Friday, February 25, 2011

The All-Important Creative Brief

At a first meeting with a client, cover all the bases with these essential questions
Suppose you're going to meet with a new client and the project description was not very meaty. You plan to get the information at the "fact-finding" meeting, right?

Here is a document to add to your account management file. It should end the "what a dummy" moment when you've neglected to ask for key information. Don't wait until the meeting to answer these questions, do your homework!

This document, once completed, can be the basis of the follow-up e-mail you send the client. It's also the basis for your creative strategy document. See Sharky's Circle blog post 9.19.09:

The Essential Questions:

What is the budget?
Notice, the first question starts with the hairiest topic. Discussing the budget up-front prevents you from wasting your time and the client's time.

• What are their accounting practices?
• Do they need to provide information to get on their vendor roll?

What are the project objectives?
What is the purpose of the project, the primary objective, the secondary objective?
• Raise market awareness by 25%
• Educate existing customers
• Enthuse potential donors
• Reposition the organization's image
• Meet a legal requirement
• Build company loyalty

What creative approach fits the market positioning?
Let me explain what is meant by "creative approach". We are not talking about a blue brochure or a specific type treatment. That is your baileywick, you determine design approach. A creative approach covers whether this is a hard sell, a soft sell, an informational appeal. Sophisticated, basic, operational, hip are creative approaches. Blue is not a creative approach, unless you are selling music.

Who is the target audience, the readers/viewers/customers?

Determine gender, age, socio-economic strata, occupation and geographic concentration.
• Are they knowledgeable about the service or product?
• What motivates them to act?

What is the product or service and what are its features?
Make a list of specifications, components, & other details.
• How is it delivered and how does the prospect pay for the service?
• How has it been marketed before?
• How is it used in everyday application?
• What sets it apart in the marketplace?

What are the benefits to the customer?
Make a list of the tangible and intangible benefits.
• How will the target be better off for using this product?
• Does it save time or money? If so, how much?
Are there metrics to back this up?
What trade-offs might be in play?
example: higher quality usually means higher price

What are the two strongest benefits?
Rank them—concentrate on the two strongest. This is your platform, the audience will walk away with one main idea. Be as objective and specific as possible.
• What should the main take-away be?

What support is there for the benefits?
Get test data, focus group reports, user testimonials—proof of benefit claims. Accept only facts, not opinions; only specifics, not generalizations.
• Is there a customer-satisfaction initiative, online help chat, a money-back guarantee?

What similar products/services are available and how good are they?
The competitive market—get names, specifications, prices, good and bad features.
• Did a key competitor launch a new service for a similar product?

What creative considerations, limitations or mandates do you face?
Examples: budget, schedule, size paper, use of color, number of photographs/illustrations, corporate standards, personal likes/dislikes (tread carefully here).

Who will take care of the components of the creative product?
Discuss these and identify areas to expand your involvement.
• Copy? Photography? Illustration? Printing? Back-end coding?

What are the methods of distribution?
• Where will the ad run, the brochure be used, the mailer be sent the banner be placed?

Who is in the approval loop?
Don't assume anything. Find out how many people must review the project during the creative process. Ask them to be present for the creative presentation. A word of advice, junior people should not be relied upon for an official stamp of approval. Don't be dismissive of them, they someday may be the person who signs off on your creative.

What is the timeframe?
Do not, I repeat, do not be pressured into an accelerated timeline in a client meeting. You will regret it and you will lose money. Tell the the client a detailed schedule will be a part of the forthcoming creative strategy. Need you say more?

Your follow-up is all-important
1. Take the time to type a report based on this information.
2. Keep it in the folder with the job.
3. Send a follow-up e-mail no later than 24-hours after the meeting.
4. Get to work on that forthcoming creative strategy and timeline.

Yes, my creative friends, it takes a bit of hustle to follow-up. Believe me, it will pay off in the long run for you and your client relationship. You will have set yourself miles ahead of other designers.


© Copyright 2009 Guy Arceneaux All rights reserved


  1. These are great questions, Guy! Many of these are also applicable to others in the marketing community beyond designers. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wholeheartedly agree with all of these point! Due diligence on the front end of a project makes a world of difference.

  3. Congratulations on the site
    the most creative collections on internet


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