Fear Not: Creating Success Starts with a Creative Brief

Posted on May 23, 2019 by


We were recently granted the opportunity to begin a new client relationship. One of the most exciting aspects of this engagement is the client’s ready and hearty embrace of the creative brief as a working tool. This is a much-needed breath of fresh air because all too many times customers struggle to provide a clear expression of expectations around their projects – not because they lack the ability but perhaps because they have not been coached or simply lack the experience, making the creative brief something to fear. For creative teams who exist to meet clients’ expectations, the lack of a clear statement of expectation is a notable obstacle to success, especially when it comes to developing packaging.   

In truth, there are some clients who just don’t want to provide a creative brief. The flaw in that thinking is that while you can rely on the insight of others to craft a creative solution, it often ends up off point and unable to express your vision of what you want to accomplish. Well-executed creative requires context to be effective, which has to be supplied by the client. Failure to provide the context within which a product is to be marketed can only result in dissatisfaction – simply because it doesn’t hit and frame the target in the right way, resulting in tedious rework, increased expense and compromised timing. Creativity is one of the key tools we have to connect products with people, and good creative requires the pushing and pulling of ideas and concepts until the “right” combination is achieved, but only when it has a solid platform to take guidance from.

Why do clients fear the creative brief? Possibly because the concept of a creative brief becomes so clouded in unfamiliar or mysterious language or industry-related buzzwords it can make composing one intimidating – especially for newcomers to the process. In its most basic form, a creative brief should be a simple, clear statement of likes, dislikes, expectations, and limitations. If you possess the capacity to make the statement, “I like (anything)” or conversely “I don’t like (something)”, you have the capability of writing a creative brief.

Although there is no precise formula for a creative brief, if you have any degree of uncertainty, keep it simple and provide as much detail as you can, including the following information:

1.  Summary – define the goal you want to achieve as comprehensively as possible, remembering it is expensive to add to the scope of work as a project moves along

2.  Influences – the big kahuna category – what you know and what your creative partners need to know about factors that influence your outcome. If you don’t know, define what needs to be discovered such as:  

-What are known givens/limitations?

-Do you need research?

-What is your customer profile?

-What markets do your customers work in?

-What are the industry trends for you/your customers?

-What constitutes your customers’ competition?

3.  Challenges – decide on one, maybe two compelling objectives and the key roadblocks standing in the way of achieving them

4.  Clarification – what is your brand image, message, and tone? If you lack branding it is probably appropriate to start with establishing a brand platform

5.  Requirements – be as precise as possible and if necessary get help with:

  • Budget: total spend allocated, fixed versus flexible components
  • Timeline: when does material need to be in the hands of the consumer?
  • Partners: are there specific preferred partners to be incorporated into the scope of work?          
  • Process: do you have any given processes or procedures that impact management of work?
  • Channels: what are the channels through which your product will be distributed?

If this is still too much to pull together, ask for help. Usually your partners will help assemble a working document to align all teams – but remember that if you do so, it will not come free, especially if it involves research and branding work. If you have a marketing and/or business plan, share that with your creative team to review. As confidential partners, they will be able to extract important data relative to the goals you give them, keeping the development of copy, imagery and graphic design system solutions targeted to your objectives.

Creativity is more important than ever, especially in light of the increasing belief you can sit in front of a computer and use technology to pound out a solution. I am not saying for one minute there is no place for technology, however, because creativity is a synergistic process, it always helps to work collaboratively with your packaging teams because a creative idea that cannot be produced is not a good creative idea. Agreeing on the creative goal at the start of the project is the most significant factor in fostering project efficiency as well as achieving budgetary and timing management goals. All it takes is to start by clearly defining what it is you want to achieve. 

If you’re looking to start a packaging project and need help with the creative process, contact us at info@brand-directions.com  We would love to start a conversation. Throughout our 60 plus years of supporting customers with consumer brands large and small, we apply our experience and expertise to the entire process to create efficient and effective solutions.