Ipshita Chowdhury
Guest Article

How short is your client brief?

A good brief needs to sharply define the 'objective', the 'audience', and why should they get influenced, or motivated, to choose me (proposition).

There are meetings, and then there are meetings that we tend to remember for a long time to come. One such happened quite early on in my career. Fortunately, so. Our creative agency partner presented scripts to us, to a room full of accomplished and experienced marketers. As is always the case with creative presentations, they can go in any direction. And that day, it did. To be honest, in all directions. After it ended, we received a one-liner from our manager, “next time onwards, let us read and carry the brief to the meeting.”

An important lesson learnt that day has stayed with me, till date.

One of the most fascinating, as well as challenging, aspects of any marketing campaign is that everyone, yes everyone, can, and does, have a point of view on it. Simply because, fundamentally, we are all creative in our own ways. After all, we are all consumers, too, and get bombarded by marketing campaigns, hence we all form our creative opinions on a continuous basis. Unlike say, functions like finance. Very rarely, would we find a non-finance expert giving definitive opinions on the balance sheet, for example. But, how that colour on the banner, or the kid in the ad film did not work would come as a definitive opinion by many. I often get asked on the mantra of creating campaigns that may be universally applauded. Well, there is no such mantra, and more importantly, very rarely would there be a campaign that will be universally applauded. It is not supposed to be.

But I can tell one thing with certainty. The one mantra that has consistently worked for me is a well thought through and crafted marketing brief. And, it is much easier said than done. It requires a thorough understanding of the category, context and consumer, plus one key yet elusive ingredient – time. Amid our daily rigmarole and deadline pressures, time is something we are hard-pressed for. With the dynamism of the digital world and campaign longevity that of a tweet, it is even harder to invest time in a marketing brief. Practical challenges. And one may argue, in a world of performance-led marketing, who cares anymore for a ‘memorable’ campaign? Valid.

As marketers, I believe our primary role is to create and implement campaigns that ‘work’. And that definition and metric of what ‘worked’, or not, comes from the brief. Irrespective of the nature of the campaign. Fundamentally, a good brief needs to sharply define three things – what do I want to achieve (objective), who do I want to influence (audience), and why should they get influenced, or motivated, to choose me (proposition). As simple as it sounds, these are the three questions that are the toughest to pin down. Because, ‘yeh dil hamesha maange more’. Yes, it is hard to accept and align that one marketing campaign can only solve one problem at a time. Hence, a good practical tip to follow, while crafting the brief, would be to also articulate three more points – what is this campaign not meant to do, who may not get interested in what we market, and what would make my audience tag me as a ‘more of the same’ and look away. For a marketer, being conscious of these is a great start. Aligning these with internal stakeholders is a key step forward. And discussing these with the creative partners is a valuable input, much more than we can imagine.

We may still not get everything right, each time. But hopefully, with a sharply articulated brief, we will know what we could do better the next time. And that would be a big step forward in itself.

(The author is director marketing, South Asia, Signify Innovations, formerly Philips Lighting India.)