Creative Briefing

Your view on the big misunderstandings within marketing communications

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Do you think these are the four big misunderstandings within marketing communications?

    1. How many of us are aware that most of what we receive in terms of communication is actually processed subconsciously? I think the model normally used is one that says 70-80% of the information we take in through our eyes passes our rational, conscious mind by. Instead it speaks to our instinct and subconscious – the aspects of our mind that most influence our decisions. So, in other words when it comes to visual communication, it is the detail we don’t necessarily acknowledge, that really counts. How many of us know this and account for it on a daily basis?

 

    1. Is the skill of putting ourselves into the shoes of our customers a lost art? How often do we catch ourselves saying that we like or do not like something without explaining our comments from the perspective of our customers’ eyes? In your opinion, is it a case of forgetting to put ourselves in the customers’ shoes or is it a reluctance to impart the insights we have about the customer? Or is it that we automatically assume that everyone sees things the way we do?

 

    1.  How many of us are aware that, being only human, when we’re shown something visual and asked, “do you like this?”, we are habitually compelled by our instinct to say either, “no”, or “yes… but”? Is it because if we do not comment then we do not ‘have an opinion’ and therefore we must be of no consequence? And is it true that when the comments are passed on, and the thing we are commenting is modified, it becomes a little less fit for purpose?

 

  1. In connection with all the above, when developing marketing communications, how many of us encounter the risk of ending up with the lowest common denominator? How many of us strike out to do something better that will impact our audience but then find ourselves trying to please all the people all the time? Do you agree that as well as being impossible, trying to please all the people all the time reduces our marketing to the few things we all have in common – which by definition won’t of course be all that remarkable, unusual or well differentiated?

Do you think these four misunderstandings are significant when trying to produce effective marketing communications? And if you do agree, how do you go about meeting these challenges?

What do you think is the most important aspect of a creative brief?

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At Page & Page we believe one of the most important aspects of a brief is the single-net impression. The short statement that sums up what we’d like the target audience to hold in their mind’s eye once they’ve encountered the communication we’ve directed at them. We work hard to ensure any brief we develop drives towards a decent sound bite that everyone, from the creative team to the planner and marketing or communications team, is bought into.

And it has to be single-net otherwise it’s a bit like when someone stops you in the street to ask for directions; it can get tricky. Anything more than a very singular, “go to the end of the street and turn right,” can take up half the afternoon. You patiently have to go over and over each point until they’ve got it.

The single-net impression is the part of the brief that is going to make itself felt, via a campaign, ultimately reaching the target audience as uncorrupted as possible.

So, anything other than a very singular net impression is actually more difficult than giving directions. It would be as if you were spending your afternoon patiently explaining all the lefts and rights only for your listener to then go and try to explain it to a large crowd.

For us the single-net impression is the point the brief drives to, the red thread we want to carry through a campaign. That’s why in our book, Forget the Box, we describe a good brief as being a bit like a signpost at junction. It has to point in one direction with complete and utter conviction.

What do you think the most important element of a brief is?

Is life too short for so much content marketing?

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Page & Page is only six months old but we’ve already enjoyed more briefs from our clients than we ever expected. Since we began a pattern is emerging and we have agreed one thing with all of our clients: we will help them produce content but it is going to be content that is relevant and valuable to its target audience. It will not be content that merely adds to the sea of unread and irrelevant information of which nowadays, everyone agrees, there is far too much. Life really is too short for that.

Great content marketing – without dramatically shortening your life

You’ll know, from the previous outputs of Forget the Box that we’re all about using our imagination and inspiring everyone around us to use theirs.

The million-dollar question is how do you ensure that your content marketing inspires, that it is loved and it enriches your target audience’s life without it in turn dramatically shortening yours?

Our approach – don’t start here…

We have to admit to perhaps having something in common with the fellow who when asked for directions replies “well I wouldn’t start from here”. Our point is if you really want to produce imaginative, loveable, valued content don’t start by trying to post or repost, tweet or retweet, or even ‘like’ or comment on something. We recommend taking a couple of steps backwards and starting with some basics because content that people actually want to consume can be identified by:

– the heart-felt energy and enthusiasm with which it has been written
– the eagerness with which it is read because it resonates

This means that if the person reading it met the person writing it they’d actually have something to talk about and they’d find they have much in common.

Start by listening

  1. What does the audience you want to target care about? We mean really care about. Forgetting, for the time being, what your brand has to offer them, what are they talking about? What insights can be developed?
  2. If possible demonstrate you’re listening and trying to understand. Reply, contribute and take part but don’t yet be tempted to push your brand. Start to test the insights you are developing.

Reinvent your brand if necessary

Given the insights you have developed about your audience what do you (or your brand) have in common with them? We have a workshop tool we use to help us in our thinking:

In the majority of cases it is unlikely anyone will need to totally reinvent their brand. However, our point is that loveable, imaginative, inspiring content comes from people and brands that have much in common with their audience. Their values resonate, they believe in similar things, the way they do things fits and of course at the end of it all the service or product sponsoring the content does something the audience values.

If you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing

It is important you develop the content using a recurring theme. People want to know what you believe in – you are in many ways adopting a cause that resonates with them. You build your own proprietary content around this theme, only reposting, retweeting commenting or liking someone else’s content when it has a great deal in common with yours.

In other words, we tip the balance away from being a curator of other people’s content towards being an author of your own content. The aim is to be more singular, to create a single-net impression that, when asked, your target audience spontaneously and lovingly recall.

