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6 ways to write a better brief

The other day, I read a great article from AdAge on the importance of  a well-written brief. It struck a chord with me because I am a firm believer that an effective brief is critical to the success of any project or campaign. In fact, nothing at The Duffy Agency is executed without a brief. 

In the article, a marketing consultant, Casey Jones, shares his experience, “The norm is partial, incomplete and sometimes no brief at all.” Unfortunately, my experience has been similar. Some people think a brief means only a paragraph of information. It doesn’t. Some think it’s just a list of a product’s features. It isn’t. A well-written brief is akin to a well-defined map. It clearly guides the team and ensures that the final outcome is achieved in the most effective and efficient manner possible.



To formulate a brief that will not only help define your message, but also add value to the strategic and creative process, here are a few tips.

  1. Choose reality over the abstract 

    The more specific you can be with your target demographic, the better your brief will become. To say your target is  anyone with a mobile phone would probably be too broad. Even using the word “target” may be too abstract. Abstract concepts don’t buy products, people do. So, define your target as an individual.  What’s their gender, age, education? Try creating a full bio for your target. Who is this person? What’s their name? What do they look like? Look through stock photography and create a visual of the person. All of this will help the team visualize who they are talking to and develop better creative.

  2. It’s all about their needs 

    One of my favorite sayings is that people don’t need drills; they need holes. The product or service must satisfy a motivating need in order to sell. When developing the needs of your target audience make sure you are not confusing the drill for the hole.

  3. Play mind games 

    A person is not a blank slate waiting to receive messages. They are an amalgam of all their experiences and knowledge. Use this to your benefit. What pre-existing knowledge, experience or feelings will influence how they interpret your message? Has the target had a bad experience in the past with your product? Is there a new feature that fixes a perceived problem? Btw, perceived is the key word here. How your target perceives your brand makes all the difference in how you will communicate with them.

  4. Make a good impression 

    If a customer was exposed to the message you created for only a few minutes and walked away, what would you want them to think about your brand? Be clear and concise in your offer. Bounty paper towels has done this brilliantly for years. What do we all know about Bounty? It’s the quicker-picker-upper. It will quickly clean up spills and will do so faster than any other brand. What promise do you make to your customers? And does that promise fulfill a need?

  5. The proof is in the pudding 

    When creating any type of messaging, what proof are you offering so that the target believes it. And remember, just because it is true does not make it believable or convincing. You could say that your motor oil is better for high performance engines. Or you could say that your motor oil is better for high performance engines which is why 75% of all NASCAR drivers use it in their racing cars. If you are better, faster, more economical or whatever your claim, make sure you use target-relevant facts to back up your claims.

  6. Add some definition 

    For your campaign, messaging, ad, social media program, etc. to be successful you need one important ingredient: a definition of success. Ask yourself, if your campaign is 100% effective, what will happen? What will your customer do? Success may be an increase in Web site hits. Maybe success is the number of people retweeting your content. Regardless of the goal, just make sure you establish one. As Yogi Berra once said, “You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.” 

Obviously, there are other things to keep in mind when developing an effective brief depending on the brand and objective. What pieces of advice would you give? What do you find lacking in the briefs you’ve seen? Let us know in our comments section.

And of course, if you would like The Duffy Agency to help you with developing your next brief, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Kevin Duffy is the Creative Director for The Duffy Agency's Boston office.


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