What is a Creative Brief & How to Write One 💼

  • Writing
  • Design & Creative
Contra Tips
· 7 min read

Wondering how to write a creative brief? Contra has you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about drafting a solid brief.

Any long-lived, reliable brand takes a big team working in collaboration to be successful. But that’s hard to do without a clear, unified vision of what the company is, what it represents, and how to portray it to the world. Understanding how to write a good creative brief is the best way to ensure that every person on the team has a shared vision of the project. Having a shared statement of purpose and practice boosts workflow and reduces the number of conflicts that arise later down the line.

What is a creative brief? 🗺️

A creative brief is, in short, the scaffolding of your project. Think of it as a fundamental project management tool — something no campaign or launch should be without.

An account manager and client create the project brief together. It’s the freelancer or account manager’s responsibility to clearly understand what the client requires and then translate those requirements into the creative brief, a document that guides the creative team.

An effective creative brief aims to:

  • Set brand guidelines
  • Outline expectations of both client and creative
  • Provide a timeline for the creative project
  • Clearly communicate both stakes and stakeholders
  • Allow a client to really envision where they want the project to go

Elements of a creative brief ✅

Every creative brief is unique, but certain elements of a brief’s format are essential to communicating a brand or company’s identity to a creative team. Those might include:

  • Brand/company description: A creative brief should describe the company or brand’s background, core values, noteworthy previous campaigns, and any other helpful info.
  • Project title: This could be the name of the product you’re launching or a branding switch (think of Facebook’s shift to Meta).
  • Objective: Giving clear reasons for a creative campaign will help the creative team understand your motives and the brand’s overall tone.
  • Target audience: Defining the target audience allows a creative team to research and tailor content to reach a desired demographic.
  • Competitors and industry landscape: This helps the creative team understand what competitors are doing and how you want to position yourself in the industry.
  • Message and tone: Voice, color, texture, venue, and everything else involved in a campaign come together to establish the brand tone.
  • Deliverables: This will help determine the resources needed to complete the project on time.
  • Budget and timeline: Working backward from a projected release or launch date can be helpful in making sure deadlines are fair and achievable.
  • Call-to-action (CTA): The CTA actively invites the audience to take action (“click here to subscribe” or “sign up today”) once they’ve experienced your campaign.

Most creative brief examples include these points, but what’s most important is that the brief should reflect everything the team needs to know about each unique campaign.

How to write a creative brief ✍️

Ready to try your hand at creative brief writing? Here’s a more in-depth look at what a brief should include:

Summary and background

Even when working on a complete rebranding of an existing company, it’s vital to know as much as possible about the company’s history, which might fit nicely into a new marketing campaign. Understanding the history will also ensure you’re not submitting deliverables to clients that repeat or closely resemble previous campaigns. 

With a solid understanding of the company’s background, it’s time to sketch out a plan for the project at hand:

  • Set objectives: A campaign or launch must have a goal, even if it’s just raising brand awareness. But even a general goal will influence the creative team’s choices. The more specific the objective, the easier it will be to build a campaign around.
  • Determine message and tone. Are you going for casual or professional? Clever or somber? Message and tone may be determined by the objectives you’ve set for the project, but they may also be something already associated with your company and brand. This section of the creative brief should outline not just what is being communicated but how it’s being communicated, with the target audience acting as a guide. A product aimed at children will have a very different tone from one aimed at an elderly demographic. 
  • Define your target audience: Having a target demographic is one thing, but how do you arrive at that demographic in the first place? You may identify a gap in demographic coverage for a particular service and decide to focus your efforts there. Or you might notice that a specific demographic uses a similar product and should thus be your focus. Walking blindly into a campaign without knowing the target audience can lead to a generic campaign that appeals to no one.
  • Further research: A client may provide a list of industry competitors or similar products. Don’t assume that that’s all there is to the industry. Your client may have done a remarkable amount of research, but there’s always more to know.  How are competitors marketing on social media? What metrics is the client using for comparison, and are there others you might consider? Keep the client apprised of any exciting findings you may come across. Everything has to fit the client’s vision of the project. 

And on that note:

  • Competitor analysis: Research into competitors is crucial to a successful launch. You don’t want to wade into an already over-saturated market, or you’ll be starting out already behind. Further, are you only competing locally, or can the product or service be offered on national or international levels? The broader the project scope, the wider the pool of competitors. This kind of intensive analysis can significantly affect the creative brief. Identifying a niche in an existing industry provides the marketing team with a focus on advertising campaigns or product designs. It can also help you identify your all-important target audience.
  • Deliverables, goals, and deadlines. Putting a podcast together will take longer than performing revisions on an existing brand. With a clearly stated series of goals and due dates and a precise list of expected deliverables, everyone involved knows both how much work and how much time will be necessary to pull off a successful campaign. This part of the outline also helps both the client and account manager to get an idea of a project’s required resources, both fiscal and human. It’s also a good idea to list the project’s primary stakeholders here.
  • Draft and feedback. A first pass at a creative brief doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it’s an excellent starting point for a conversation between a client and freelancer and an ideal way to fine-tune and clarify potential areas of misunderstanding. You could even have someone other than the client review your first draft before sending it to the client so you can be sure you’re delivering a polished document.

Power up your next project 🦾

Now that you know how to write a creative brief, start your search for new clients on Contra. We represent a wide range of Independents on our commission-free platform, where you’re sure to find both experienced and novice Independents and entrepreneurs looking to launch or rebrand a product. 

And to give potential clients a more straightforward time reviewing your previous work, Contra’s Projects is rethinking the resume for the digital age. Projects consolidate all of your online work in one easy-to-access hub, making it faster than ever to find a potential partner.

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