Is your creative brief tuned to creating brand wealth?

Pompous as it may sound, the start of any creative brief must state the business objective. If it doesn’t, junk it this very minute. Because it is the one point in the working of a communication company, where the business, strategic & creative disciplines meet on a common ground. And toppling the very reasons these silos were created I’d say that without due diligence done & respect given to the marketing ambition, these disciplines have no reason to exist.

As an extended arm of the marketing team and possibly as the truest custodian of the brand, communication partners need to re-consider their approach to the brand building process. All too often collaboration in its truest sense is missing. Which means inspiring market traction,  cannot be the problem of one or two disciplines but all owners of the brand. Which in turn means the creative team must not celebrate the creative idea, but the most effective creative solution.

It is our business to know the brands’ business. And well enough. There are no good or bad partners in this business, just successful & unsuccessful brands. As for the creative brief, it needs to have a single minded purpose of creating & growing brand wealth & not bettering the previous campaign. Sounds like a hygiene factor? Surprisingly it isn’t.

What does that mean for the brand? It simply means, it’s a trigger to re-define a few benchmarks.

1.    Creative awards vs. Effies

Does this mean creative awards are for ineffective work and Effies are for work that’s not creative? Which other industry does that? Let’s take one of the highest churners, i.e. Indian film industry. It’s award functions rewards the Film, Director, Scriptwriter, Music Director, Actor, Actress with a trophy for their craft. Acknowledges overall contribution and picks winners across disciplines. Then why should advertising & marketing be any different? Will that change the brands’ destination & approach to communication?

2.    Memorability (of proposition NOT execution) + Relevance (of proposition) = Effectiveness

Touchy one really. What do people mean when they say the advertising was not memorable? Are they talking about the brand message or the execution to magnify it to the consumer that scores low on recall? What then would be hard hitting & memorable? What will effect sales? What will build the role in life? I am sure it’s obvious, nevertheless it’s rarely followed. Celebrate the brand promise & the craft of bringing it alive will follow just as easily. Like for example, ‘Just do it’ from Nike which has stayed the best continuing campaign world over, for the past 20+ years.



3.    Power of One

What works better? A collective, regenerative force or a silo driven, disintegrated one? Collaboration used oft in theory and abused as well, creates singular powerful message magnifiers. Conversation buttons. This means the custodians of the brand choose to co-work with partners both internal & external (incl. category experts, influencers, shopper analysts etc). Not to create an advertisement, but exciting thanksgiving moments for both brands & owners.

4.    Democratization of knowledge

Of course we are in an age of sub-specialization. But we aren’t a part of the medical fraternity or such high risk professions, where overlapping of a few roles could spell disaster. My humble submission: Why shouldn’t business management, creative specialists, engagement champions, strategic thinkers, marketing partners deep dive and have a decent threshold of common knowledge about their consumers before they plunge into brand building?  About what works! About what’s the best message maybe! Or how humans think when displaced by a stimuli? Or even the purpose the brand should live up to!

5.    From the Ivory tower to Grass root learning

Demographics and even psychographics, is subjective. This is merely a conclusion derived from years of interactions with many of my cross-discipline colleagues. So what is it that works? It is really a bunch of  ‘live-o-phobics’. These are people who love meeting their customers, influencers…LIVE. In person, rather than merely as an executive summary or extrapolation of data gathered. So that they create compelling communication not from just  a stroke of creative energy, but from the gumption of knowing what will create widespread brand value.

6.    Open source creativity

More as a refresher, ‘Open Source’ brings energetic perspectives to brands. It fuels a sense of competition, hence excellence & also more importantly the most imaginative set of resources for brand ownership. There is nothing like stimulating a new set of minds to create disruption and garner a new set of approaches to communicating a brand.

7.    Creative Planners & Strategic Creatives
Tough one. But worth a try. This union brings brand harmony and makes it both relevant & aspirational. Memorable & delightful. Mutual respect prevails & brands get the best of both worlds.

