We believe that the creative brief, like most things in marketing, is a living, responsive document that changes with time. This means that we must continually challenge our own thinking to deliver more relevant strategies to account for the increased complexity of the marketing mix.
Recently, there have been a series of smart advertising industry leaders that inspired us to reexamine the state of our creative brief and other strategic documents to inform the brand framework and creative communications for our clients. Each of these innovative thinkers has created a new lens for us to consider as we overhaul our strategic planning toolbox.
The following three takeaways demonstrate the need to constantly consider our strategic approach and incorporate new thinking that positions our clients to succeed.
1. Involve the Communities
Trone Brand Energy recently hosted the AMIN (Advertising & Marketing Independent Network Agency) Integrated Conference, bringing together more than 70 members for three days. This annual event touches on a variety of topics, but the state of brand strategy was one of the core themes.
Global brand strategist, Nicole Ertas, led a keynote presentation around her philosophy and best-selling book, Free Range Brands. Nicole believes that mature, established brands are not set up to have meaningful conversations and experiences with their communities or customer advocates. These brands were established in a pre-digital world where they could get by with a one-way message to their audiences about their product or service differentiators. In this case, community means the people that will interact with your brand for a certain reason; those that seek to express themselves either dynamically or authentically and those that seek to influence others authentically or dynamically.
Today, successful brands tap into their different communities for more meaningful and authentic campaigns. Some brands may have larger communities of one type of advocate than another, but the key is to identify which types of communities exist and why they resonate with your brand.
“Brand viability can no longer be conceptualized and executed solely by the brand teams; it must be released to be manifested by the brand community. We can build the structures, but it is the brand community that gives the brand life.” –Nicole Ertas, Free Range Brands
As part of Nicole’s keynote presentation, we broke into smaller groups to discuss how we could incorporate communities into our creative briefs. The result was an honest need to involve brand advocates earlier in the process to learn and be inspired, thus incorporating these communities that already exist into our strategic thinking.
The new lens:
The need to better identify and connect with the most passionate and loyal brand advocates and incorporate them into our strategic thinking.
2. (Re)Cultivating Passion
The final speaker at the AMIN Integrated Conference discussed the current state of advertising and brands. David Baldwin, founder of Raleigh-based advertising agency Baldwin&, shared his thoughts on branding with passion from his recent book The Belief Economy: How to Give a Damn, Stop Selling, and Create Buy-In.
David believes that the majority of companies are started for a reason other than just money, but over time this original passion becomes buried under jargon and corporate nonsense causing the company to lose its North Star—it’s guiding light. This correlates to why a brand exists from a bigger picture and how people become advocates. Many brands tend to lose sight of the need to explain their “why” and fail to give customers a reason to stay loyal beyond a single purchase. David and his team at Baldwin& seek to uncover this original passion and bring it back to the forefront.
Brands should go through this process because even the most original, gotta-have-it products and services are replicated by competing brands within months. The difference between a passionate brand in touch with its beliefs and a copycat competitor is what each does and says about the world. Passion cannot be faked. It must be authentic, which it is something that can be leveraged as a true differentiator.
The new lens:
The need to understand what kind of impact brands have beyond the advertising and sale of their products and services—what do they stand for today and in the future?
3. Pressure Test the Strategy
Dan Carlton of Durham-based branding consultancy The PARAGRAPH Project, launched an online training platform for account planners. PlannerU offers courses and tutorials aimed at making it easy and affordable for planners and strategists alike to brush up on the fundamental aspects of the discipline.
We explored writing a more inspired creative brief as one of our courses. Dan offered up the idea of vetting a possible strategy statement by means of a proposition statement. The proposition statement is a single sentence summary of the strategy that is not necessarily part of the eventual creative brief. This is created by answering the following question: what do we need to convince our audiences of and why?
Many things including the role of the brand or product or the end benefit could inspire this statement. Really, it’s about getting several strategies out there so you can identify the strongest and most appealing proposition quicker.
The new lens:
The need to test drive several different strategies to identify the one with the strongest and most interesting potential to develop.
Evolving Our Brief
If the creative brief never evolved, agencies would continue to solve their client’s problems the same way. Without considering the valuable perspectives provided by industry leaders it is easy to look at the creative brief as just another document, but they remind us it can be so much more. It can be the start of igniting a passionate community, the key to finding a client’s true North Star or a way to vet the type of challenge you want to solve in the first place.
We commit to always treating the brief as a dynamic, evolving document. We will continue to evolve our strategic thinking by challenging what works and what does not as we are reminded that no creative brief is a one-size-fits-all proposition.
If you need help figuring out how to evolve your brand’s marketing strategy, please contact us.