The Importance of the Creative Brief

By Michelle Kretchmer

Two businesswomen collaborating over the importance of the creative brief

Would you ask a general contractor to start building your dream house without a blueprint? Of course not. There’d be far too much at stake to trust someone with building to your vision without some concrete direction, without agreement about all the details.

The same discipline should be applied when designing a marketing piece—be it a simple mailer or a complete refresh to an outdated brand mark. At NeigerDesign, we’d never start concepting for a project without first gaining full client agreement on all of the many important points that inform the strategic direction of the design. Sure, we want the design to look great and be engaging. But it also has to spur action—and deliver results. So our first step for any new project is to partner with you, our client, to prepare a Creative Brief—and get your sign-off—before we put pencil to paper. (And yes, we still start the design process the old-fashioned way—in a sketchbook!)

Sound daunting? No need to worry. We’re here to help. We’ll sit down with you and guide you through the process. We’ll ask the right questions that will methodically—if not seemingly magically—end up with everyone on the same page. Be prepared to answer the following:

  1. Who are you? If we don’t already have a working relationship with you, we’ll need an overview of your company/organization. What is your mission? Is there any background information—including special concerns or challenges—that is so vital that any strategic direction would be incomplete without considering it? Who exactly will be involved—and at what points—in the decision-making process? And how will we involve these decision-makers?

  2. What’s working and what’s not? We’ll dive into a SWOT analysis, outlining strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your marketing efforts.

  3. Who specifically do you want to reach with your message? You may have more than one target audience, so we’ll help you prioritize the primary and secondary—and even tertiary—audiences. For instance, your primary target audience might be architects, while your secondary audience could be interior designers. Who are you trying to persuade to act?

  4. What are you trying to accomplish? Together, we will define your primary and secondary objectives—the more specific and measurable, the better. While a primary objective could be to increase conference meeting attendance of current members by 5%, a secondary objective might be to get current members to refer one new prospective member.

  5. Who is your competition? What does the competitive landscape look like? We’ll review them all, from those posing the strongest threat to those who are minimally competitive. What does the competition offer that you currently don’t or cannot? What messages do competitors convey in their marketing materials, and how do they do that? How can you differentiate your company from that of the competition?

  6. Has your organization conducted quantitative and/or qualitative research with your customers and/or prospective customers? Do you know what current customers think of your product or service? And more importantly, why they think that way?

  7. What feeling do you want your current and prospective customers to experience when they think of your organization? This will help us set the tone for your marketing piece. We’ll guide you in brainstorming adjectives to consider—for example: contemporary, trustworthy, caring, responsible, professional.

  8. What’s the call-to-action? What response are you soliciting, and how? Do you want someone to make a purchase…register for a class or conference…join your organization…make a charitable contribution? Pick one. Whatever action you desire, we’ll motivate the viewer through copy and graphic design that resonates with the recipient in the tone you’ve defined in the previous step. And do you want the viewer to fill out an online form? Call an 800-number? Mail back a postcard? We’ll help you think through and determine the appropriate call-to-action, and the logistics involved with receiving responses from your marketing piece.

  9. How will you measure the success of this marketing effort? What are the specific criteria for determining if the communications vehicle is “working”? What action, if any, do you want a customer or prospect to take? This points to why objectives must be specific and quantifiable.

  10. What’s the deadline for the entire project, and why? Is there an annual conference, a new product launch on the horizon or a seasonal factor that affects the timing for delivering your message? We will create a detailed schedule, including key milestones and deliverables by phase, to keep both you and our design team on track. Remember, this requires teamwork.

Seem like a lot of work? Maybe. But the return on your investment of time at the onset of the project will save you both time and money in the long run. Let us do the legwork. We’ll deliver a Creative Brief that distills the critical details from our initial meeting to a document that will ultimately guide concept development and beyond. We’ll ask for your feedback until we mutually agree on a final Creative Brief that not only informs the strategic and creative direction for your project, but will also serve as a handy reference when it comes time to evaluate the project’s impact. With the project “blueprint” in hand, we’ll be ready to break ground with both consensus and confidence in the task at hand.

 

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