Originally published on Fashion's Collective, September 17, 2013
When a creative brief is first finalized, it becomes a go-to document for nearly all of your brand activities – it’s a reference for every project as you establish a unified voice and visuals across your communications. However, in my experience, after a few months or years of working with a brand, it feels like all the important elements have been memorized, and it’s not as necessary to refer back to the original document anymore. You know intuitively what “feels” on-brand and it becomes second nature to use the approved color palette, set of fonts, voice/vocabulary, etc. But what happens when your brand adopts a new platform, particularly in the digital space, that simply doesn’t allow you to use the standards that have always defined your brand? It may be time to go back to your original brief for a refresh. It’s not really a question of modifying the building blocks, but rather creating a set of complementary rules and assets to provide more options and flexibility.
There was a time when customer demographics didn’t vary much, year-to-year or even decade-to-decade. But with the advent of social media, luxury brands in particular have seen the advantage of engaging with a younger, aspirational customer, even if she’s years away from being able to make a big-ticket purchase. We are all competing for the millenials’ future discretionary budget, while of course attempting to maintain/increase market share with our traditional customer base. How does this all translate to your update? Well, since one of the goals of a creative brief is to differentiate, rather than try to be everything to everyone, you may want to revisit this section by doing more than just the traditional audience identification. Think about including some psychographics as well as your demographic info, and come up with some specific sub- messaging points or statements that speak directly to the segment while aligning with your overall positioning. In addition, you should take a look at your analytics (website and social media as well as bricks and mortar) to see which segments are interacting most with particular points of sale and platforms. Spelling out this information will not only help your team to craft brand and audience appropriate messaging, but it will also help you to identify which areas may need work or modification.
This is usually one of the shortest, yet most time-consuming sections of a creative brief to develop, because getting to the essence of your personality means throwing a lot of adjectives and concepts in the air until you get to a place that feels right. But since your key words are crucial in order to establish a cohesive look and feel for any new campaign, it makes sense to revisit and build out these concepts in a bit more detail. For example, if you break out some of your most important key words with supporting ideas, you’ll have more to work with when it comes to applying them. If one of your major concepts is heritage, supporting relevant ideas that are more visual or mood-oriented like iconic, craftsmanship, and lineage, along with sample thumbnail inspiration images, can help to create parallel brand standards for various purposes down the line. It may also be helpful to prioritize your concepts or even assign them to different digital platforms or usage as appropriate.
An initial creative brief usually lists out all potential applicable projects, so that designers can work within those parameters and ensure successful standardized usage of the logo and creative. However, unless your brand was established less than 5 years ago, favicons, apps and web-safe color palettes probably weren’t included as considerations. Identify every touchpoint, and analyze areas where a provisional solution just isn’t as strong as it could be. This is also an opportunity to list out opportunities that you aren’t leveraging yet, but may in the future, i.e. HTML 5, mobile, shoppable video, in-store kiosks and technology, etc.
If you consider the creative brief as a document that evolves incrementally, it will better reflect and enhance the growth of your brand and business. The basic pillars should be strong enough to stand the test of time, but not all aspects should be rigid or set in stone. Digital has revolutionized the way we do business, but the revolution isn’t static, it’s ongoing. Revisiting your creative brief at least once a year, then applying the results to your standards manual, is one way to ensure that your team embraces the tenets AND the tweaks in a consistent, brand-appropriate manner.