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Creative briefs are valuable communication tools for companies that want to ensure the success of various types of creative projects, such as communication and marketing campaigns. The goal of a creative brief is to answer the question, “Why is this project worth doing?”
Determining an answer for this provides the entire creative team with the information they need to come up with the best possible business solutions based on their expertise and experience. Additionally, a well-crafted creative brief establishes clear goals for a project, provides direction and guidance to different team members, and ultimately ensures that creative employees and their clients are on the same page, reducing misunderstandings and the need for revisions and rework.
According to a survey by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), companies that use creative briefs report that they receive better quality work from their agency partners and that they collaborate more efficiently with their internal teams. Similarly, a survey by AIGA, the professional association for design, found that 74% of designers believed a creative brief helped them deliver better work.
Creative briefs are used in a wide range of industries, from marketing and advertising to graphic design and video production. They are especially useful in situations where a project involves a team of people with different areas of expertise, such as designers, copywriters, and marketers.
In this article, find out how to write an effective creative brief that boosts the chances a project will meet business objectives.
- A creative brief is typically used at the beginning of a project to provide guidance and direction to a creative team.
- It helps ensure that everyone involved in the project, from the client to the creative team members, has a clear understanding of the project’s goals, constraints, and expectations.
- The best creative briefs provide focused and concise information to guide creative processes.
- Unfortunately, many teams write briefs that are too vague and long. One Adage survey of 300 agency leaders found that more than 50% of respondents found creative briefs lacking in focus.
The Purpose of a Creative Brief
A creative brief is a document that outlines the objectives, target audience, key messages, and other essential information needed to guide the creative process of a project. You can think of it as a reference point that guides a project’s lifecycle.
Briefs are typically used in marketing or advertising but can apply to other industries too. Most often, a creative brief is developed by a client or project manager at the beginning stages of a project and then provided to a creative team, such as designers, copywriters, or marketers, to help guide their work.
The level of detail that a creative brief includes can vary depending on the project’s complexity and the creative team’s needs. Still, it should always provide a clear and concise overview of the project’s expectations and requirements.
An effective creative brief provides:
- A clear scope and understanding of the project’s objectives and key messages.
- Information about any known constraints, such as a project’s budget and deadlines.
- Identification of the target audience.
- Information on direction and guidance for the creative team.
Types of Businesses and Organizations That Use Creative Briefs
Any industry that relies on creative work or marketing materials can benefit from writing creative briefs. Some examples of industries that commonly use creative briefs include:
- Advertising and Marketing: Advertising agencies and marketing departments often use creative briefs to guide the development of marketing campaigns, including print ads, TV commercials, social media ads, and other promotional materials.
- Graphic Design: Graphic designers use creative briefs to guide the development of logos, website designs, brochures, and other visual materials.
- Video Production: Video production companies use creative briefs to guide the development of promotional videos, corporate videos, and other video projects.
- Web Design and Development: Web design and development companies use creative briefs to guide the development of websites and web applications.
- Public Relations: Public relations firms use creative briefs to guide the development of press releases, media kits, and other PR materials.
Creative Brief Examples
“A good brief provides direction and inspiration that leads to imaginative work.”Association of National Advertisers
Creative briefs can take many different forms depending on the project’s scope and the client’s vision. Here are a few examples of creative briefs:
Advertising Campaign Creative Brief
This type of creative brief is typically used in marketing and advertising to guide campaigns. It often includes information on the project’s budget, timeline, target audience, and branding guidelines.
An example of an advertising campaign creative brief might look like this:
Product: Nike Air Max 270 React
Target audience: Active urban millennials (ages 18–34) who prioritize style and comfort in their footwear.
Campaign objective: Increase sales of the Nike Air Max 270 React by 20% over the next quarter.
Key message: The Nike Air Max 270 React is the ultimate fusion of style and comfort for the modern urban athlete.
Tone: Bold, confident, energetic
Call to action: Visit your nearest Nike store or shop online to get your own pair of Nike Air Max 270 Reacts today.
Media: Social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook), digital display ads, out-of-home billboards
- Show the Nike Air Max 270 React being worn by stylish, active millennials in urban environments.
