:Marketing / Marketing best practices

What’s a creative brief? Learn how to write one step-by-step with examples

how to write a creative brief how to write a creative brief

Any creative project is made easier with a plan. But even if you have a general plan, your creative team may run into unexpected roadblocks or have difficulty brainstorming ideas to bring a creative project to fruition.

That can change with the right creative brief. In fact, developing a creative brief should be one of your first steps upon accepting a contract or beginning a new project. Today, let’s break down what a creative brief is, how to write one, and some examples of quality creative briefs brands have used to excellent effect.

What is a creative brief?

Put simply, a creative brief is a short (usually between one and two pages long) document that outlines the creative project’s goals, strategy, and intentions. Creative projects can include marketing campaigns, individual advertisements, artistic endeavors, and more.

In some ways, a creative brief is a lot like a guide map that leads a target audience. In this case, the creative team in charge of producing the creative work , so they can perform their best and produce the project with a minimum of mistakes or backtracking.

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A creative brief is also an interpretation of the ideas and vision for a brand or the ultimate product of a project. Creative briefs can be open-ended and be as long or comprehensive as necessary for success.

The majority of creative briefs include the following elements:

  • A brand statement
  • An overview of the project or campaign’s background, objectives, and hypothetical results
  • The main problems or challenges that the campaign will need to overcome or resolve
  • The target audience for the campaign or project (i.e., a brand’s target consumers)
  • The main competitors to the brand or the creative project being produced
  • The main message that the creative project will describe for the brand, its values, etc.
  • Any communication channels that the campaign or project will run on

Bottom line: A creative brief describes both what a creative project will do as well as how the creative team will achieve their goals.

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Why is a creative brief necessary?

You might think a creative brief is unnecessary if your team is experienced, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, there are lots of important reasons to draw up a creative brief for every campaign or creative project.

For starters, creators working on projects for clients may find partnerships or brand likely expect a comprehensive creative brief before they provide a down payment or sign off on a project. Plus, internally, your team may need a creative brief before they can begin working with any confidence. Other important reasons to draw up a creative brief include:

  • It ensures that the creative messages and elements are all on brand or unified in their direction.
  • It gives your creative team a vision or inspiration for the resulting product, which can help them focus their work.
  • It gives your creative team a starting point so they can begin brainstorming and coming up with great ideas.
  • It allows third-party contributors, like freelancers you may bring in toward the end of a project, a quick and easy way so they can understand the project or product and the brand background.
  • It can reduce client-creative conflict by guaranteeing that both parties are on the same page.
  • It can align the client’s expectations and budget with the overall creative strategy or project requirements, preventing issues with finances from cropping up later.
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Who normally makes creative briefs?

Generally, a creative brief is made by a project manager, account manager, or supervisor in traditional work environments. They’re the people who work closely with clients and designers to produce creative projects, like advertisements, marketing campaigns, etc.

However, any project lead—or in our case, creator—can make a creative brief, as can anyone on your team. Some teams may even have multiple members draw up briefs to compare against each other so the team can choose the brief that feels like the best roadmap to success.

In addition, a brief can be produced by multiple people working simultaneously. For example, you may need the following teams to put together an effective creative brief:

  • Your creative team may be responsible for brainstorming the initial ideas and determining whether the vision or concept is possible.
  • The marketing team can help gather valuable data to focus your efforts and devise a winning strategy.
  • Your accounting team, who will use sheets and accounting tools to track and analyze budgets and finances properly.

Even if you’re a creator with a limited team (or no team at all), a brief can help narrow down the scope of the work and cause you to think strategically.

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Types of creative briefs

Creative briefs are used across industries and are very common tools, particularly among successful creators/advertising firms. Here are just a couple of types of creative briefs you might need to draw up depending on your niche and client’s requirements:

  • Marketing creative briefs: These are used to successfully bring advertising campaigns to the market.
  • Product design creative briefs: These are used to give a marketing team information about a new product or feature launch or to help a team design and launch a new product from scratch.
  • Advertising agency creative briefs: These describe brand guidelines and help advertising agencies put out marketing materials that adhere to a brand’s voice and goals.

That said, creative briefs can come in all types, sizes, and varieties. If you regularly complete projects for your clients or partners, whether with an online business on Teachable, a small family business, or in person, and whether you work alone or with a team, writing a creative brief will only provide you with benefits in the short and long terms.

how to write a creative brief how to write a creative brief

How to write creative briefs

Now you know the importance of creative briefs, let’s break down how you can write one step-by-step.

Step 1. Decide on the project name

First, you’ll need to decide on an attractive project name for the subject of your new creative brief. The project name should be:

  • Appropriate for your brand
  • Relevant to what the project is meant to be
  • Similar, if not exactly the same, to what the resulting product or project will be for the end-users

On top of that, naming your project something specific will help you separate your creative briefs if you have many on your docket. That way, you can open up the correct file rather than searching for a specific creative brief among files named 1, 2, 3, etc.

Spend some time coming up with a project name as it can significantly affect how your client perceives the project idea from the get-go.

Step 2. Write about the brand and background

Now it’s time to write about the brand or client you are doing the project for. (If it’s for your own brand, this part should be easy.) Describe the brand’s tone, voice, mission statement, and other key factors so both your internal team and future freelancers can understand who they are working for.

