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3 Tips For Writing Better Creative Briefs

Rudy Mutter
February 8, 2017

Every great relationship is built on strong communication. Relationships between product or marketing leaders and creatives often hit rough patches when communication breaks down.

According to a recent Visually survey, more than 60 percent of marketers and creatives believe their collaboration is hindered by poor communication. On both sides, the term most commonly used to describe the relationship was “frustrating.”

How can the two teams mend their differences? The solution — at least partially — lies with creative briefs. Just 25 percent of creatives, according to the survey, said marketers effectively follow briefs, while less than 40 percent of marketers said the same about creatives.

A well-executed brief takes all the information for a project, whether it be a product development project or a marketing project, and puts it in one concise document. The project’s requirements, goals, and expectations are there. The brand standards are there. All the information that both teams need to develop, design, and brand the project is there.

Without a clear, concise creative brief to unite them, communication between product or marketing teams and creative teams really suffers. Product development suffers. Your company suffers.

Think Like a Developer

To improve your creative briefs — and hopefully soothe any sore spots between your creatives and product leaders — follow these three tips for building better briefs:

1. Don’t lose sight of the goal.

When clients bring us a creative brief, they often define their audience too broadly. For instance, let’s say we’re working on an app and the brief defines the target market as “anyone with a smartphone.” Unfortunately, trying to appeal to all smartphone owners results in feature bloat, increased costs, blown deadlines and ultimately a uselessly vague product.

The solution, then, is to be specific. The question should not be, “How many people can we reach?” but rather, “Who are the right people for us to reach?” Designers and product managers employ user stories in their work, and this should be duly noted when putting together a creative brief. A user story is a thought experiment: “As a [blank], I want[blank] so that[blank].” Honing in on the target user is key to creating a lean, desirable product.

Personal interviews with actual users are another way to lock in on the right audience, according to Sullivan Branding CEO Brian Sullivan. “You can’t really know your target without talking to them,” Sullivan argues. “Take the time to personally interview people in your target groups.”

2. Leave room for experimentation.

Marketers or product managers who are unfamiliar with new technologies often fall into the trap of carving certain technical specs into stone within a brief. Tailoring a tech product for a certain platform requires an understanding of the underlying technology that the brief’s authors may not have.

For example, product or marketing folks might state in the creative brief that they want the development team to build beacon technology into the product. But once the brief reaches developers’ desks, they’re forced to tell product/marketing that the feature isn’t feasible. The brief then has to be reworked, which wastes time and money.

Instead, product & marketing teams should learn from agile developers’ “fail fast” motto. In other words, by leaving room for prototyping and experimentation within the brief itself, you avoid pigeonholing the development team into potentially unworkable solutions.

Creative Brief Tips

3. Make user testing your guide.

In relationships, what’s left unsaid can cause more friction than what’s actually spoken. That’s true, too, for teams operating from a creative brief. Frequently, creative briefs omit the core product loop. The loop is a three-step dance: First, what need does the product fulfill? Second, how do users first hear about the product? Third, why do users come back for more?

At Yeti, I’ve seen clients' creative briefs that clearly outline the first step of that loop while totally ignoring the latter two. It's a common error to actually solve a problem in a unique and creative way, but then forget to give users a reason to return.

Thankfully, another development best practice can fix this 'error by omission'. When writing new code, engineers don’t just drop it in and hope it works. They use continuous integration, first running that new code through a series of tests to ensure it doesn’t break the existing code. To create their briefs, product managers can construct their own loop. Before locking themselves into a particular feature, they can run it past real users to be sure it resonates.

Getting the product, marketing, and creative teams through couple’s therapy isn’t easy. Fortunately, Yeti has first-hand experience in writing, improving, and executing creative briefs to mend the relationship. Download our free creative brief template and guide to put your teams on the road to relationship recovery.

Rudy Mutter is a CTO + Founding Partner at Yeti. He found his passion for technology as a youth, spending his childhood developing games and coding websites. Rudy now resides in the Yeti Cave where he architects Yeti’s system and heads up project production.

Follow Rudy on Twitter.

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