Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Creative Brief

One of the places at which the wheels can come off a rebranding project is between the strategy and creative phases of the project. Often, a company will hire a brand strategy consultant to help it formulate its brand strategy including its brand promise and other brand positioning elements. Brand architecture, distribution and pricing strategies are also possible outputs of the brand strategy phase, as is customer segmentation. This phase is often informed by marketplace analysis and qualitative and quantitative customer research. And it almost always involves decision making by the leadership team. This sometimes follows organizational strategy sessions, including mission, vision and values formulation.

The creative phase typically includes brand identity development (logo, tagline, type fonts, colors, etc.), brand messaging (brand elevator speech, brand story, etc.) and marketing campaign development.

At a minimum, the transition between the strategy and creative phases should include a detailed creative brief based on the agreed to strategy. Often, key members of the creative team attend or actively participate in the strategy phase of the project. And sometimes the same firm is used for both phases (assuming it has strong capabilities in both strategy formulation and creative development).

Here is what you want to avoid in the transition:

  • A lack of understanding of the strategy by the creative team
  • Development of a creative approach that does not support the intended brand strategy

So here is a typical creative brief as outlined in my Brand Aid book:


  • Background/Overview: (history, context, and a general overview of the competitive environment and the problem)
  • Marketing Objective: (desired tangible result, usually in target customer’s attitude or behavior; intended effect with quantifiable success criteria)
  • Current State: (what the customer thinks today)
  • Desired State: (what we want them to think and what we want them to do)
  • Assignment: (deliverable, timing, and budget)
  • Product or Service: (if product/service-specific)
  • Target Customer: (be as specific as possible)
  • Brand Essence: (the “heart and soul” of the brand expressed as “adjective, adjective, noun”)
  • Brand Promise: (only [brand] delivers [relevant differentiated benefit or shared value])
  • Proof Points: (reasons to believe)
  • Brand Archetype: (choose and elaborate on one or two archtypes that explain the brand’s motivation and drive its behavior)
  • Brand Personality, Voice, and Visual Style: (from the positioning statement, list adjectives that describe the brand; for instance: voice: down-to-earth, assertive, confident, warm, sarcastic, witty, reassuring, eloquent, simple, etc.; visual style: bold, bright, energetic, soft, textured, ornate, understated, nostalgic, futuristic, etc.)
  • Mandatories: (those items that are givens). It is best to provide as few constraints as possible. I usually specify the brand identity standards and system as the only mandatories. There may be legal or regulatory mandatories as well.

For additional information on brand management and marketing, you can purchase Brand Aid, second edition here.

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