The brand background should be a separate section in the creative brief as it will help your creatives determine the kind of content they should create, how that content should sound or feel to the end-users, and so on. If possible, ask for a brand voice packet or PDF highlighting the terminology they want you to use, how the brand should sound, etc.

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Step 3. Highlight objectives

Next, highlight the objectives of the project in question. If possible, this should be a bullet point list and denote the major goals you hope to achieve. These can be things like:

  • Drive conversions or revenue for your client
  • Sell X number of products
  • Improve X KPI/key performance indicator by a certain amount
  • Improve brand awareness, etc. 

Outlining these goals clearly will make your brief easier to parse and skim through. More importantly, it will give your creative team a direct goal to target—they’ll know exactly why they are making the content and what it should do.

Step 4. Describe the target audience and market

The creative brief is intended for your creative team and the client (or you!), but the project you’re working on (that the brief is designed to outline) has a different audience such as the general public, potential customers, or some other group.

Describing the target audience is vital, so your team knows how to make a product or content that speaks to that audience. You may need to do intense market research beforehand so you can put down accurate information in your brief.

Similarly, be sure to describe the current market environment or conditions you may face. If you’re drawing up a marketing campaign for a new product in a competitive niche, for example, be sure to mention this to highlight the importance of standing out or designing a very compelling product message.

Step 5. Develop the key message

Your creative brief should also include the main message for the content or project. For instance, if the brief is for a new marketing campaign, the main message could be:

  • “Client brand is accessible, attractive, and affordable for consumers of X industry”

The main message can be anything you like, as long as it focuses your team’s efforts and prevents them from wasting time on something that doesn’t contribute to the overall goal. If the creative brief is for a specific product, this section can instead be the main purpose of the product rather than the message you hope the end-users will receive. 

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Step 6. Highlight the main consumer benefit

It’s a good idea to include a distinct section highlighting the primary consumer benefits of the creative project. If you’re creating an advertisement, the primary consumer benefit might be a new awareness of an affordable brand or a great product they didn’t know about before.

Step 7. Choose the best tone/voice for the audience

Your creative brief should include clues or suggestions about using the ideal tone or voice for the target audience.

For instance, if your target audience is comprised of knowledgeable professionals and your client is a leader of a B2B/business-to-business company, your tone should be:

  • Formal and sophisticated
  • Educated and knowledgeable
  • Moderately technical

Including this information will do wonders for any written or localized content you may need to produce over the creative project’s duration.

Step 8. Describe an ideal call to action

Near the end of your creative brief, be sure to describe what an ideal call to action would look like for advertising or marketing material. This ties into the above section about using the right voice or tone for the target audience.

The call to action is incredibly important since it drives sales or other conversions. Your call to action for an advertisement must be compelling and engaging to inspire viewers/readers to do what your client wants.

Step 9. Plan distribution

You’re almost done. In fact, your brief should be ready to go. But now you need to plan how you’ll distribute the creative brief to relevant parties.

One easy way is to turn it into a PDF so you can email it to anyone who needs it, including core team members or freelancers. Don’t forget to use an email tracker to ensure all contacts actually receive and open your email. 

You may also need to print out copies of the creative brief to show in person. Regardless, plan who will get a copy of the brief and set things up so you can distribute it quickly. 

Step 10. Distribute the creative brief

The last step is simply to distribute your newly created brief to everyone who needs it! Be ready to receive feedback or questions on the brief. Since creative briefs are only a few pages long, even the most comprehensive ones will leave out a few details you may need to clear up in the future.

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Creative brief examples

Do you need some inspiration for drawing up your own creative briefs? Here are just a couple of examples to show what you should try to emulate and the benefits that creative briefs can provide:

  • A visual creative brief used by Quaker Oats. This brief looks a little unorthodox compared to other briefs, but it has a lot of fundamental facts and critical information that advertisers and marketers can use to improve sales (clearly marked as “the objective”).
  • A creative brief used by PayPal. This one is a little text-heavy, but it has an interesting graphic at the bottom to outline how the project’s various elements combine for maximum results.
  • A creative brief for Hush Puppies. This brief clearly states the goals, message, tone, and other key factors in a list style, so it’s very easy to scan and comprehend whether you are a hypothetical longtime team member or someone just coming onto the project.

Remember, the visuals for a creative brief can vary heavily. Your briefs don’t have to look exactly like these examples, but they are good places to start.

Conclusion

All in all, a creative brief is a vital part of the creative process. It’s necessary, so your team can do the best work possible, and so your client goes into the project with managed expectations. Now that you know how to write a creative brief, be sure to include one in every new project you put together, no matter the size of your team!  

FAQs

What is the purpose of a creative brief?

The purpose of a creative brief is to provide inspiration and guidance to your creative team so they can produce the best project possible. It’s also intended to provide your client with a timeline and budget framework so they know what to expect.

What makes a good creative brief?

A good creative brief should be comprehensive, easy-to-read, and descriptive of your project’s goals, target audience, and hypothetical results. It should also be interpretable by third parties who may come into the project late.

What is in a creative brief?

A creative brief usually includes a breakdown of the brand, a description of the project and its goals, the steps by which the project will come to fruition, and budget estimates. The exact contents of a creative brief can vary from project to project.



Author: Nahla Davies, Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.

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