Top 3 Reasons You Need a Creative Brief

Top 3 Reasons You Need a Creative Brief

Writing a creative brief is one of those BigCo professional practices that should be taking place at every consumer brand startup. Yet, I rarely meet founders who even know what I’m talking about when I mention this. It’s partly because it’s a stuffy BigCo term. It’s primarily because founders have an irrational faith in their ability to manage internal and external creative stakeholders through hastily written e-mails, e-mail threads, and chaotic phone calls, which the founder fails to document afterward. 

  1. Only you know your competition well enough – I don’t see a creative brief as a luxury at all. It has the same value for a small startup as it does for big companies who invented the practice to better manage their damn Don Drapers. You don’t want Don Draper to ‘wing’ your communication strategy any more than you want to let ANY agency you’re working with make up your strategy. And believe me, agencies love to charge you for strategy because it’s the fun part of the job. But will their mellifluously composed communication strategy written off in a corner under dark-lights actually accomplish what you need competitively for your business? Who is your agency to claim they know your competition better than you? If they actually do, perhaps from experience with one other company in the same category, then you should be embarrassed. It makes no sense. There’s no way they know your competition and your business’s strategic needs better than you do. So don’t let them go off and develop your communication strategy in a corner by themselves because they will. Please, please don’t do this. 

  2. You can’t delegate communications strategy in a volatile startup – You are not the CEO of General Mills, where the corporate strategy is often barely attached to a specific brand’s communications strategy. As a founder, you need to take 100% responsibility for the communication strategy that gets set and executed for your brand. You have to believe in it, and you need to drive it through the organization. You could hire a marketing director and delegate everything to them related to communications because you a) don’t like marketing or b) don’t want to learn, but this would be a fatal attitude as a founder of a premium consumer brand. Marketing professionals are tacticians, not strategists. 99% of them. Strategy is a purely analytical exercise requiring a synthetic analysis of many datasets and really needs to be coming from you. If you don’t have this kind of mind, hire a consultant. The likelihood of you having a marketing director, a tactician, capable of doing it is so low it’s not worth calculating. 

  3. You need to keep multiple communications stakeholders aligned – it’s very easy to find yourself growing fast, wanting to get a branding agency to update your packaging, AND maybe a social media agency to tackle this or that. Suddenly, you have an internal marketing director and 2+ external organizations involved in execution. Are they aligned? How do you ensure this? A creative brief is a simple document that states your competitive strategy and your specific, measurable communications objectives against which your marketing director and your external partners will execute. Write it with your marketing director. Give it to any agency you hire as a condition of working with them and keep referring to it endlessly, so they don’t drift. If you want more info on what a good creative brief contains – here’s a whitepaper I wrote that might help.  

If you’d like more whitepapers like the one above, just take my Ready to Ride Quiz and you’ll get access to each new issue and a few back issues! 

Dr. James Richardson

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