Royal Mail marketing director: Why great briefs matter more than ever

There are three types of marketer: the strategic marketer, the creative marketer and the would-be marketer.

Ben Rhodes

The would-be marketer pops up in every business and management meeting. They write the ads themselves, they always know the right media mix to use, and it can always be done cheaper… I’m sure we all know one or two of them.

The creative marketers tend to use work to hone their strategy. They often have deep relationships with agencies and spend hours in meetings discussing creative routes and ways to crack problems through the work.

Strategic marketers obsess about the agency brief. Before they commission work they want to get the strategy straight, they tend to focus more on the idea, and less on the execution.

No matter what kind of marketer you are, the brief is and always will be the cornerstone of any of your campaigns’ success. Why?

Today, marketing operates in real time. The internet, social media and mobile have opened up the ability to communicate to and engage with customers and prospects 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in a way not dreamt of even 5 years ago. This has led to three very important changes for marketing communications: firstly, consumers’ path to purchase is much more nuanced and complex, secondly consumers are assailed by advertising at most online touchpoints reducing impact and advertising effectiveness, and thirdly, the role for breakthrough creativity and ideas have never been more apparent.

The best marketing communications campaigns today have at their heart a core idea that inspires customers to do something different. Developing this idea requires a deep understanding of the audience and their needs, the role the brand can play, the product and competitor landscape and a compelling truth to unlock the selling opportunity. Simply being able to advertise or email someone rarely succeeds. With only 0.51% of emails broadcast getting clicked on (Source: MailChimp) and click through rates of digital display ads at 0.06% (Source: DoubleClick), there is a clear need to balance impact through frequency with impact through cut through creativity and increasingly personalisation.

Where does creativity come from? It can only come from one place… The brief. Brief writing is really hard. A good brief doesn’t just happen; it takes time to craft through discussions with product owners, customers (through research) and agencies. A great brief is a concise strategic document. It requires the brief writer to be on their project, know their product, their competitors and their customers’ needs. Great briefs are one side of A4.

In a multi-channel and real time world, the need for breakthrough ideas has never been more apparent. It is only through getting that brief spot on that you will quickly unlock the single minded idea that can provide the creative framework for real time communication. Whether you are a would-be, or a creatively driven marketer, spending time upfront really getting to grips with the brief, before you jump in and create, will yield much better results.

The best briefs:

  • State clearly what the business needs to achieve
  • Are clear on what success looks like
  • Summarise why the target customers aren’t choosing the brand today, and why they are choosing competitor products/ services
  • State what the business wants customers to think, feel, know and do after seeing the new communications
  • In one line articulate what the business can say to achieve that
  • Details the top 3 reasons why this is true and is compelling to customers

Ben Rhodes is writing ahead of the IPA and ISBA’s ‘Good Brief Week’. For more information click here.

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