How to Write a Creative Brief
February 19, 2019

How to Write a Creative Brief

by Brian de Haaff

Where do creative ideas come from? You might see a compelling advertisement or brilliant brand campaign and think the idea probably came in like a bolt of lightning. Boom! Inspiration strikes, a masterpiece happens. This is only partly true. Because while there are certainly times when a big idea occurs spontaneously, most teams need guidance to ensure that those big ideas support the broader business goals.

A creative brief is meant to keep the team on-brand, on-message, and on-track — so they can focus on delivering a successful new program or campaign efficiently.

It would help to start with a definition. So what is a creative brief exactly? A creative brief is a foundational document used to inform the implementation and final delivery of an advertising or marketing campaign. Functionally, it connects the creative work to the business goals and ensures everyone who is working on the program or campaign is in sync.

These documents are particularly useful if you are working with third-party consultants or agencies. But creative briefs are useful for internal teams too. For example, we used a creative brief to align all of our team’s efforts when we recently launched Aha! for Marketing. It helped to keep us focused on exactly what we needed to deliver.

The best creative briefs are succinct — you want to capture the essence and provide direction with the fewest, most powerful words possible.

Of course, writing a creative brief for a major new effort is going to take more than a few sentences. You have to deeply understand the strategic goals of the business, where the product or service sits in the market, as well as what the customer’s challenges are.

This is why we included a template for creative briefs in Aha! for Marketing — so that you can do your strategic planning in the same tool that you use to manage and complete your marketing activities. Our template is informed by the Aha! team’s years of experience in marketing. But you do not have to use our software to write a compelling creative brief. You just need to know the structure.

Here is what we think you should include in a creative brief:

Untethered creativity is not the end goal. You want to include the focus — the business goals that the creative solution must deliver on and support. Quickly summarize in a few bullet points.

Key details
Include critical info that will help tether whatever the team is working on to time constraints and budgets. Document the launch date and budget, as well as any owners or leads who are managing the work.

Why are you doing this now? What else does the team need to understand about the goals and outcomes?

This one is pretty basic — list out who you want to reach. Go as specific as you need to. For example, rather than writing “prospective customers” try to go one level deeper and identify the type of customer. If your team relies heavily on personas, include those too.

Customer truths
What do you know about your customer? Not demographics or data points, but what is intrinsic to who they are and what they want to achieve. Limit yourself to five truths to keep it meaningful.

Key messages
Key messages are different than the final message on an advertisement. Key messages represent what you want the creative to convey to customers. These should include both what you want the customer to feel and what the business wants to convey.

Brand voice
You likely already have a brand style guide for visuals and words. Here, you just want to include a few adjectives (drawn from that brand style guide) to keep the team on message.

Mandatory inclusions
This is where you put whatever is absolutely required in any deliverables — a logo, tagline, product image, or color palette, for example.

There are tangible outcomes for any creative brief — the deliverables. This could be a set number of concepts for a new ad campaign or ads in specific sizes.

To write a solid creative brief, you must deeply understand the business, the market, and the customer.

Creative briefs serve as a touchstone — so that the creative program and campaigns you develop tie back to the marketing goals that drove the work in the first place. And while templates can help bring consistency and structure to your creative process, it is up to you to nurture your own curiosity and keep your mind flexible. So, when inspiration strikes, you are able to harness it in the most impactful way.

Do you use creative briefs? If yes, what info goes in them?

Strategy + creative = marketing. Start a free 30-day trial.

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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