To summarise, the Page & Page approach to content marketing requires us to unearth the philosophy for the brand and, through cohesive repetition of original content, ensure the brand starts to stand for something.

All it takes is a bit of imagination.

Forget the Box

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We were delighted our book, Forget the Box, was recently reviewed by the Marketing Society . Thanks to Nick Jefferson and the Marketing Society http://bit.ly/boxforgotten

Do you have an imagination?

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Do you have an imagination?

We asked you if you have an imagination and to date almost 120 of you have responded with a resounding YES!

Of course, being mischievous, we then went on to ask whether you felt you were valued by colleagues for what you imagine and whether there was a connection between this and how much job satisfaction you were getting.

We asked because over the years we’ve witnessed the tension between business people, strategists and creative people: Who owns the right to be imaginative? Who has the last say when it comes to contributing ideas?

More people value collaboration than those who do not

In essence we were asking how important is thinking ‘outside of the box’ to us all if we are to enjoy our roles? Our theory was that if it is an intrinsic part of the enjoyment people derive from their role then the best creative processes would be ones that give everyone the chance to contribute. We were exploring the idea that more people value collaboration than those who do not, preferring to come up with ideas in isolation.

The results are fascinating. Our imagination are used mostly when we’re problem solving 77% but in second place was using it to create a vision for a brand, service or product. So imagining is a big part of many people’s jobs. This is supported by the fact that for 96% of the respondents it is linked to their job satisfaction.

Encouragingly, 77% choose collaboration over working in isolation. However, a tough 23% would rather come up with the ideas alone.

We don’t need tools or processes to stimulate our thinking?

Surprisingly, it would seem most of us are working in environments that are inspiring enough, 53%. So all those books that suggest a change of environment is a good idea if you want fresh ideas haven’t made that big an impression. Worse, 60% of us don’t need tools or processes to stimulate our thinking. We wonder, is this because we have a screen in front of us and we are now all so used to stimulation coming at us through the internet that we don’t move from our desks?

We’re not that appreciated, that often

This is all very well until the theory is compared to the responses for the next couple of questions. Only 5% of us feel our ideas are always appreciated. For a large majority – 80%, our ideas are well received only sometimes and a substantial 15% only have ideas acknowledged occasionally. We can’t help wondering whether these percentages would change if people made better use of stimulating environments, processes and tools that encouraged collaboration…

Thankfully, by contrast, it would seem all of us get asked for our ideas at least sometimes. And yet, only 2% of us are actually interested in encouraging others to use their imaginations.

It’s better to engage everyone

So, who does own the right to be imaginative? Who does have the last say when it comes to contributing ideas?

The results of this research lead us to believe using our imaginations or thinking ‘outside of the box’ would seem to be very important to us all if we are to enjoy our marketing, communication or creative roles. It is an intrinsic part of the enjoyment we all derive from our jobs. If this is the case it would seem to follow that the best creative processes are the ones that give us all a chance to contribute.

With this in mind, is it therefore true that processes and tools that encourage collaboration are essential if everyone is to be engaged? And is it only by engaging everyone in the ideas process that a brand or business can be truly successful?

Creative briefs urgently need more oomph!

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A short update on our ongoing research into the role creative briefs play.

Our core premise is that an imaginative, stimulating brief leads to better marketing and communication. The creative brief is the crucial piece of any project because it communicates the client’s requirements to the creative team. The clearer and more imaginative this is the better the chances of success.

From the creatives’ perspective the feedback that we have received is: over 42% of the respondents expect to receive a brief that enthuses them just once every two to three months. 21% only expect this to happen once a year.

Does this then mean that most of the time we’re failing to inspire creative people to do their best work?

From the client perspective many marketing and communication people write a lot of briefs. Almost 40% of us write a brief at least every two to three weeks and an additional 37% about once a quarter.

Writing a brief is a difficult task. 74% of us find it challenging and almost 10% are often dissatisfied with the results. This perhaps explains why 63% of creative people only expect to see an inspiring brief once in a while. This is point is emphasised when you consider 100% of the creative respondents felt a well structured brief made a significant contribution to the resulting campaign.

Yet we’re depending on these briefs: Almost 30% see it as the primary source of inspiration and a little more than the other 70% view it as an important part of the mix.

Again this point is brought in to sharp focus when you consider more than half of the creative respondents felt the brief made a big difference to the amount of imagination they could bring to bear.

85% of brief writers believe in direct collaboration with creative and 73% of creatives believe direct collaboration always results in better ideas.

It seems to follow therefore that if all parties were to collaborate more during the brief development process we’d inspire more of the people more of the time and that this would directly impact the quality of the marketing and communication.

We’ve had some superb anecdotal comments to support this point: Many respondents described the brief as imperative. The need to show creative people what has and hasn’t worked in the past and what the client does and doesn’t like also being a help.

Another describes the process as not being at all easy but the best possible investment in time.

Interestingly one creative described the brief writing process as the best time to challenge the client – challenging the client being vital from their perspective.

Perhaps the most direct comment was, “if the relationship with the creative team hasn’t got a spark, then your brief will lack oomph! And so too will your campaign!”

Thank you to everyone who has taken part so far. We’ve had a superb response and we’re still analysing your responses – we’ll be using some of it in our forthcoming book: Forget the box. With such a large response and with so many great comments the surveys will remain open until Monday 14th July – so we will post an update. If you’d like to participate please visit:

Creatives:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TDW22HR

Creative brief writers:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VLNXCLN

We will be posting updates on our LinkedIn company page so please join in the debate by clicking the follow button and we’ll keep you involved as we develop the research.