Why Every Creative Brief Should be Data-Driven

The most influential campaigns widen peoples’ perspectives and inspire them to take action. Campaigns of this calibre don’t come around by chance – they’re the product of a killer creative brief.

A data-driven brief hinges on solid, accurate research. It means talking to customers and consumer-facing staff and matching these insights with those you get from in-depth data to find out exactly who you’re speaking to.

This is necessary for sparking the kinds of ideas that others wish they’d thought of. These are the ideas that move people, and the ones that have lasting impact.

Why are data-driven briefs important?

The likelihood of a brief inspiring a wildly successful campaign comes down to the insights that guide it. Harnessing the power of data is a proven way to fuel powerful marketing strategies that work and drive positive ROI.

Creative briefs are the roadmap for what is meant to happen, but many still fail to get to the heart of consumer insight.

The goal should be the same every single time: to reveal the fundamental human truths around what really influences behaviors.

Vague and incomplete briefs are the most common culprit of unsuccessful campaigns. Brands can’t afford to be blinded by a lack of data, especially at briefing stage.

Kit Altin, Chief Strategy Officer at The Gate London, says the most inspiring creative briefs contain a mix of factual, universal truths, as well as any other information that can help get your creative team in the right frame of mind.

While briefs don’t intend to solve a client’s problem, a data-driven creative brief will provide clues for how to get there, keeping teams on track.

Data is the benchmark for knowing whether your ideas are actually relevant in the eyes of the consumer.

Writing briefs that work

1. Create a pen portrait of the consumer.

Who are you targeting? Consumer profiling is arguably the most important step in the process, as this tells you who your audience is.  

By defining and segmenting your audience, building out personas that are true to life, you can create that accurate pen portrait. Visualizing a person with all their traits helps the teams get inside the mindset of their audience – understanding their needs, wants and desires, and forming ideas that truly reflect them.

“Once you get the consumer part right, everything else aligns”, says Tom Primrose, Planner at Southpaw.

Knowing exactly who you’re speaking to is essential for any creative to come up with ideas that stick.

2. Outline the problem at hand.

What’s the current status quo? What position does your brand occupy in the market? What current perceptions exist about your brand, its products or services?

Adopting an data-driven approach is necessary to answer the types of questions brands should be asking. Data takes the place of assumptions and gets to the core of the problem at hand.

“We can’t come up with our creative campaigns until we’ve done the research”, says Kitty Lockyear, Consultant at Engage.

“For the creative brief, the most important thing to understand is the overall business objective and how we’ll achieve this.”

While there are several problems to solve with any one brief, it’s important to maintain a focus on your audience and the solution you’re offering.

Are sales down for a given consumer segment, for example? Is there a need to change wider perceptions of the brand? Getting to the root of this means putting yourself in the shoes of your consumers in an effort to build that radical empathy that’s so pivotal to the creative process.

By clearly outlining the big problem you want to solve, this will help the creative to concentrate on what needs the most attention and produce something that’s sure to make an impact.

3. Turn your data into a powerful insight.

Turning marketing data into actionable insights is often the most challenging part of the creative process. It’s these insights after all that drive brilliant ideas, so perhaps the most important element of any creative brief.

For every agency or marketer, an insight means something different, but in all cases, it translates a fundamental truth about your audience. For Jamie Robinson at WeAreSocial, “an insight isn’t something you find, it’s something you create.

A fact, a finding, a data-point, or an observation is not an insight for us. Those are things we might use to create an insight, which is around this unspoken interpersonal truth that a brand can play a part in.”

Jamie explains how this could typically be no more than two sentences that you can stick on the wall to drive the creative process: “This describes the interpersonal truth that we want our idea to hook onto.”

“It feels like a revelation when you find it”, says Tom Primrose, Planner at Southpaw. “It’s a real truth about a consumer, or a product or even the market.” Highlighting the example of Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, Tom explains how the inspiring insight at the core of this campaign is essentially what led to its success.

Translating an insight in this way can be done with the help of audience profiling data that quantifies the behaviors and perceptions of your audience. By analyzing what matters to them most, you can uncover the data you need to create an outstanding insight, and in turn, brilliant ideas.

Insights you choose to zero in on might be positive or negative.

Example: Knowing why Mums prefer to buy sustainable products might help someone sell to this audience. Understanding why Dads don’t buy sustainable products might mean creating a campaign that changes their perceptions.

Lesson: Insights provide the compass. Content markers and creatives need access to it to build targeted, results-driven content.

4. Give a reason to care.

Customers are driven by emotion first and foremost. Many marketers make the mistake of overlooking this fact, focusing instead on a brand’s offering and the superiority of their product or service.

But the best examples of marketing that works have people at their very core – messages stemming from powerful insights that speak to consumers on a deeper level, giving them a reason to care.

The latest Activia “It Starts Inside” campaign, fueled by insights created with GlobalWebIndex, is a prime example of how a brand can tap into the emotions of their audience. Taking this emotional advertising approach for the very first time, Activia’s inspiring campaign set out to “encourage women to achieve their full potential by overcoming their inner critic.”

The campaigns that are setting the standard in the industry were all born from having revealing insights at their core. This approach is the reason why Snickers’ ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ campaign was a major hit and skyrocketed to fame, for example.

With more and more of the world’s leading marketers recognizing the importance of appealing to consumer emotions, portraying this emotional offering to the creative is just as important as the challenge at hand.

5. Find out where they are.

Where are you going to connect with your audience?

“When briefing the creative, I need to be able to tell them where the consumer is”, says Tom Primrose. Communicating this information is key for the creative to come up with ideas that fit with the platforms, channels and behaviors in mind.

Tom explains how this ensures no opportunities are missed and every idea has an audience-centric focus: “For one brand recently, we saw that Pinterest was massively over-indexing for their audience – I explained this to the creative who had a great idea around how we could use Pinterest in a really unique way.”

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