How to avoid sweet Fanny Adams

The brief is the most important document of any creative project. Get the brief wrong and you’ll achieve absolutely nothing, zero, zilch, not a dicky bird, sweet Fanny Adams!

Below are the seven deadly sins of the creative brief, each with an overview of how they will negatively affect your creative thinking, inspiration, understanding and success. By appreciating and addressing the limitations they bring to the briefing process, you’ll be in a stronger position to understand the importance of getting the right information required to be successful, what questions to ask, and give yourself a fighting chance to deliver creative that is closer to the target, inspired, considered and appropriate for your client’s requirements.

Sin #1: No brief

Perhaps the cardinal sin is the failure to develop a creative brief in the first place. 

This happens a lot and for many different reasons – lack of time, the assumption the creative team already knows everything, it’s similar to the last project worked on, etc, etc.

Any brief development process needs to force marketers to fully understand what they need to accomplish, the strategic path, the engagement model, the content map, the audience proposition and the ‘why-to-buys’, to name just a few. Without this understanding and guidance, the creative team are left in the dark and this will have significant impact on their output and the overall success of the campaign or project.

In addition, the lack of a brief adds to the creative time required to deliver, creates unnecessary debate, illconsidered feedback and considerable reworking throughout the development phase.

No brief. No output. Simple.

Sin #2 Poor objectives

I’m sure you’ve all been subjected to a brief that has objectives that are meaningless or so broad that you’re left confused and none the wiser of what’s required. Examples like; create a digital campaign, it must increase sales or it needs to create impact!

I agree these are all desirable outcomes for any creative marketing activity. However, they’re pretty poor and lack any deeper meaning, guidance, metrics or insight. If the objectives are generalised, unsubstantiated or offer up little to no insight or research – then it doesn’t matter how tuned into the rest of the brief you are, failure is on the horizon. 

Sin #3 Target everyone

If anyone ever says ‘we need to target everyone’, it’s either the first or the last time they’ll be writing a brief. Believe me, it happens more often than you think. The reality is the idea that we need to target everyone is neither realistic, sensible or possible. Everyone’s different – we all have distinct functional and psychological needs – and this means you have to talk to each audience in a slightly different way. In the unlikely event that you really do need to target ‘everyone’, the resulting media budget spend would be out of reach for most brands. Sounds obvious, but you’ll get better results when you focus effort and resources on the audience that is most likely to generate the greatest returns.

Sin #4 Lack of insight

When the marketing activity connects with the target audience, it’s because we have an understanding of their needs and appreciation of their pain points. However, obtaining the insight to achieve this is time consuming and therefore is frequently overlooked. As a result, corners get cut, assumptions are made and the creative team lacks any powerful way to connect with the audience.

Sin #5 Machine gun positioning

It’s all about taking aim and firing the single bullet you have. If the brief has a machine gun approach to positioning the product or service in the market, yes you’ll be firing more bullets, but you’ll waste a tonne of resources and budget hitting things you don’t want to hit. When the positioning and messaging in the brief highlights multiple statements – durable, safe, fun, secure, exciting, relaxing, sustainable, loved – then there’s little chance of connecting with your desired target. So don’t say five things, say one (maybe two), and only when you’re focussed should you pull the trigger (I quite like the shooting analogy).

Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

Sin #6 Copycat syndrome

Make it look like Apple! We need a TikTok strategy. We want to be the next Absolut Vodka.

Don’t chase what’s already been done before – this is the copycat syndrome. Start with your own strategy, media channels, messaging, identity and voice. It’s far too easy to get hung up on the successes of others, rather than actually looking at what will achieve the greater result. Chase your customer, not someone elses.

Sin #7 Poor measurement

Data, analysis and success measurement is our final sin. We gather and mine exposure, click-through rates, likes, conversion rates, funnels, customer lifetime values, etc, etc – there are hundreds of ways to gather data about our customers and prospects. But it’s common place for brands and agencies to fail when it comes to effective measurement and analysis. It’s typically done too late in the campaign, many don’t even consider measurement until the campaign has come to an end. 

Have a plan, understand what’s important to success, ask the right questions, and set measurable goals – it’s the only way you’ll truly see the difference between success or failure.

Final word

So there you have it. The seven deadly sins of the brief and brief process. You’ll probably agree, many of these are obvious, but it’s still remarkable how many briefs don’t consider or include them.

Remember, no one wants to deliver sweet Fanny Adams!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

The art of daydreaming

Daydreaming is our brain’s default mode When we see people make great decisions, do you believe they spend…