Creativity is the soul of marketing, and it is the coefficient that determines the difference between a good campaign and a great one. Through creativity, marketers give life to emotionally resonant stories that leave audiences inspired, excited, and engaged. More importantly, good creative makes a brand ‘sticky’ and allows a brand to properly position itself in the consumer's mind. Indeed, our ability to make abstract connections is the driving force behind the world’s most memorable campaigns.
Take, for example, Coca Cola’s ubiquitous polar bears. In 1992, ad exec Ken Stewart wanted to recreate the feel-good moments from some of Coke’s most famous advertisements. His inspiration finally came, not from a textbook, but his labrador retriever.
“If I could just capture the feeling I have for that dog…” he thought to himself. Suddenly, his dog’s longtime nickname - baby polar bear - came into focus. Armed with a cute new character, Stewart got to work formulating a story. Because he had strong associations with drinking Coke at the movies, his polar bears gathered round to watch the Northern Lights.
Last but not least, Stewart needed a way to tell his story that was, in his words, “revolutionary.” It wasn’t enough to come up with a clever idea; creativity involves not only finding new ideas, but new and innovative ways to execute them. He turned to 3D animation, which was still a relatively young technology.
And with that, one of the world’s most memorable ads was born.
Creative Briefs: The Influencer Marketer Perspective:
Creativity matters now more than ever. Why?
With the advent of digital technology, our media habits have seen a radical shift. Social media gives us immediate access to millions of channels around the world, which we watch at record rates (up to 11 hours a day by recent estimates). Additionally, the barriers to entry for content creation are only getting lower, making many commonplace images and video a lot more repetitive, and in many cases, fairly commoditized. As a result, our attention spans have shrunk, and content must stand apart from the noise just to be noticed.
With the drastic increase of supply and demand for content, a generation of innovative and creators have emerged and tailored their content to the new media landscape. They established a slew of innovative genres, from unboxing videos to vlogs to video essays. In other words, they’ve harnessed the power of creativity. They are referred to as influencers or creators and they are the value generators of this new social economy.
As an influencer marketer, you’ll be handing a lot of the creative responsibilities over to the talent. And that’s a good thing! Drawing on the unique, personal voices of these highly creative people is exactly what makes influencer marketing so effective. Of course, you don’t want to hand the reins over completely - instead, find a balance between the creator and your brands messaging, goals, and values.
So how do influencer marketers guide creators without stifling what makes them special?
Enter the creative brief.
Creative briefs are some of the most important documents in an influencer marketer’s toolkit and you shouldn’t overlook them. Poorly constructed briefs can spell disaster for your campaigns, wasting valuable time and resources on unnecessary revision cycles. When executed correctly, however, creative briefs help influencers craft sponsored content that truly shines, with a seamless blend of their natural creative voices and your advertising needs. In a busy and noisy environment, having a concise message the resonates is key, and a strong creative brief makes that possible across a multitude of influencers.
Prior to reaching out, it is important to make sure you have identified your ideal influencer profile. This is key in order to eventually find and engage with influencers that fit your needs and can effectively deliver your brand message. This requires an understanding of who you are looking to reach, and what kind of content they enjoy, to ensure that your influencers are able to fulfill what you’ve outlined in your creative brief.
What’s in a Brief, Anyway?
Whether it’s a single-page PDF or a short slideshow, a creative brief needs to be a one-stop resource for influencers. Your brief should include an introduction section that clearly and succinctly summarizes your campaign.
Intro sections are a good opportunity to explain high-level information such as:
- The brand (in context): Give influencers an idea of where you are positioned in the market, what your values are, and what your customers expect.
- The campaign goal: What are you hoping to achieve? Some campaigns are designed to increase web traffic, while others are focused on nurturing customer relationships. Knowing the overall goal can help influencers conceptualize their creative ideas.