- Use bold, eye-catching visuals that showcase the shoe’s unique design and features (e.g. the React foam sole).
- Incorporate messaging that emphasizes the shoe’s comfort and performance benefits, as well as its fashion-forward design.
- Leverage influencers and user-generated content to amplify the campaign’s reach and appeal to the target audience.
- Use social media to encourage user engagement and participation, such as by hosting a photo contest or using a branded hashtag.
Graphic Design Creative Brief
Graphic designers use this type of creative brief to outline the goals and objectives of a design project, such as creating a brand’s logo or website design. It typically includes information on the client’s branding guidelines, design requirements, project scope, budget, and timeline. The creative brief might include a logo redesign, outlining the client’s goals for the new logo, desired color scheme, and overall design aesthetic.
An example of a graphic design creative brief might look like this:
- Project Name: Website Redesign for a Small Business
- Overview: Our small business needs a website redesign that will help us better communicate our services and improve user experience. We need a clean, modern website that is easy to navigate and showcases our products and services.
- Target Audience: Our target audience is middle-aged professionals seeking high-quality, personalized services. They are tech-savvy and appreciate a clean, modern design aesthetic.
- Objectives: Improve user experience on the website; increase website traffic and conversions; showcase our products and services; establish a strong visual identity for our brand.
- Key Message: We offer high-quality, personalized services that meet the unique needs of our clients.
- Competitor Analysis: Our main competitors have outdated websites that are difficult to navigate and do not effectively communicate their services. We want to differentiate ourselves by offering a modern, user-friendly website.
- Design Requirements:
- Use our brand colors (red, black, and white).
- Add in high-quality images that showcase our products and services.
- Incorporate clear calls-to-action throughout the website.
- Ensure that the website is mobile-responsive and easy to navigate on all devices.
- Timeline: We need the website redesign completed within six weeks.
- Budget: $5,000
- Additional Information: We will provide the designer with access to our existing website, as well as any additional materials they may need (product photos, copy, and brand assets).
Video Production Creative Brief
For a video production project, a brief will typically outline information on the client’s key messages, desired outcomes, and budget. This creative brief might include a brief for a promotional video for a new product which will have information on the desired tone and style, as well as dialogue or messages to convey.
Here’s an example of a video production creative brief:
- Project Name: Brand Video for a New Supplement Product Launch
- Overview: We are launching a new supplement and need a brand video that will help us introduce the product to our target audience. The video should showcase the benefits of the product in a way that is engaging, informative, and memorable.
- Target Audience: Our target audience is health-conscious millennials who are interested in innovative and sustainable products. They are socially conscious and care about the impact their purchasing decisions have on the environment.
- Objectives: Introduce our new product to our target audience; showcase the features and benefits of the products; communicate our brand values and commitment to sustainability; increase brand awareness and engagement.
- Key Message: Our new product is supportive of general health, innovative, sustainable, and meets the unique needs of our target audience.
- Competitor Analysis: Our main competitors have videos that focus primarily on the nutritional value of their products. We want to differentiate ourselves by highlighting the sustainability aspects of our product.
- Design Requirements:
- Use our brand colors (green, white, and black).
- Incorporate shots of the product in use, as well as shots of nature and environmentally friendly practices.
- Use upbeat, modern music that appeals to our target audience.
- Ensure that the video is no longer than 90 seconds in length.
- Timeline: We need the brand video completed within four weeks.
- Budget: $35,000
How to Write a Creative Brief: 8 Steps + Tips
Creative briefs should be clear and concise, but detailed enough to provide all relevant information for the team members doing creative work. Briefs will usually be written by a creative project manager, creative director, client, or consultant. It’s then shared with the entire creative team and all clients once everyone involved agrees on the details.
Below is a creative brief template to follow to write a brief that satisfies a project’s main objectives:
1. Give Background Details and Provide Data
Provide a brief overview of the project’s background, such as a description of past creative campaigns or challenges that set the stage for the current project. Chris Martin for Forbes says, “It is absolutely vital that data informs your briefing. Whether that’s in the messaging, the distribution channel choices, or the target audience selection.”
