Thursday 23 February 2017

Seven ways to improve any copy brief

You know the feeling. A brief comes in and it just hits the nail on the head. But what exactly makes a brief spot on? Here are seven things to look out for that’ll guarantee your next brief is up to scratch.

1. Go deep: reveal how your audience ticks

Getting to know your audience...

If you don’t get to know your audience inside-out, you might as well be playing a game of marketing pin the tail on the donkey, and that’s a bleak birthday party no-one wants to go to. Tell us what makes your audience tick.

2. And take a long, hard look in the mirror: be honest

Is your brand really that strong?
You might know exactly what you want customers to think, but what are customers thinking right now when they encounter your brand? What are you doing right – and what are you getting wrong?

Jeff Bezos, founder of, says, 'Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room'. To produce a strong creative brief, a brand needs to be honest with itself about its weaknesses, warts and all.

3. Be clear about your objectives
What change are we trying to achieve in the customer? What thought, feeling or action? You will need a deep distaste for waffle, vagueness, platitudes and flim flam – a strong preference to get to the point.’ So says Maurice Saatchi in his 2011 book Brutal Simplicity of Thought – and he’s right. As we’ve mentioned before, the tighter and more focused the brief, the better the outcome. And don’t try to do too much.

4. What's going to change the audience's mind?

Is there a big idea? Is the positioning unique, or at least distinctive? We need to know what’s going to excite the audience and make them take some notice. What exactly is it that will move them from what they think/feel/do now to where we want them to be.

5. Don't forget the benefits
Why does someone buy a Porsche 911 – because it can reach a top speed of 205.1mph? Nope. Someone buys a Porsche to feel the thrill of driving again. And all the layers of associations built up by the brand over the years. So a brief needs to turn ‘features’ into ‘benefits’. Ideally, these should be emotional. Here's why...

Take these adverts produced for the Welsh Tourist Authority, which aim to encourage more tourists to visit from London.
Wales: cheaper than a marriage counsellor.
Instead of pushing the feature - that Wales is two hours from London by train - the ad entices the viewer with a benefit, in this case offering the chance to de-stress or mend a strained relationship with your partner.

As we've mentioned, emotion is key, so it's vital not only to identify a feature ('two hours') but also to turn it into an emotional benefit ('the picture of bliss'). It might even save a few smashed plates. If this way of thinking is built into the brief right from the get-go, you stand a strong chance of coming away with an exciting, engaging message.

6. What's the tone?

If there are tone of voice guidelines, could we have them? Is there a recent ad campaign that has a certain tone we might want to follow? How does this brand speak in this context when using this medium? Are there examples of what's been done before?

7. Give great feedback

Even with the best of briefs, your writer might not nail it in one. But to improve, we need to know what needs refinement. ‘I don’t like that’ is the feedback equivalent of a chocolate teapot. The more single-minded and direct the feedback is in relation to the brief, the easier it will be for a copywriter to make the revisions needed to make your message shine.

Not all briefs are made equal, but if a brief nails these seven key points, a copywriter should be able to turn around a dazzling message in no time.

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