8.    Providing Solutions not Managing Brands

Proactive & action oriented solutions must be the responsibility of all within the agency. Not merely managing business or brands. Does that mean ‘management’ needs to be re-looked as a word across disciplines? Would it help if people didn’t do business management courses but business profitability or business sustainability courses?

9.    Being a customer first

Many hats, many exciting solutions. It simply means that people across disciples don the customer hat every time they are crafting a solution & stop to ask a few questions. EXAMPLE: What would make each brand keeper within the agency/corporate really totally fall in love with the brand? What would make him/her as a customer own the brand forever?

If that is the approach to an opportunity or issue, then creating the brand story comes easily…from the deepest understanding of the human mind. And not from just the creative brief.

10.    Driven by innovation, observation & inspiration

Last on this list is what would keep the above 9 points together. The common thread that would get it all started. Watch the genesis of Apple’s hegemony brought alive in a dramatic way just once, about 25+ years ago. Need I say more?


Having shared some realities, I couldn’t resist this quote as a closing paragraph to heighten the importance of creating brand wealth:

“To explain responsibility to advertising men is like trying to convince an eight-year-old that sexual intercourse is more fun than a chocolate ice cream cone” ~ Howard Gossage (Advertising innovator from the 50s & 60s/ called ‘Socrates of San Francisco’)

So what do you think?

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  1. Well said. Who has the balls to implement it?

    • Sandhya Srinivasan |

      Ha Ha….Very practical question Richard. I guess when accountability is shared by the suits & creative champions.

      I’ve often seen that creative hot shops as they are loosely called, have a lot more desire to see brands win. They are both the creative & business manager packed into one. And respect both.

  2. Hi!

    Can we have more on “Being a customer first”?

    And a perspective on how the focus has shifted from “Attention Economy” to “Attraction Economy”…


    • Sandhya Srinivasan |

      Well ‘being a customer’ simply meant donning the hat as a buyer and not a suit or a copywriter. I once heard a strong negative comment about a brand assigned to a colleague, about its proposition & future prospects.

      After the ripping was done all I told her, was to create what she believed would convince her to buy the brand. If she could convert herself by clearing out her perceived negatives (possibly a reflection of the buyer too) then chances are the brand truly had good chance at re-launch. It worked.

      Attention Economy & Attraction Economy do overlap and yet are different. If I come from the consumer’s buying behavior and the frequent breaks between serials (joking), it seems like demanding one’s undiluted caged attention was the way to attract attention.

      The flip thanks to rehaul in media consumption habits makes it difficult to intervene. People have changed in the way they consume goods. They drive the growth. They don’t see themselves as consumers but stay-ahead professionals, teenage stylish 9-yr olds etc. So grabbing their attention by intruding may be getting difficult among some clusters of consumers.

      So like the peacock must strut to attract its mate without using chessy pick-up lines, the brand too must create an aura that attracts without being in your face. Many brands who have woven themselves in manage consistency well.

      I think Fastrack, Titan, Amway, Twitter…even Apple I’d say falls into this new economy speak. They have created fans without really being loud and brash.

      Hope it was an enjoyable perspective Sandeep…

  3. Very inspiring!

    The briefs have to start with a quantifiable BUSINESS OBJECTIVE viz. create 50000 new relationships in a month or even sell 10000 cars in a year.

    Then we need to figure out the BARRIER(s) that stand(s) amongst us and the objective.

    And then we think of the tool/device/insight/idea that would help us overcome the barrier.

    finally, we can arrive at what we/brand need to DO (and not say) to arrive at a business IDEA.

    Incidentally, the Apple commercial was bombed by FGDs conducted by client since it seemed dark and dingy and unlike the traditional brand launches, but they had the balls to still go ahead with it. The rest is history.

    • Sandhya Srinivasan |

      Hi Sandeep.

      Thank You…I would hope that as brand partners we can truly live what we believe in i.e if our brands win, we win. The barrier can only be outdated definitions of job profiles and closed minded partners within the agency.

      If we all came from a business orientation all the time, then all the insights we garner & all the creativity we have to offer, will have a clear destination. Growth.

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