Can you ever get good marketing activity out of a poor brief?

Can you ever get good marketing activity out of a poor brief?

I was out with a couple of old work friends the other day and I found myself refereeing a debate about marketing briefs. I know, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would have made for a more interesting topic of conversation (debatable) but that’s not the road we went down, I was going to need another pint for this one.

So, here’s the issue, one of the guys works client-side and the other agency, they were having a dig at each other. “Why do clients not know what they really want when it comes to providing the brief?” Versus “Why do agencies provide solutions that essentially centre only around their core offering”

In my role as referee, I chipped in “to a degree you’re both right. Agencies should be challenging but their business model works best when they deliver what the client has asked for, right?”

Who’s Responsible?

I’m not sure I managed to persuade either to my way of thinking, but let me explain where I was going with it.

Take the saying rubbish in, rubbish out and apply that to a brief.  Fundamentally, if you cannot put yourself in the shoes of the target audience, feel what they feel, think what they are thinking or convey what they want….ask someone else to do it, and get the early bus home. Because to write a killer brief, you have to be able to capture and deliver genuine insight.

Reasons for a poor brief

Expect poor results if the brief is:

•        Verbally given

•        The responsibility of the junior and least experienced marketer

•        Giving little direction as to what success will look like

•        Full of woolly objectives

•        Not providing an insight

An agency would have to have telepathic abilities to really understand what you want and deliver it first time.

As for agencies, if a weak and woolly brief comes your way, don’t just serve up what you are good at. Go back to your client and ask for a better one. Help the client with examples of best practice, don’t moan that it’s come from the junior marketing exec again, assist them, and offer them some training in writing great briefs. Point them in the direction of the IPA best practice guide

A few key pointers to creating a great brief

In my humble opinion a brief that hits the mark should include:

·       A great proposition. The proposition; and this in not written in unintelligible marketing jargon, it should be brought to life in the language and tone the consumer would use, It also needs to be relevant, distinctive and truthful. I remember seeing a case study for the John Smith’s ‘no nonsense’ campaign. The killer proposition? ‘John Smith’s is the no nonsense beer for the no nonsense beer drinker’. What creative wouldn’t be able to go to town working on that brief?

·       Clear Objectives. The overall business objective and details of how this campaign or activity will impact that objective. Then clear objectives of the activity you are briefing; and make them SMART.

·       Genuine insight. Not just facts and figures. Consumer insight adds real flavour. Bring insights into the brief as ways to tell the story to the creative team, so they can build stories that connect with your consumer. The insight should bring to life a tension and make the team think (or say out loud) ahhhhhhh! And I don’t mean in an Alan Partidge way.

·       Buyer Behaviour: Outline the behaviour of the existing customer, what is their journey, what motivates them to buy. How do you want that to change?

·       Call to Action: An indicator of what the audience should do as a result of the communication? The behaviour change that you are looking to encourage. What is the call to action? Even one step further what does success look like. Despite it being some 10 years on, I still love Apple ‘Get a Mac’ campaign; featuring Mitchell & Webb. The campaign gives the brand itself a face and a personality. Seamlessly creating brand association with the personas – cool, laid back Mac versus nerdy, outdated PC. The Mac vs. PC debate ended up being one of the most successful campaigns ever for Apple, and they experienced a 42% market share growth in the campaigns first year.

·      Clear Budget: This needs to be a lot more than ‘Budget TBC’. You need to know what you are working with and whether it’s feasible Be honest and up front about the budget you have for both the creative and activity.

·       Timings and Sign-off: Be clear about the timings and who signs off the different stages of the projects,

·       Context:  By all means give lots of context, background, data but keep the brief to one page – an often-quoted phrase attributed to David Olgilvy “Give me the freedom of a tight brief” is one that rings true.

There are plenty of awards for advertising, design, comms effectiveness…… etc, maybe great clients briefs should be given the same accolade, and if this was the case I’m sure a key element to its success would be the collaboration between client and agency!!!!!!!

Stefan Kerridge is founder of The K Consultancy. Partnering with businesses to bring expertise without the overhead. Driving marketing strategy, planning and execution and helping businesses realise their ambitions. For more information visit www.thekconsultancy.co.uk follow on LinkedIn

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