The Missing Link to Successful Direct Mail — the Creative Brief
The following is an excerpt from "Strategy & Tactics for Boosting Direct Mail Response," the new 122-page report from Direct Marketing IQ that features best practices from leading direct mail experts.
Nothing causes the creative team more stress than clients who never seem happy with the creative work. If you've worked in this business for a while, you know the story only too well.
In spite of brilliant execution and access to top creative talent, multiple revisions serve only to raise the temperature of the project. In the end, the creative process destroys trust and respect on both sides of the aisle.
Creative teams believe they have great ideas to resolve the problem, while other key players (such as the client) have their own ideas about what the problem is and their own vision on how to solve it.
How did things get to this point?
Without advance agreement on a well-prepared Creative Brief by both the creative group and the client, the creative team must work in a vacuum. This sets up the creative project for failure.
How can you avoid this nightmare? Prepare a written Creative Brief - the Missing Link for successful creative development.
Whose job is it to make sure there is a consensus on the assignment and that all parties have reasonable expectations of each other?
I believe that job falls primarily on the marketer and not the creative director. Of course, both the marketer and the creative team should collaborate on the written document.
But getting the client's approval and documenting the creative approach requires a holistic perspective combining the knowledge of the customer, the market environment and the offer itself into a unified creative implementation plan. The marketer or account manager enjoys a unique position for developing such a document.
Some creative people take exception to this disciplined approach in favor of relying 100 percent on their intuitive skills while spending little time learning more about the client, their customers and other seemingly extraneous information.
But undisciplined creative brilliance often depends upon anecdotal assumptions that are often wrong. It's like paying a skilled bricklayer to build a house without an architectural plan or an architect to design an office building without detailed input on how the customer intends to use it.
The creative team should have the facts that relate to the customer's target market, competitive environment as well as other knowledge that may not appear to relate directly to the problem at hand.
I have found that it is out of the abundance of such knowledge that creative teams are able to generate the highest possible response rates from their creative work.
As such, the marketer does the homework needed to write the creative strategy and the creative team spends at least 50% of its time learning about the client's product, customers and past creative efforts based primarily on the Creative Brief.
I see the Creative Brief as a melding of the marketing plan with the creative strategy. Let's look at the characteristics of strong direct response Creative Briefs.
- Quantify the objective
- Organize the information accurately
- Reveal emotional insights that might lift response
- Respect the overall brand
- Summarize information about the client, the client's customer and the competitive environment
- Include samples of past winners and losers
- Supplies any available competitive samples
- Lack an offer or guidance for developing a strong offer
- Focus on the client's needs rather than those of the target audience
- Do not provide essential information as needed for the project
- Omit concrete and factual support for the claimed product benefits
- Disregard basic target market information such as mailing list descriptions, demographics and any other pertinent customer information
How about the organization of the final document?
Creative Briefs can take on many different and useful formats. But here are the seven essentials of the effective Direct Marketing Creative Brief.
- State the objectives
- Describe the customer benefits
- Define the target audience
- Discuss the offer
- Summarize the customer's perceptions about the advertiser's product
- Provide the "givens" and brand requirements
- Reveal the relevant budgets
As the owner of DMCG, a direct marketing consultancy based in Dallas, Texas, Ted brings deep and broad direct marketing experience to his clients across the country. In the last 25 years, he has spent several hundred million dollars for direct marketing clients in all available direct response media. Think of Ted as a personal "think-tank" for your direct marketing planning and strategy development. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.