10 tips for crafting a great communications challenge – the heart of a great creative brief

At the heart of any great creative brief is a powerful communications challenge that anchors the strategy and is the springboard for a creative leap and hopefully a transformative idea.

All decent agencies around the world have caught on to the fact that modern marketing is about ‘doing, not saying’ and this is reflected in their creative briefing formats.

DDB have their new ‘behaviour change’ brief, Crispins brief is centred around the key ‘Question’ that needs to be answered, BBDO have their ‘get-who-to-by’ brief and Saatchi & Saatchi have their ‘Objective-issue-insight-challenge’ format.  I’m sure there are many other great formats.

No matter which way you cut it, at the heart of the brief there should always be a statement of transformation of consumer/brand behaviour. And compared to the old days, it must move beyond brand perception shift.

Here are 10 tips for what communication challenges on a brief should do:

  1. Have bigness and ambition, feel expandable
  2. Be inspiring  yet precise
  3. Have a juicy verb at its heart which is action oriented
  4. Contain a powerful truth
  5. Be provocative (or at least very interesting)
  6. Have some cultural tension embedded so it naturally gets people talking and excited about the brief
  7. Reframe a problem and ‘knock’ down the barrier or consumer issue
  8. Have the potential for a platform thought, not just a one off execution
  9. Stretch across media and time (Think being timely and timeless)
  10.  Be short, punchy, simple & single minded

When crafting a creative brief/strategy, many planners think they’ve got a juicy creative challenge but in reality they’ve reworded an objective with some marketing fluff – the result here is creatives saying ‘your brief is crap’.   So, if you’re starting your challenge with words like – To communicate, To say, To tell, To convince… you’re heading into messaging world.

Below are some thoughts on a Challenge vs an Objective.

The Communications Challenge An Objective
The most ambitious thing you can achieve What you hope to achieve
Inspirational Factual
Consumer/culture driven Product focused
Consumer language Agency suit talk
Overcomes a consumer issue Meets a business number/goal
Resolves a cultural or human tension Is straight up and doesn’t feel fresh
Drives behaviour change Communicates a proposition

 

A few examples of some cool challenges that led to great work:

 Jaguar ‘Gorgeous’

To get people to aspire to a life of ‘new fashioned luxury’

Playstation 3

To push every player to their next level

Hennessy

To make Hennessy irresistibly out of reach

Burger King ‘Whopper Sacrifice’

To proudly put their love of the Whopper before their friendships

Honda ‘Diesel’

To dramatise the fact that this is a diesel engine from the company that hated diesel engines. Honda used this hatred positively

Google Voice Search

To inspire Australians to ask more questions using their most natural searching tool…their voice.

Austar

To liberate country Aussies from the shackles of free to air TV

Sonic Hedgehog

To make Sonic digital playground currency again

 

Challenge culture for CONVERSUASION

It’s a little bit of a buzz word, but when I heard about  Colin Drummond from CP+B talking about CONVERSUASION at Ad Lounge in Toronto, my ears pricked up.  Lets be real, conversuasion may sound a little like adwank, but stripped back I believe it’s about how you turn conversations you create in culture into meaninful brand engagement and action. When asked what his point of view was on ‘conversuasion’, his point of view was very much around ‘creating culture’ to spark conversations amongst social networks that then lead to persuasion or action. In quite a few of my Red Bull posts I talk alot about brands needing to create culture and engage with ongoing conversations around interesting cultural objects. His logic was based on Crispin’s strategic way of working and this way of working is behind all their most successful ideas ‘Whopper Sacrifice’, ‘Whopper Freakout’ etc. So it goes like this:

– Culture are the millions of rules that we all live by, those rules must be challenged to open up a CONVERSUASION with people.

– Challenging existing rules leads to tensions and when you make people tense it moves them to decision outside their normal experience..and gets them talking

– If you want to change rules, you have to challenge culture by finding and exploiting cultural tensions that exist.

– To get people talking, your brand has to pick a side and stand by it

In my view, this thinking is the reason why Crispin comes up with some culturally relevant and subversive ideas as they constantly challenge defined cultural rules, whereas most brands just challenge category rules which don’t get people talking. It’s reflected in their creative brief which I wrote about earlier this year here.