When incorporating research and statistics:
- Add data about market trends to back up arguments, such as by browsing data from sites like Pew Research or GlobalWebIndex. Matt Tarulli, a creative director, says, “When creative briefs come without data, it forces us to go digging for information on our own. And frankly, that’s a waste of time.”
- ANA also recommends asking yourself these questions while beginning to write a brief: “Where are we now?” “Where do we want to go?” “Who do we need to talk to?” “How will we know when we have arrived?”
Data for an anti-aging serum sales project:
- A clinical study on 50 women showed a 50% reduction in fine lines after four weeks of using our anti-aging skincare products.
- Our products contain a high concentration of retinol, which has been shown in multiple studies to improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Our products are paraben-free, cruelty-free, and made with sustainable packaging materials, aligning with our target audience’s values of sustainability and ethical sourcing.
- 98% of users reported visible improvements in their skin’s appearance after using our products for four weeks.
2. List Objectives
Kirsten Zapiec, Senior Director of Creative Services at McGraw-Hill Education, suggests that you should “Think about the big picture when writing a creative brief. How does this campaign fit into the larger brand strategy? What are the long-term goals? This will help ensure that the creative work is aligned with the overall business objectives.” To do this, summarize the client’s main goals and desired outcomes.
When listing objectives:
- Include a mention of the product or service being promoted, who the customer is, and any specific opportunities being pursued.
- This section should also discuss the distribution of the project’s key messages, explaining how customers will see what the creative team creates (such as on your website, via advertisements, or in print materials).
- Be specific about the channels and mediums the campaign will be executed in. This will help the creative team understand the context in which the messaging will be delivered.
- Generate awareness for the new product among the target audience.
- Increase sales of the new product by 20% within the first quarter of launch.
- Position the new product as a premium option within the market.
- Create a cohesive branding strategy for the new product that aligns with the overall brand identity.
- Develop a strong social media presence for the new product to engage with the target audience and build brand loyalty.
- Establish partnerships with at least two influential industry leaders or publications to promote the new product and increase credibility.
- Conduct market research to gather feedback on the new product and make necessary adjustments to improve product offerings and marketing strategy.
3. Describe the Target Audience
Ali Smith from the Department of Marketing recommends being specific about your audience, explaining, “You’re making the choice to focus your time, energy, and marketing dollars are the segment of your audience that is most likely to convert.” To discover who you’re spending your resources toward, make sure to establish a complete avatar of your ideal customer. This will help you describe the target audience in as much detail as possible.
To develop an audience for a creative brief:
- Define the target audience by determining demographic information such as age, gender, location, and interests, as well as behavioral patterns.
- Conduct market research to gain insights into the target audience’s needs, wants, and pain points. This can involve analyzing data from surveys, focus groups, and other market research tools.
- Use the insights gained from market research to develop a customer persona, which should include information such as demographics, behaviors, interests, and pain points.
- Incorporate these findings into the creative brief to guide the development of creative assets.
- Continuously evaluate and refine the target audience to ensure that the messaging and creative assets remain relevant and effective.
Customer Persona: Sarah, the busy mom
- Age: 32
- Gender: Female
- Marital Status: Married
- Number of Children: 2 (ages 4 and 7)
- Occupation: Full-time working mom
- Annual Income: $75,000
- Location: Suburban area
- Busy and constantly on-the-go, balancing work and family life
- Prefers convenience and efficiency in all aspects of life
- Tries to maintain a healthy lifestyle but struggles with finding the time to exercise and prepare healthy meals
- Loves trying new recipes but needs them to be quick and easy to prepare
- Interested in home organization and DIY projects
- Values quality time with her friends and family
- Struggles with finding time to balance work and family life
- Often feels guilty for not spending enough time with her kids
- Feels overwhelmed by the amount of information and choices available when it comes to making purchases
4. Explain Key Messages
Nancy Vonk, co-founder of the creative leadership consultancy, Swim, suggests asking yourself, “What do you want the audience to do as a result of engaging with the campaign? This will help the creative team craft messaging that drives action.” With this in mind, start by identifying the key messages and calls-to-action that must be communicated to the target audience.
