How to write a clear Merchandising brief

Merchandising is given a small percentage of attention in the overall advertising and communication strategy. Even though it brings potential customers face to face with brands in an environment where the sale can happen immediately Read more


How to write a creative brief for a brochure

Writing a brief for each piece of work commissioned is normally a form-filling exercise. While that is easiest to follow, we need to understand that it has to keep the prospect’s interest in mind, if it has to make an impression on them
Read more


Supercharge your creative brief

Briefing your agency on brochure designs
Brochure Design brief

If you want creative work that advances the sales process, you have to think of the brief differently.

Why are you creating the brochure? Or emailer? Or print material? The obvious answer – To sell more of your product or service! That’s simple, right?

Most agencies would give you a form and request you to fill it up – the briefing document. But we would like to begin at another point. Answer a difficult question first.

Why would a potential prospect spend even a few seconds on the brochure? Or open and read an emailer? And at what stage of the sales process is this communication required for?

Let’s consider what briefs normally emphasize

  • We have great features
  • We provide great support
  • Our product or solution has hundreds of customers
  • We’ve been around for a long time
  • Our customers love us
  • Our prices are very competitive
  • There’s nothing on the market like this

Do you see the problem?

All the answers are meant for customers who have already bought into your offering – Not the ones who either haven’t heard about you or are still making up their mind

Now, if we were to change perspective and tell potential prospects about how your offering would solve problems they are facing, the creative could appeal to them right away.

I see an objection forming in your mind – but everyone has a different reason for buying in.

True. The fact you solved a problem the prospect is aware of is immensely important. You have established empathy and the prospect knows you have a potential solution

E mailer for a banking account with multiple benefits

Getting back to the difficult question – What will your offering do for your client?

Answer that and then, think of all these contexts

  • It is the first piece of communication that a prospect will see from you?
  • Will it be emailed to a database collected from a lead generation exercise?
  • Will it be handed over in person after a presentation?
  • It is a follow up meant to remind prospects of a previous meeting?
  • It is meant to get the client to consider upgrading or a repeat purchase?
  • Will it be handed out at an event or exhibition to visitors?

Before digital marketing played a crucial role in identifying and advancing prospects, one brochure or handout was sufficient. The sales process was simpler, even within organizations.

It’s easy to talk about setting the context by comparing offerings to those of your competitors instead of working through why the prospect would choose to make a purchase in the first place

Brochure for a school emphasizing all-round development

Aesthetics and effectiveness should not be confused

You would have noticed that the drift of this post is not to create good-looking duds

And yet, what is produced, day after day is great looking stuff that draws attention more to the design than your offering. Whether it is an emailer, a poster, a brochure, a white paper or an infographic. They all are pieces in the brand jigsaw

And each one of them can collectively add up to make a lasting impression that steadily builds over time

I have nothing against beautifully produced material. All I am saying is that it comes lower down the hierarchy.

When creative is on message, it stands a good chance of being retained and acted upon. And chances are, you just need to keep repeating the process instead of thinking of a different ‘angle’ to explore.

Take a look at the work we’ve done for clients over the years. We try and extract a brief that gives us scope to build on.


Customized Promotional Products

A little more thought into how you can interact with visitors at an event will go much further than mere handouts. Yes, exhibitions and events can be chaotic but you have to think through the chaosRead more


Limited Email storage?

Ever since 25 and 30 GB became the norm for business email, businesses continue to pay the price. Even while the per GB cost for providers has dropped with every passing year, users still end up paying more when they cross the allocated storage limits.Read more


Why get a business email address?

When you send business email, you need to signal commitment as well as authenticity.
And you let yourself down badly if you make the first approach with an email address that you use for your personal correspondence to friends, family and associatesRead more


Don’t get free email from your domain host

Free now. Pay later.

It’s tempting to get an email address from the same company that provides your domain hosting. Don’t.

The problem is that each mailbox has a low limit – 2, 5 or 10 GB. And in today’s image and video rich world, those limits are quickly reached.

You end up having to pay more and more each year. As you renew, you’ll find your bills creeping up, ever so slowly.

This is what happens. Let’s say there are 5 users in your small business. Once each of you reaches the limit, you end up paying as much for email as you do for hosting. And if you have set your account to auto-renew, the money is swiped from your credit card.

Your domain company does a fine job of hosting your site. Email is probably outsourced, since it is not a core activity.

