The Importance of the Creative Brief

Jumping into any new marketing communications project without a plan can spell disaster or, at the very least, cause you to waste time, money and miss the mark on what you’re looking to accomplish. To avoid these missteps, put down on paper the project’s “who, what, where and how” in the form of a creative brief.

Simply put, a creative brief captures the motivations, plans and details of any creative project in a clear and organized manner. Whether it’s updating your business cards or redesigning your website, the quantity and depth of details might vary, but developing a creative brief is a necessary first step.

A well-thought-out creative brief defines and quantifies your efforts while providing an agreed-upon set of expectations. It’s an important process to understand — even if you aren’t the one developing the actual document, it’s crucial to know what to look for when you get one from an agency.

Getting Started

To start, develop some questions covering the following areas:

  • Project Summary
  • Background information (for your organization and the particular project)
  • Target audience profile
  • Goals: What do you want this to accomplish?
  • Project specifics: What kind of project is it, where will it be used and in what medium (digital or print)?
  • Perception/tone/guidelines for design

Now jump right in and begin nailing down the answers! These will provide the framework to start laying out the creative details for your project and the rhyme and reason behind them (we work that in where we can).

Creative Brief Process

Here are a few tips as you are going through the process:

  • Get input from others. No man is an island — solicit help, get a different perspective and share the workload!
  • Though this document should be concise and focused, don’t get hung up on the word “brief.” Make it as long or short as needed to ensure it does its job and helps you meet your marketing goals, but generally stick to two to three pages.
  • Show examples of what inspires you. Keep a file of aspirational marketing and advertising you come across so you can pull from it quickly when you jump into a new project.
  • Practice makes perfect: After going through the creative brief development process a few times, you’ll find it gets easier and you’ll be primed to dive right in the next time.

Key Points

Take these into consideration when developing content for your creative brief:

  • What’s the special sauce? Clarify the one thing that makes this project special. Aim for something that is SMART: Strategic, Measurable, Aligned, Realistic and Time bound.
  • No jargon! Would this document make sense if someone outside your industry read it? Think about sharing it with an agency or new employee.
  • Be descriptive: Use plenty of adjectives and be as detailed as possible. Here’s one of the questions we ask on our creative questionnaire: If this project was a person, what kind of person would it be and why (personality traits, behaviors, likes, dislikes)? By thinking of a concept in terms of a person, it can help nail down some of those descriptive details.