To write out core brand messages for your project:
- Include the unique selling proposition and any specific benefits or features that add personalization to your brand that differentiates it from competitors. Research published by Contentful demonstrates that brand personalization is also essential for clients when they seek out creative work. “If brands fail to offer a personalized experience, 45% of consumers say they’ll take their business elsewhere.”
- Craft a concise and memorable statement that communicates the essence of your brand.
- Ensure that your key message is consistent across all marketing materials and channels.
Brand: Clean & Bright
Key Message: “Experience a brighter clean with our powerful, eco-friendly cleaning products that tackle dirt and grime without harsh chemicals.”
5. Mention Branding Guidelines
“With brand guidelines in place, you can ensure your brand’s elements are used effectively and look professional every time they are used,” says Valeri Potchekailov from Story Chief Insights. Another industry professional, marketing educator Philip Dusen, recommends focusing first and foremost on the brand’s overall tone, visual anchors, and manner. In other words, capture what makes the brand unique and recognizable. Ultimately, you want to provide branding guidelines to ensure the final product is consistent with the brand’s overall identity and messaging.
Brand guidelines include:
- Brand personality: A list of key personality traits that reflect the brand’s character and identity, such as adventurous, playful, sophisticated, or trustworthy.
- Logo usage: Guidelines for how to use the brand’s logo in various contexts, such as size and placement requirements, color variations, and clear space around the logo.
- Color scheme: A defined color palette that represents the brand’s visual identity, including primary and secondary colors, as well as guidelines for how to use color in different applications.
- Typography: Guidelines for the use of typography, including recommended fonts, font sizes, and styles for headlines, body text, and other design elements.
- Imagery: Guidelines for the use of photography and other visual elements, including recommendations for style, tone, and composition.
- Brand messaging: Clear and concise messaging that communicates the brand’s value proposition, unique selling points, and overall brand promise.
- Brand standards: Guidelines for maintaining consistency across all marketing materials, including design standards, tone of voice, and messaging.
- Digital standards: Guidelines for digital marketing, including website design, social media marketing, and email marketing.
- Tone & voice examples: These may include real-world examples of how the brand has communicated in the past.
Brand Guidelines for Green Threads
- Our eco-friendly clothing brand’s personality is down-to-earth, friendly, and inspiring.
- Our tone is optimistic and passionate about sustainable fashion.
- Our color palette reflects our natural, eco-friendly ethos with earth tones and muted pastels.
- Imagery should focus on natural landscapes, organic fabrics, and sustainable production methods.
- Our messaging should highlight our commitment to sustainability, including our use of eco-friendly materials and ethical production practices.
6. Describe the Budget and Timeline
By establishing a clear budget and timeline for your creative brief, you can ensure that the project stays on track and is completed within the desired timeframe and budget. This also helps prevent any unexpected costs or delays that could impact the project’s success.
For the budget section:
- Determine the overall budget for the project, including any additional expenses such as research, production, and distribution costs.
- Allocate the budget to specific areas of the project, such as design, copywriting, or production.
- Factor in any unexpected expenses that may arise during the project’s timeline.
For the timeline:
- Establish a realistic timeline for the project, including key milestones and deadlines.
- Consider the complexity of the project and any potential roadblocks or delays that may occur.
- Communicate the timeline to all team members and stakeholders involved in the project.
Budget and Timeline for the Launch of a New Website
- Website development: $10,000
- Copywriting and content creation: $2,500
- Graphic design and visual assets: $3,000
- Marketing and promotion: $5,000
- Total budget: $20,500
- Planning and research: 1 month
- Website development: 2–3 months
- Content creation: 1 month
- Graphic design: 1 month
- Quality assurance and testing: 2 weeks
- Marketing and promotion: Ongoing
- Launch date: 5–6 months from project start date
7. Explain the Deliverables
In this section of the creative brief, it’s important to outline the specific deliverables that will be created as part of the project. This can include items such as:
- Website design: Wireframes, mockups, and final design files
- Print materials: Brochures, flyers, and business cards
- Advertising: Social media ads, print ads, and banner ads
- Video and multimedia: Video ads, animations, and interactive experiences
- Branding elements: Logo designs, typography, and color palettes
- Copywriting: Website copy, ad copy, and other marketing copy
- Photography: Product photography, lifestyle photography, and other visual assets
Deliverables for this project include a brand new website with a modern design and improved user experience. The website will be fully responsive and optimized for search engines. Additionally, we will provide social media graphics and email marketing templates to maintain brand consistency across all channels. Finally, we will create a series of product videos and lifestyle photography to showcase the brand and its products.
