Want to save tons of time and money on your marketing while improving ROI? Success begins in your briefs – creative briefs, that is. As the maxim goes, a well-defined problem is half solved. Briefs lay the foundation for problem solving by providing a framework for communicating and collaborating.
Doing either of those poorly with your agency hurts your bottom line. Briefs communicate; they outline objectives, establish goals (yes, those are two distinctly different things), and create common ground for collaboration by providing parameters that promote innovative thinking.
T.S. Eliot put it this way, “When forced to work within a strict framework, the imagination is taxed to its utmost, and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom, the work is likely to sprawl.” Briefs minimize costly sprawl, and help you get to the heart of the matter.
At their heart, most marketing matters address four fundamental questions: What do we need to communicate? To whom do we need to communicate? What is the desired outcome? How do we most effectively communicate our message, to that audience, to achieve that outcome? Reams of data and detail can go into those answers. Keep it simple. Don’t let the information stifle the inspiration.
The perfect brief has never been written, and you don’t need to try to write it. Your goal is to get everybody on the same page at the start; sharing the vision, understanding the purpose. Addressing those first three questions in a brief helps ensure that the vision behind the answer to number four drives ROI. Crafting an opus to do it isn’t necessary.
Conversely, generic bromides like, “We want a big WOW-factor,” or “We want to be unique, like (insert brand name here – usually Apple),” do not constitute a brief. Additionally, your creative partners can’t read your mind. Simply saying, “I’ll know what I want when I see it,” means you have absolutely no idea what you want – or need (and signals you’re going to be difficult, and should be charged hourly).
Marketing isn’t about what you want, anyway. It’s about what your customers want. Start from their perspective then work outward to find meaningful connection points with your brand. Those are the sweet spots. Figure out how to leverage them. To paraphrase a song; you can’t always get what you want, but write a smart brief and you just might find you get what you need. All of which brings us to Mick Jagger.
More specifically, it brings us to Jagger’s fabled creative brief to Andy Warhol, for the album artwork of a Rolling Stones Greatest Hits release. More of a letter, really, Jagger’s brief was, well, brief – but it was also brilliant:
I’m really pleased you can do the art-work for our new hits album. Here are 2 boxes of material which you can use, and the record.
In my short sweet experience, the more complicated the format of the album, e.g. more complex than just pages or fold-out, the more fucked-up the reproduction and agonizing the delays. But, having said that, I leave it in your capable hands to do what ever you want… and please write back saying how much money you would like.
Doubtless a Mr. Al Steckler will contact you in New York, with any further information. He will probably look nervous and say “Hurry up” but take little notice.
Clearly, Mick understood that less is more. After providing data, establishing parameters, and offering suggestions, he was smart enough to know what he didn’t know, and to get out of the way. Rather than micro-manage, and try to solve the problem himself he wisely left it to Warhol, and let the artist do what he did best.
Considering the ego necessary to be the lead singer in the world’s greatest rock n’ roll band, that’s an impressive acquiescence. When needed, Jagger knew how to be a good client. But then, Mick has always been known for his considerable business savvy, as well as his musical chops.
Savvy and chops are essential, because successful marketing rarely just happens. You need a plan. Make better briefs a priority – but don’t make them a chore. Next time you’re considering a marketing initiative, take a cue from Mick; lay the groundwork, inspire your team, then get out of their way. Creative carte blanche and a blank check don’t hurt, either.