it. How the company started. Who started it and why did they start it? How has it evolved? Under which circumstances did it evolve? The roots are integral to understand and nurture if you wanna grow the tree.

Mission / Vision / Values
If you don’t understand the core principles of the company, you can’t sell its products and services to the right people in the most resonant way. Values alignment is one of the truest ways to connect with customers. So articulate the true heart of the company.

Target audience.
Hint: The answer should NEVER be “everyone.” Who really cares about what’s being sold? Why do they care about it? What is their life like? What habits and trends do they ascribe to? Research and uncover more than just the quantifiable demographics (Female, aged 25-40, middle-class, post-secondary education, etc.) That stuff’s important. Yes. But I want to know the emotional inner workings of the target. That is the sweet spot.

“No one; we’re unique.” Is NOT an acceptable response. Unless the product is first of its kind on the planet. Uncover each competitor’s strengths. Where are they better (because they are—at something). Note their weaknesses (where is there a gap to be filled?).

Key message
One simple idea about the product/service to convey. One thing. Not seven things. Not one sentence with 17 ands. ONE thing. We know there’s a lot to say, but what’ the most important thing? And, what makes it true?

Key words
Think about the personality of the project. How should the work come across? How should it “feel”. Then define it. Because if the client says it should feel “modern”, we might think that means sleek, silver, futuristic, while she actually meant minimalist, trendy, and lots of white space. Define it until it’s impossible not to understand it.

The brief should be anything but brief. It should be the Coles Notes of the business, its marketing objectives, its brand, its audience. Any agency team should be able to read it and “get” the company. Whatever you need to know, ask for it. Maybe you expand and get into tone, brand expectations, SWOT analyses, industry trends and more.  

The brief is not done until there are no questions.
So keep writing. Even if you’re on draft 11. Even if you’re 6 weeks in. Keep writing. Because the best brief is one that provides no margin for misunderstanding and the best opportunity to create something spectacular, meaningful, noticeable, relevant, on-point.

Want to work with us? Introduce yourself!

Kim McMullen

Kim gets up before the sun, drinks green juice on conference calls, says Bam! when she's proud of the team, and solves marketing challenges on mountain tops.