Who is the creative brief for?

It may seem like a simple question to answer and before working in an agency (and for a time whilst working in an agency) I would have answered; “the creatives!”. However, being “the most important piece of paper in the agency”, the creative brief does more than it says on the tin i.e. brief the creatives.

1. Planning Tool

Depending on the level of complexity contained within an agency’s creative brief template, a planner often finds themselves filling out a five page document full of everything from the business objective through to prescribing the distribution channels. These are all factors that need to be considered but could these not be worked through in a Response to Brief or another separate document that doesn’t have to be there at the brief clinic or briefing itself? Would it not improve our storytelling ability and raise the interest of the creatives if we had to condense each brief into a PechaKucha or had a written word limit of 20?

2. The Client Contract

This is a particular bug bear of mine. I do not believe clients should sign off on the creative brief. A response to brief to their brief yes but for a client to muscle in and change the proposition to a end line or call to action defeats the point of having a planner in the mix to begin with. The clients should be happy of course; they’re the client but they should also have enough faith in their agency to not need to micro-manage to the nth.

3. An Inspiring Trigger for Making Great Work

My ideal agency would see creative teams of three; comprised of an art director, a copywriter and a planner.
The best briefs I’ve seen are not only built on an ‘Ah ha’ human insight but have usually had input from the creative department at the earliest possible stage. This is not to say that I in any way advocate brief writing by committee but if you are all (literally) on the same page from the get go, surely it will result in better integration within the agency and better work as an outcome.

I’ve always found creative brief writing (and briefing) to be the most enjoyable part of my job and coming from a creative background I suppose it’s only natural that I would want to be more involved with the creative department. This may not be the case for the whole of planning but imagining a collaborative utopia can’t hurt.

N.B. Not to say that the planner shouldn’t have contact with the client and everyone should have input into identifying a business need

What structural changes (if any) would you make if you had your own agency?

Buy-ology

This is a summary of Martin Lindstrom’s Buy-ology. I’ve picked out the key lessons for marketers but if you need more information around the experiments that led him to his findings I recommend reading the book.

Digital doesn’t have to have a #

One of the main roles of a strategist within the advertising mix is to maintain a strong sense of who we are talking to. Yes, we need to meet the business objectives and yes, having the opportunity to produce revolutionary ideas is exciting but both of these factors will fall perilously short if the people that we are trying to communicate with cannot relate to the piece of navel gazing that the creative agency have produced at the client’s expense.

Never has this pitfall been more apparent than since the advent of digital. Being a new medium, it was primarily used to target a younger audience. This quickly expanded to a wider demographic when it was astutely noted that the population of the internet expanded beyond the 18-24s. However, whether through habit or laziness, the strategy used to launch a new range of glitter lip balm often finds its way into the brainstorms and discussions of the products and messaging of an altogether disparate audience.

A digital brief is not a pre-requisite to a pop up shop in Shoreditch with its own hashtag that can be reverse graffitied on a treasure hunt along Brick Lane. This solution is not going to make Kirsty in Sleaford any more likely to switch the kids’ packed lunch choice.

We are of course jumping ahead to media, which should never be the approach to producing a strong idea and digital is at its strongest when integrated into part of a wider campaign. It just strikes me that the responsibility of ensuring that the right message gets to the right audience lies in the hands, not of the media agency, but of the strategists. This should be viewed as an exciting opportunity that allows us to implement some real human insight and understanding.

Predictably Irrational

This is a summary presentation of Dan Ariely’s fantastic Predictably Irrational. Some marketing books can be a bit of a bore to get through; a lot of people get the gist in the introduction and leave it there. This isn’t the case with Ariely’s book. His writing style is really accessible and if the points made in this presentation interest you, I wholeheartedly recommend reading the entire book.

The decline of Apple as a brand

something in the air

I believe that the decline of Apple as a brand is due to their inability to keep up with customer expectations when they used to surpass them.

Aesthetic

Technology used to be designed for the workplace, when the use of technology at work far outweighed that at home. This balance shift was first forecast by Apple and they led the way be making their products look good. This attracted a new audience, back before Geek Chic, and indisputably had an impact on the direction that their competitors took their software, computers, tablets and of course, smartphones.

Apple realised that customer needs were leaning away from a functional working tool towards something more intuitive, usable and engaging.

UX

Nobody knows what the user wants to be able to do better than the user. Nobody except Apple that is. Not only did Apple products look good but they felt intuitive – we didn’t know what it was until we used it and that’s when we realised we wanted it.

By taking inspiration from outside of their category, from products that people understood, Apple were able to create a frictionless experience that engaged the imaginations of a much broader range of people than had previously shown an interest in technology. This early establishment of a new audience helped to cement the loyalty that many advocates still profess to today.

“Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything” Steve Jobs, iPhone launch, 2007

Price

People were willing to pay a high price for this level of innovation but sadly this is where our story catches up with the present day.

It’s easy enough in the design and advertising world to forget about the mass smartphone market but retention is not a sustainable business model and acquisition is becoming increasingly difficult.

This exclusivity which used to be an asset has now put Apple in a position where they are increasingly unable to justify their price premium. The rainbow iPhone 5Cs look cheap and cheerful but their price tag is not a reflection of this aesthetic.

Innovation

First to market with their skeuomorphs, they appear to have run out of objects to take inspiration from. After so many firsts, Apple have now been overtaken by open-source technologies. They set their own bar high and have been unable to sustain the momentum with strong fast-moving competition.

Apple have lost the extraordinary as well as the ability to delight their customers. The once widely anticipated launches of new products now feel repetitive and gimicky.

Freedom

With the rise of Generation Y and the trends for coding, hacking and personalisation, there is a growing feeling of resentment from those who feel locked in by Apple. What used to be a novelty has become a problem as compatibility issues crop up.

There are also theories around the lifespan of Apple products being purposefully rigged to expire just after the warranty wears out. True or not, there’s no denying that efforts are made to narrow compatibility with standard tools and solder parts in where possible so that the entire product becomes defunct when a single part needs replacing. This only serves to irritate those who expect their products to be their own, to be able to mould them to their will. It goes so far against the initial intuitive usability that was Apple’s initial draw.

CSR

When it comes to doing the right thing, this wasteful production, and their failure to follow their supply chain to its, in many ways, rotten core, further demonstrates an inability to meet customer expectations. This shows another missed opportunity to be the company that other companies aspire to be like.

Despite being worth an estimated $700 billion, looking at Superbrands UK’s results for the Top 20 Superbrands of 2014, Apple have shifted from their position of 2nd in 2013 down to 14th. My guess is that this trend is only set to continue when the results for 2015 are published later this year.

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