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THE CREATIVE BRIEF: Set Yourself Up for Success

One of the most essential tools for a successful promotion or direct mail campaign is your Creative Brief. Whether you have an internal marketing department, freelance creatives, an agency or simply manage the whole project on your own - you need a road map.

The Creative Brief will define all expectations, from start to finish. It should fully outline your objectives, messaging, audience, offer and more. If you decide to skip it, get ready for confusion, multiple revisions and often times, lackluster results.

So what should you include in your brief? Take a look:

Program & Project Overview

  • What's the basic gist of your project?
  • Due dates, size specifications, contact information
  • Key background and current market details
  • History, results of similar promotions or offers

Objective

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
    - Generate leads? Sales? Branding? Announcement?
  • What should your audience do next?

Audience

  • Who's your audience? Demographics?
  • What pain points are your prospects suffering from?
  • For business prospects, job title? Responsibilities?
  • Existing customers, prospects or both?

Positioning

  • How are you setting yourself apart from the competition?
  • How do you compare on product, service, price, benefits?
  • How do you want to be perceived by your target audience?
  • How does your product or service solve the target customers' pain points?

Primary Message

  • What are you selling? How does it work? What does it do?
  • What is the singular benefit (not feature) you are offering?
  • What is your one, unique selling proposition?

Supporting Message

  • What 3-5 features and benefits support your primary message?
  • Supporting message should be related, not additional to primary.
  • What's the messaging hierarchy?

Call to Action and Offer

  • What should your audience do next? Call? Come in? Go online?
  • Offer should relate to and further support Primary Message.
    - Upgrade? Percentage off? Dollar off? Freebie?
  • Offer details? Expiration dates? Restrictions or minimums?

Mandatories & Taboos ("What MUST and MUST NOT be included")

  • What can or cannot be guaranteed or promised?
  • What must be present in the creative?
  • What must NOT be present in the creative?

Sure, you don't have to answer every single question, nor do you need a one-page essay for each question. The Creative Brief is meant to be, well, brief. You simply want to get into the habit of thinking before launching into your next promotion. And the more you use this list of unending questions, the easier it will be to visualize what you want your piece to look like and execute campaigns faster.

Most importantly, by putting yourself through the Creative Brief wringer, you will be able to refine and adjust your campaigns as you progress through your marketing calendar, thus producing better and better results. Good luck and get to it!

My postcards came today, and I just wanted to say how happy I am with how they turned out. Beautiful job, and I hope that soon they're hanging on art directors' cubicle walls everywhere!
Ken Smith
Ken Smith Illustration