The bigger problem arises if you want to transfer your hosting package. Good luck moving 100-150 GB of messages to another hosting provider. It’s worse than moving house because you can’t call some movers over to get it done for you!

So, what should you do? Keep the two separate. If you want the hassle of getting an email server set up and all the attendant problems of keeping it going, that’s a low-cost option. But if it goes down, you’ll need expensive help to get it back up.

The other one you could consider, especially if you have a small business where you send out only a few emails every day is a Swiss Email company that has a different business model. They charge by the number of emails you send every day. And plans start at $4 a month.

You may receive tens of email every day. But, chances are, you send out only 8-10 emails on a daily basis. The other advantage is no charge for unlimited storage or the number of domains you manage on the site.

Bottomline: Get email wise. And don’t fall for Free because it is expensive in the long run


Cheaper email

Email. Why pay per user?

 Isn’t that standard practice? The way the industry works?

The option is to set up email with your friendly local provider because that is sure to be cheap. But again, the local provider may or may not have enough resources to devote to keep the service up and running all the time.

Plus, if you ever decide you want to move away because the costs creep up over time, or if there are strange technical issues which have not found satisfactory solutions or if the service really slows down because your mailbox got huge, you’ll have a hard-to-solve problem

Techies who discuss the merits of POP vs IMAP may not ever need this. But for the small business which needs a few tens or a few hundreds of users without having to worry whether they have made the right choice, there is a sensible option

And there’s that worry in the background about storage limits. Exceed your allowed GB and you’ll have to pay the yearly tax, sorry, subscription. Or decide that one stack of old emails just have to disappear. Even if it contained something important, who has the time to check?

Migadu is a Swiss company focusing only on email. You pay $4 a month for unlimited storage and users. So, if you’re a small business with tens or hundreds of users, you don’t need to pay more. Yes, there is a catch. You can only send up to 100 emails a day, on the lowest price plan. You can upgrade to a $13.50 per month if you send out more than 500 emails a day and if you’re a heavy user you pay $49.50 per month for 2000 emails a day.

Of course, you’re welcome to Gmail and Zoho. Or AOL. Or Yahoo. But why pay more for email than you should?



Change the Agency Pitch

The typical agency pitch has an air of complete predictability about it. All the agencies are provided with the same brief and asked to come back with creative strategy and communication.

We would like to believe that each agency approaches the problem differently. But most clients will tell you this – while creative approaches could differ, most strategies are depressingly similar. The choice of media, the segmentation of the target audience, the go to market strategies may look as if all agencies sat in the same room and decided to present the same thing to the client.

I remember being part of a pitch where 42 agencies vied for a tourism account. We were No. 35 or so on the list and as we unveiled the creative strategy after recapping the brief, there was a collective groan. One of the guys from the client’s side actually told us – “Ok, so French ancestry is our strong selling point, but have you even considered alternatives?” We struggled to find a response. The guy went on “We’ve sat through over 30 presentations during the past week and I am yet to find someone who challenged the fundamental assumption. Why is it that not a single agency has dared to question the status quo?”

It was a different matter that the campaign that finally evolved had no change of position – but the real point was that we did not even try. I suspect that the problem is that the same brief is given to all agencies – it’s a lot like asking a set of fashion designers to stitch something very different from exactly the same ream of material.

Maybe the brief should merely be a placeholder. The competing agencies should be asked to work campaigns with a completely different tone and voice. Sure, it won’t be an apples to apples comparison, but that’s the point. I really wonder if the current pitches are getting clients what they want. Maybe apples should be compared to pomegranates. Or peaches.

The truth is that in a pitch, the consumer is not in the picture at all. It is only the decision makers on the client’s side who are the focus. Agencies may not want to start off on the wrong foot by questioning a successful position in the market – especially if it has been working.

Risk taking needs trust on both sides. But serenading the client is not a situation in which agencies take risks. Sure, you hear stories about how a certain agency walked into the client’s boardroom and told them how they were completely wrong – and still managed to win the account. However, I have yet to see clients who take kindly to having their existing and past campaigns trashed. They have invested time, effort and money in getting those campaigns out – and no one likes to be told that they look like a bunch of amateurs.

So here’s a suggestion. Stay away from the straight and narrow. Allow wondering, because there is never one right answer with a creative solution. There are so many shades of expression that it helps to get hues, rather than the primary colours alone. And if the client does not want to be wrong, either about the agency or the campaign, expect the agencies to play it safe as well