Why Every Small Business Should Write Their Own Creative Brief – Each Year

If you own and operate your own business, then you know how easy it is to get caught up in the daily operations. There is, and never will be anyone else who can do things quiet as well as you, or who has the same drive or passion….clearly.

However, the risk we run when we get too engaged with daily operations is losing sight of our strategic direction. Without setting ourselves goals and taking our fogged glasses of now and again, it is much harder to view the business with an objective outlook, which can be potentially risky.

On recently reviewing the makeup of my own Creative Briefing, I quickly realised the benefit of actually personally partaking in this process, as a valuable tool for formalising a business’s direction for the year ahead. Creative Brief you say, that’s what marketing consultants are for? Sure they are, and you would assume they are good at it. However, I argue that despite this, and especially if you do not have the kind of capital that can allow for Advertising or Brand agencies to prepare such a brief for you, actually going through the process yourself is very cleansing , rewarding and a valuable exercise for both you and your venture.

A Creative Brief (CB) is usually an informal agreement between a client and an advertising agency, which details what the advertising campaign, is intended to accomplish

For those of you who aren’t sure what a Creative Brief is, I’m going to tell you. A Creative Brief (CB) is usually an informal agreement between a client and an advertising agency, which details what the advertising campaign, is intended to accomplish. Well that’s the formal definition anyway. I also see it as a valuable opportunity to re-focus and be re-invigorated about your business and what you are trying to achieve. I’m sure that you will be inspired and produce brilliant ideas that you might have not discovered had you not partaken in the exercise.

So how do you draft up your own Creative Brief (CB)?

Great question – a Creative Brief is usually comprised of twelve key components. Before you start, set aside a morning free from distractions, close down Outlook (or your email account), turn off your phone(s), get comfortable with a healthy snack and some water and make sure you have lots of note paper or a large whiteboard ready to scribble (like I do and it’s brilliant!).