8. Include Any Other Creative Direction
In addition to the specific deliverables, other creative directions may be included in the brief. This can include things like:
- Inspirational examples: Providing examples of other brands or designs that inspire the direction of the project.
- Competitor analysis: Describing the competitive landscape and how the brand can stand out.
- Other considerations: Any other important details that should be included in the creative brief to ensure a successful outcome.
Creative Direction: Incorporating Modern Art
As a new restaurant opening in the heart of the city, we want to create an atmosphere that is both sophisticated and welcoming. To achieve this, we will be incorporating modern art into the restaurant’s decor by:
- Commissioning local artists to create custom pieces specifically for our space.
- Curating a collection of modern art that complements the restaurant’s overall aesthetic.
- Hosting events and exhibitions that showcase emerging artists and encourage a dialogue between the local art community and our restaurant.
By incorporating modern art into our restaurant’s design, we hope to create a unique and memorable experience for our guests while also supporting local artists and promoting the arts in our community.
How Long Should a Creative Brief Be?
In general, a creative brief should be long enough to provide all the necessary information to guide the project, but short enough to be easily read and understood. In the words of Jason Chebib, a VP of Consumer Planning, “When it comes to the creative brief, longer isn’t always better. The longer the brief, the less clear it is likely to be.”
A typical creative brief is about 1–2 pages long but can be up to five pages long, depending on the project’s scope and the level of detail required. However, some creative briefs may be shorter or longer. Ultimately, the length should be determined by the specific needs of the project and the creative team’s requirements.
What to Avoid When Writing a Brief
While a creative brief should provide as much relevant information as possible to guide the creative process, there are certain things that a creative brief should not include.
Here are a few examples of things to leave out of a creative brief:
- Detailed design specifications: If a brief is too prescriptive or rigid, it can stifle creativity and limit a team’s ability to come up with unique ideas. The creative team should be given some flexibility to explore different design options. While it’s important to provide design guidelines and branding requirements in a creative brief, it’s generally not a good idea to include detailed design specifications.
- Vague language and technical jargon: Avoid overloading the creative brief with vague statements that don’t add much value and technical jargon that is confusing or leads to misunderstandings. Instead, use understandable language and explain any concepts that creative team members may not be familiar with.
- Too many metrics: Including some metrics in a brief can be helpful. However, other strategic documents should be used to outline metrics rather than a creative brief since too many numbers can overwhelm creative team members.
- Too wide of an audience: The audience must be specific enough to guide the creative team, rather than including too broad of a population. Be sure to mention specifics such as age, gender, location, and other demographics.
Utilizing a Creative Brief to Stay on Track and Avoid Distractions
Given how common it is today for employees to become distracted, multitask too often, and lose time and money with unnecessary revisions, creative briefs are more important than ever.
Briefs reduce back-and-forth deliberation between team members and clients, helping projects be delivered on time and within budget. By providing clear direction and outlining the project’s goals, timelines, and milestones, a brief can help the creative team stay focused and on track, improving the odds that they’ll retain a client’s business.
Here are some tips for creative team members regarding the use of briefs:
- Make sure all tasks are accounted for: Review the project’s scope and objectives, then assign tasks to different team members so nothing is overlooked. A project management app can be helpful for keeping tasks organized and delivering materials on time.
- Review timelines and budgets regularly: Set out a clear timeline for the project and identify specific milestones that need to be achieved by certain dates.
- Continue collaborating and communicating: A creative brief should encourage collaboration and communication between the client and the creative team. By fostering an ongoing open dialogue, the brief can help identify potential problems to avoid any unnecessary delays in the creative process. Be sure to have regular check-ins to adjust the brief or other strategic plans accordingly.
Want to learn more about tapping into your creativity to produce innovative work? Check out this article: “Igniting Creativity: Unlocking the Power of Divergent Thinking.”
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