Welcome to Episode 26 of Navigating the Fustercluck—a podcast full of snackable insights to help you navigate the topsy/turvy world of creativity.

My name is Wegs, like eggs with a W, joining you from Deaf Mule Studios in Dallas, and we’re here to talk about creative briefs.

At its core, a creative brief should be two things:

  • Creative
  • Brief

Creatives are our audience, and we need to help them focus.

Need to Know Trumps Nice to Know

While there may be plenty of rich background information for the creatives to know, not all of it belongs in the brief itself.

What does belong in the brief is a focused framework to solve a client’s challenges.

Russ Klein, the former CMO of 7-Eleven and Burger King developed the chassis of the following brief format. It has been adopted and modified with great enthusiasm and success by many of the leading creative agencies.

The Tyranny of the Single Most Persuasive Thing

You’ll notice that it doesn’t contain a section with a single most persuasive thing to say. Instead, it frames the problem to be solved with a question.

Why?

Well, it has to do with brain scans.

Yep, brain scans.

When you’re simply told something, brain scans reveal limited brain wave activity.

But when you ask someone a question, his or her brain lights up like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

Great Answers Start With Great Questions

Questions create involvement. Passion. Partnership.

They are an invitation to collaborate.

To build something together.

Questions also unleash the intuitive marketing skills of your team, especially Creatives.

Great questions lead to great answers. And great success.

The key to forming the right question is to understand what lies below the surface.

People’s emotions, fears, hopes…

These things create tension.

And like a bow and arrow, or any great story, tension needs to be released.

When you can release someone’s tension with your story,

you can really move that person.

You can change their hearts.

Their minds.

And even pop culture.

Not to mention sales.

An Invitation to Collaborate

Instead of an invitation to collaborate, the Single Most Persuasive Thing to Say

too often becomes the tyranny of what to say. Creative handcuffs. Something clients expect to see as a piece of copy or a tagline. As Ideasicle says, the creative brief is just the beginning, it’s not the solution. The Single Most Persuasive parades itself as the solution. Answering questions, on the other hand, opens up our minds and expands our creative palette.

The Meat of This Brief is Flame-Broiled

The following is an example of how a question-based brief works.

It’s the Burger King Whopper Love brief.

And from it sprang a number of iconic campaigns and success stories:

  • Whopper Freakout
  • Whopper Virgins
  • Whopper Sacrifice

What follows on the next page is the four-box format and actual Whopper Love brief:

Whopper Love

STORY

What is the most relevant and differentiating idea that will surprise consumers or challenge their current thinking or relationship with the brand?

The Whopper is “America’s Favorite Burger” (This was a claim based on a survey.) 

TENSION

What is the psychological, social, categorical or cultural tension associated with this idea? (Stated in the voice of the consumer.)

“I don’t trust people who brag.”

QUESTION

What is the question we need to answer to nail the assignment?

How do we show people’s love for the Whopper without it coming across like typical advertising hot air?

THOUGHT STARTERS

What facts, figures, insights or seeds of ideas can potentially move the development process forward in an impactful way?

  • A national survey says that the Whopper is “America’s Favorite Burger.”
  • A blind taste test
  • The Whopper is flame-broiled, McDonald’s fries their burgers
  • Have someone else brag on us, i.e., testimonials told in a unique way

A recap of the resulting work:

RESULTING WORK

Three major campaigns were inspired by the Whopper Love brief:

  • Whopper Freakout

A twist on old-time testimonials, Freakout secretly recorded people trying to order a Whopper, only to be told that the Whopper had been discontinued. The resulting reactions were hilariously emotional, and showed that people truly do love the Whopper.

  • Whopper Virgins

A modern-day blind taste test, Whoppers and Big Macs were placed into test with people who not only had never tasted either sandwich before, but who had never even heard of them. These people lived in remote places around the globe and gave one big honest answer: People prefer the Whopper.

  • Whopper Sacrifice

As friending people was becoming a big deal on Facebook, Burger King offered a free Whopper to anyone unfriending 10 people. People all over showed their Whopper Love by eliminating their friends on Facebook.

All three campaigns moved the needle and won serious hardware at the award shows. One brief, three killer campaigns. Not bad.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

Consumer Section

There is none. What I’ve done before is create a short demographic/psychographic profile. A brief mantra or persona may also be used.

Timelines & Mandatories

Whether on a separate page or document, keep them separate from the heart of the brief. No one likes those things. Let’s allow people to focus on the actual question that needs to solved. 

Let’s Take a Short Breather… (EXHALE.)

…We’re here at Deaf Mule Studios to remind everyone that this is Navigating the Fustercluck. And I’m Wegs, your world-weary host with one final thought on creative briefs: I love that a client, Russ Klein, originated this brief, and his agency embraced it. Kudos to Crispin. No matter where an idea comes from, if it’s better, it’s better. And we should all be a champion of better. Because when it comes to creative briefs, as Charles F. Kettering said, A Problem Well-Stated is a Problem Half-Solved.

Well, that about wraps up our 27th episode of Navigating the Fustercluck.

Here from Deaf Mule Studios, I’m your host, Wegs, like eggs with a W, thank you for listening in. Until then, please feel free to reach out to me at justwegs24x7@gmail.com or NavigatingTheFustercluck.com. Remember, we’re all in this together, so here’s to us. Here’s to the future.