  1. Background. What is the background of my business? This question requires a brief explanation of what your business is about, and if I gave you $50,000, to spend on advertising, how would you like your business to be advertised as? For example, do you have a new product you might like to promote, have your sales figures declined or flat lined and you need a little sales boost, have you had an onslaught of competition recently and you need to remind your customers why you’re a much better option, or have you improved your products or services and need to promote its new features? Think about this year, what improvements developments have occurred in your business and have you done enough to promote these. Include that information here. Additionally you should include an analysis of the competitive environment here as this is a fundamental aspect of your business that you need to be constantly researching and integrating as part of your overall business strategy. Your competitive environment is changing all the time, being complacent about this can be a risk to your businesses sustainability.
  2. Objectives. What are your objectives this year? I recommend you take this time to formulate your business goals for this year and insert them here. So let’s assume you have this new product that you spent most of last year developing, of which you have decided your end of year goal is to sell 10,000 of them online and 5,000 of them in store and this will give you the return you had hoped for. Great, this is a good objective. However, there should be many, and its important to set the year’s objectives early, so at the end of the year you can look back and objectively evaluate your efforts in how your business performed in that year. This is invaluable insight, and only takes a small amount of your time to actually formulate and commit to them.
  3. Strategy. What is the strategy of my business this year? In the traditional sense, this section of a (CB) would provide copywriters an understanding of how their creative work fits into the overall marketing strategy. According to Chitty, Valos and Shrimp[i], the strategy statement many indicate that a new brand is to be launched during summer using a beach as the background to the action. However, for the purposes of drafting a (CB) in the sense that I am suggesting, instead I propose you think about your business’s strategy as the plan of action for achieving your business objectives, but from a creative or marketing perspective. If you have just established a new product that you might want to push, the strategy should be centred around your earlier defined goal and how you plan on achieving it. Examples might be a competition or give away or other social media competitions, having bloggers from Social Callout review and post about your new product to their followers, go to industry events, the list goes on. And this isn’t just for products, services too. Same applies for each and every business; you just need to apply the concept to your business and the strategy you envisage to reach this year’s business goals.
  4. Tasks. What are my tasks for this year? So this really stems on from whatever strategy you have just come up with in the previous paragraph, but where you can break it down further into bite sized pieces. The Strategy paragraph allowed for you to devise a broad plan to achieve the Objectives you set earlier, and let’s say you decided to post your product on Social Callout, do an online competition where of which you plan to promote on your social media platforms, as well as try to enter in a few product awards in the hope of getting some free PR. Now you must further delineate the tasks that will be involved in executing the strategy. For example, you will need to get some professional photos taken of the product, whether you ask a friend, do it yourself or pay a professional – they are all tasks to be added to your to do list. If you don’t have a healthy social media following, then it will be harder to achieve your sales targets, so perhaps another task might be to increase your engagement levels and following on social media (which will mean develop a social media marketing campaign). I’m assuming you follow me now and understand what to include in this section.
  5. Positioning. What is your business or brand positioning strategy for this year? Ok, so positioning is the practise of promoting your business or brands key feature or image, as you want is to be represented in the eyes of your customers. So let’s say your new product is similar to others out there, sold by your competitors, however, you’re the only brand that is approved by the Cancer Council. This is your unique selling proposition (UPS), and as this is what separates you from everyone else, this should be your positioning strategy, and thus be incorporated into all your advertising and marketing efforts. Your positioning strategy is not one that usually changes with each new business development, although it is common for businesses to change their positioning strategies if required, however, your positioning should be the feature that sets you apart. Define that and think about how you can integrate that statement into the strategy you defined earlier. For example, once you have the product photography done, perhaps you should hire a graphic designed to create a positioning stamp that identifies your (UPS), of which you can include in the image, as well as on all your product packaging and website, and pamphlets etc.
  6. Target audience. Who is your target audience for this strategy? I would assume you have already established a clear understanding of who your target audience (TA) is. That’s good. If you haven’t, may I suggest you do that. But your overall business (TA) might not be suited for the strategy you have just created. For example, let’s say your business (TA) are women, aged between 35 and 60, with mid to high incomes, that look for organic products and care about protecting your skin. For the purposes of my point here, let’s say this new product you have developed, caters to these women, but has a functional carry case that is great for busy women on the go. The broad definition of your overall (TA) should be further segmented, and you should think about targeting working women in the corporate world. Further segmenting your (TA) to match your strategy is essential, because it enables you to design the look of your products image to specifically appeal to the (TA) most likely to consume this new product of yours, and thus your effort vs. sales ratio can improve greatly.
  7. Target audience’s existing attitudes and values. What does your (TA) currently feel/think about the advertised product? Now this is an important consideration, that is most definitely present in all traditional Creative Briefs (CB)’s, but I feel is still relevant for this version. You might not be able to partake in extensive market research, unlike a typical advertising agency would, however, you should still brain storm this point, as it will definitely affect how you brand this product. Think about finding people in your extended friends and family network (which is so much easier to do now with social media), and see if you could possible coerce say 10 or 15 women who fit your strategies target segment, and ask if they would mind joining your focus group. This would allow you to send them different versions of your product image designs to see which ones they like better, with brief and un-annoying emails every now and again to consult them and see if you are on the right track. Only engage your focus group if you have developed options and don’t abuse the power or they might get annoyed at having 10 emails a week asking their thoughts on your latest wall paper in your office (but I know you wouldn’t do that). Otherwise you can pay people to take surveys, or get a consultant in to help you, but I don’t think this is required for this. The real point is gaining an understanding of how this segment might feel about your product. For example, do they consume this kind of product regularly (you can find out), if they do, what products are they buying and why (you can find out), would they be interested in receiving a free sample (again, you can find out), or say do they feel insulted that they might be accosted to use this product (let’s say it’s an anti-aging cream, they might want a discrete approach taken as they might not want to be seen as being vain or feeling “aged”). Understanding the attitudes and values of your target audience is as essential as understanding that they are.
  8. What do I want the target audience to think/feel about the advertised product? I think this one speaks for itself, and it doesn’t require my description on its value or how it fits in with this exercise.
  9. What actions do you want the Target Audience to take after being exposed to the product? Well, I would assume this is clear for most of you- clearly you want them to buy it and tell all their friends. Sure – but you can break this down a little better in a way that is slightly more useful to our overall aims here. Would you like them to go to your website to enter the competition, of which you plan to allure them to then buy your product? If so, highlight the competition element in your advertising images. But your (TA) might not be the type for competitions, so perhaps you want them to sign up to your E-Newsletter to receive their free sample? Think about the exact actions you might want them to take, and make sure you include this element into the branded imagery for your new product.
  10. What is your single-minded proposition for this year’s campaign? This proposition, or positioning statement directs the creative idea; it should be the most differentiating and motivating message about your brand that can be delivered to your target audience (Chitty, et al. 2012). Nike Just Do It is an example, you might want something like “forget anti-aging, [insert your brand name] is pro-youth” or say “ {Insert your brand name here} is the only choice by the Cancer Council – why don’t you make it yours” etc. Have some fun with it but keep it simple and relevant to all the other aspects you have brainstormed during this exercise.
  11. Why should your Target Audience believe this proposition? Think about the credibility and believability of your proposition, if the Cancel Council really DOES endorse your product (and obviously you can’t claim they do if they don’t) then perhaps ask to use their logo in your advertisements. Think about what you can do to back up your claims and make it credible.
  12. How should I speak to my Target Audience during this campaign? Think about all the platforms and options you might have in communicating this year’s business strategy, keeping in mind the channels that your Target Audience is exposed to. If its Corporate women, then think LinkedIn, The Australian, perhaps sponsor a women’s networking lunch or allow free samples to be given to those attending a women in business seminar. In the traditional sense of a (CB), this section would comprise more about the crucial feelings or thoughts that are evoked by the marketing campaign, and I think that is a relevant consideration for this exercise too. So also think about a short statement that describes how the advertising of your new product is trying to make women feel – e.g. empowered? Beautiful? Have a think about the emotional response you are aiming for an make sure it checks in with all of which you have worked on during this process.

So that’s a lot to take in, and is a slightly unique form of a typical Creative Brief, however I genuinely believe that there is a huge amount of value in going through the motions of this “creative” process, regardless of whether you consult your marketing work out to a professional, whether you intend to spend any money in advertising or the promotion of your brand, products or services. My point simply is, it is healthy and high beneficial to go through the exercise of reviewing your business objectives, strategies, to evaluate what it is that separates you from the pack and formulating a way that allows you to exploit your business’s best features in the eyes of those important people of yours, your customers. Whether or not you actually executive this plan, I believe is irrelevant, as the benefit is in taking the time to step outside the hectic world of daily operations and objectively assess the way you communicate and are perceived by the outside world.

Charlie Caruso

Charlie Caruso is the Founder and CEO of PuggleFM, an online radio station and podcast hub for parents around the world. PuggleFM’s episodes regularly feature in the top 10 on iTunes and have gained a reputation for being trustworthy and credible sources of news and information for families.


Chitty, William, Nigel Barker, Michael Valos, and Terence A. Shrimp. Integrated Marketing Communications. Melbourne: Cengage Learning, 2012.

Featured image: Credit