My point of view on CONVERSUASION is that great brands resolve cultural tensions, sparking conversations, but it’s all about creating tribal ideas, ideas that people are inspired to rapidly mobilise around. Another dimension is collaborative creativiety, in that brands need to be far more open source in their ideas, and let the community help shape the outcomes of those ideas in real time. Conversuasion is not about beginning and ends of campaigns, they are either about digital platforms that deliver amazing utility eg: Nike + Football or they are about the community shaping the outcome of the ideas in ongoing narratives. It’s also thinking about how you continually experiment with popular culture.

Creating culture is what more brands need to do and was great to hear Colin share his viewpoints and it’s clear why CP+B are leading the way with culturally subversive idea that typically always start conversations.

‘Baked In’: some great thoughts on how to ‘bake’ marketing into your product

I’ve just finished reading ‘Baked In’ by John Winsor and Alex Bogusky from one of the world’s best agencies, Crispin Porter + Bogusky. John was kind enough to give me the opportunity to review the book prior to official launch.

What a great read. As many of you know, I write a lot about Generation C – and some of the key dimensions of Gen C are their need for Co-Creation, Collaboration and Control over brand stories. Brands today need to engage their ‘communities’ in all aspects of business and this book brings it to life with some great examples. In a nutshell it’s about the blurring line between product and marketing – the need to ‘bake’ marketing into your product.  This book is short, sharp and easy to ready with some great case studies and examples from Crispin clients.  It’s the book that keeps on giving as every chapter has a twitter feed associated with it so you can join in a conversation ecosystem that’s created by readers of the book. The guys are practising what they preach when it comes to stimulating conversation within communities.

 

Baked In by Winsor and Bogusky

Baked In by Winsor and Bogusky

 

 

I’ve pulled out some of the most interesting statements/points of view in terms of how brands can ‘bake’ marketing into their product innovations and stories:

  • To be successful a brands story must connect with a LARGER CULTURAL CONVERSATION that’s happening
  • The MIDDLE IS TO BE AVOIDED by marketers at all times
  • Every product has a story, the JOB OF MARKETING IS TO MAKE IT SING
  • CREATIVITY IS LIKE ANTHRAX, extremely potent, hard to distribute, so to ‘weaponise’ it is to find out how to distribute it quickly and widely
  • Real innovation comes from the POWER OF RANDOMNESS
  • Culture always wants to change, especially pop culture, WHAT’S THE CULTURAL CONVENTION YOUR BRAND CAN FLIP?
  • EXPLOITING CULTURAL CONFLICTS and tensions is the key to big ideas, use them as levers to create change (this is where the boys at Crispin continue to set the standard in terms of cracking culturally interesting ideas)
  • Live your product. service to FIND TRUTHS AND INVERTED TRUTHS
  • Always allow members of your brands community to take self guided explorations of your brand
  • Brands built on INTUITION are more likely to be disruptive and adapt to a rapidly changing environment
  •  MINE YOUR BRAND’S HISTORY for interesting stories
  • Steal from other categories to innovate
  • Focus on OPEN COLLABORATION
  •  STORIES and the ability to share them are what make us human
  • Great product names are essential to design – bake in names that mean something in culture eg: MINI, Flip, Red Bull, ipod
  • If possible, innovate to CREATE AN ABSOLUTE – don’t bother communicating if you are ‘faster’, ‘lighter’…ER’s are meaningless

Thanks John for the chance to review ‘Baked In’ some great stuff here for marketers who are looking to engage people in the new marketing environment.

Just finishing Baked In by John Winsor and Alex Bogusky

I was lucky enough to be asked to review a brand new book just released called Baked In – written by Alex Bogusky and John Winsor from the world’s best agency CPB.  It’s about ‘baking’ marketing into your product. I’m about half way through and will be posting a full review on Monday. So far, so good, it’s really interesting and am especially loving the commentary on how brands can tap into cultural conflicts/tensions. More to come.