Write a creative brief

1. Create a stakeholder group of 5-7 members that will have input in the creative brief development and eventual creative approval.

Buy-in from all potential stakeholders and approvers in the creative process clarifies the directions and reduces the potential of revisions. The stakeholder group will have input in the creative draft approval and review before the creative team moves to execution. Members can include: Client and/or agency partners. Creative directors. Account management directors. Executive leadership, especially for comprehensive marketing campaigns.

2. Create a creative brief template that includes all relevant sections on a single page.

A consistent template makes it easier for your creative team to interpret for different projects. Include these sections: A header with the brand name, project name, and date. Assignment Summary Target Audience Key Problem Current Behavior Desired Behavior Reasons to Believe Voice or Tone. Limit individual creative briefs to a page of regular-spaced font if possible, depending on campaign complexity. If your creative team needs additional brand context, add a second page with: Business and brand background Larger business objectives Basic competitive overview Campaign timeline.

3. Write a 1-2 sentence assignment summary that outlines deliverables and gives an idea of its end use.

For example: A new digital video campaign that will be used on the brand’s social media channels and website, designed to create buzz about the brand’s new product. A full-page print ad in Travel + Leisure that increases brand awareness at a time when potential customers are in the right mindset. An onboarding campaign that helps to ease new customers into the subscription and increases their subscription length. Channels include email, social media, and web. Include deliverables as a general note. Especially in complex campaigns, each major deliverable also needs a production brief that outlines specs, context, and other nuances.

4. Define the target audience for the finished creative using demographics and secondary attributes. Outline typical behaviors, attitudes, motivations, and other psychographics.

Focus each creative brief on a single target audience, with 2-4 distinguishing characteristics to define it. For example: Working fathers who feel a sense of responsibility for their family, and guilt because they cannot spend enough time with them. Any minute with their family is precious. Stressed marketing professionals in remote teams who are looking to ease the process of working with their teams, with convenience a key factor in the tools they use.

5. Outline the key problem as a central challenge or pain point your target audience wants to solve.

Draw on brand and audience research, if possible. To avoid ambiguity for your creative team, focus on the most important challenge your audience faces related to your brand. For example: Working fathers: They cannot reconcile their long hours and commute with the time commitment it typically takes to take a vacation or relax with their family. Marketing professionals: They are overwhelmed by the complexity of their current project management software, which adds rather than subtracts work from their daily tasks.

6. Define your audience's current behavior as a current action or inaction that causes, or fails to solve, the key problem.

Answer: What does our target audience do or fail to do today that our product can change for the better?  Focus on specific use cases. For example: Working fathers: They tend to window-shop for long vacations that would allow them to truly disconnect from work and spend time with their family, although those vacations will be difficult to realize. Marketing professionals: They don’t use the marketing tools and project management software as comprehensively as they could, preferring to stick with the status quo instead.

7. Define your audience's desired behavior as the change your campaign will prompt to solve their key problem.

Answer: How do we want our target audience’s behavior to change as a result of the creative they see?  Desired behaviors could include changing basic actions, taking action instead of remaining in inaction, switching to a different product, using a different type of product, etc. For example: Working fathers: They begin to look for shorter, weekend leisure activities that allow them to spend more time with their family on a regular basis.  Marketing professionals: They switch to a more simple task management software that integrates more naturally into their daily work life. Avoid focusing on business objectives like increasing customer conversions or market share. Focus on the audience’s behavior, rather than your product or brand.

8. Identify 1-3 reasons to believe that your product can lead to their desired outcome.

Define the emotional or rational case for achieving the desired behavior. One strong Reason to Believe is more effective and more directional than multiple weak reasons. Proof points, like endorsements or clear and simple statistics, strength the case. Reasons that position your product or service as unique allow your creative team to define the brand in an explicit or implicit competitive context.  Reasons to Believe are related to product benefits, but not interchangeable. Best usability rating among marketing professionals is a Reason to Believe that supports the product benefit of Easier to use than other solutions. For example: Working fathers: Testimonials from other dads who have taken some of the same shorter trips. Marketing professionals: Average reviews and case studies of the tool that focus on ease of use and integration into daily work life.

9. Summarize the desired tone and personality the creative should get across.

For example: Empathetic Soft Bold Formal Playful Fun Edgy Mature Safe Reliable. For creative teams unfamiliar with the brand platform, link to it or include it in an appendix for additional context.

10. Circulate the draft with your stakeholder group for final approval before beginning creative work.