While reiterating the Who-What-Where can seem tedious, influencers routinely report how helpful it is to have all the basics in one place. Be sure to include the following:
- The number of posts your influencer(s) are expected to create
- Which platforms your influencers will post on
- The respective dates and times to upload
- Brand social handles (with so many parody brand accounts that exist nowadays, it’s easy to tag an imposter by accident)
Creative briefs are perhaps most useful when conveying what type of aesthetic experiences your brand hopes to achieve. Even the greatest wordsmiths would agree, there's no better way to communicate visual ideas than with….well, visuals!
Mood Boards are a highly effective way of communicating complex visual ideas. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, like making a Pinterest board full of reference material for your talent to pull from. After all, influencers created an entire industry out of bending the rules, so no one says you can’t think differently.
Additionally, you’ll want to list any specific visual requests that you may have, the more specific the better. If you are not specific enough, you and the influencers you engaged may end up doing a lot of the work only to end up having to reshoot it all - delaying your campaign and increasing your overall costs.
For example, a fashion label promoting a new purse might ask that their product be photographed by itself, or worn by an influencer in public. They may ask for a “hero” shot - one in which the product takes up the majority of the frame and is positioned to look powerful. Other examples include:
- Location: Beach, city, indoor, etc.
- Lighting: Bright and clean vs stylized and dramatic
- Knolling - Objects laid out in a pleasing pattern
Of course, influencer marketing is all about highlighting a creator’s natural voice. If your briefs are chalk-full of direction, the results can start to look a bit too much like traditional advertising. Limit your directions only to what’s necessary - whenever possible, let your influencer flex their imaginative muscles.
Images are only half the battle on Instagram, and the right caption can mean the difference between a “like” and a click-through. As with visuals, you want to provide key information without trapping your influencer into writing cookie-cutter copy. Key points you may ask influencers to include are:
- Campaign Hashtags: Critical for gaining momentum, especially when working with multiple influencers on a single campaign.
- Buzzwords: Brands will sometimes prime audiences with certain trendy words they want to associate their products with.
It can be helpful to consider what stage of the marketing funnel your campaign aims to activate. The higher up the funnel you go, the more concerned you should be with words that drive visibility and engagement. Further down the funnel, your messaging should be purchase-centric, pulling the lever on an already primed audience.
With this in mind, your verbal section should include a Call to Action, or the specific behavioral outcome you’re hoping to illicit. As previously mentioned, CTAs should be directly related to your campaign’s overall goals. For example:
- Increase site traffic: “Swipe Up to Read More!”
- Raise awareness: “Share this post”
- Gain audience insight: “Be Sure to Leave a Comment!”
- Increase sales: “On sale now, link in bio”
Restrictions and Compliance
Last, but certainly not least. The Federal Trade Commission requires that all sponsored content be clearly labeled, and refusing to do so can result in serious penalties. It is imperative that influencers comply with FTC rules, and your creative briefs are just the place to leave a firm and friendly reminder.
On Instagram, this usually takes the form of #ad or use of the Branded Content tool. On image-only websites such as Snapchat, influencers should superimpose disclosures on top of posts. For a general rule-of-thumb, if there’s any way to label content as an ad, do so. And if you’re ever unsure how to comply with FTC regulations, they have a handy do’s and don’t list which you can find here.
This section is where you’ll also include any campaign-specific restrictions. Most of the time, these are everyday advertising requests, such as asking creators to remove other logos from view. However, brands can sometimes have industry-specific needs, such as removing any items that clash with corporate values. Always address any restrictions you may have, and be sure to list them here.
In Brief: Don’t Underestimate the Brief
There’s a reason why creative briefs have been a cornerstone of marketing since the industry began. A good creative brief is a virtual treasure map for your campaign, guiding talent towards the all-important X while highlighting any pitfalls along the way. Not only that, but a solid brief is all but guaranteed to save you time, ensuring you don’t waste valuable man-hours reestablishing your creative vision.
One last piece of advice: you will never stand out from the crowd if you are just doing what everyone else does. Make sure be bold in pushing the envelope. At the end of the day, it’s only social media, and people want to enjoy their experience, so don’t hesitate to experiment and try new things.