We copywriters are often miracle workers.
I’ve written for cars I never drove, audio systems I never heard, beverages I never drank and even places I’ve never been to. I suppose it’s the same for pretty much every copywriter out there.
The days of getting up close and personal with the product are truly gone.
I remember when I started out as a novice – which was far too long ago if you’re wondering – that clients actually sent their products to the office so we may check, test, use or just fiddle around with them.
Services are a bit tricky. It would be impractical to get into a huge debt just because you need to write for a new mortgage plan. But clients still took the effort to send over market insights, strategic reviews, target market analysis, competitive analysis and the works.
These days however, our work really does require us to create something out of nothing, especially in the last decade. Google has become the primary source of information on virtually any product or service. ‘Just Google it’ is a phrase that now replaces ‘do you have enough information?’.
While I often admire a client’s confidence in our resourcefulness, how are we as marketing writers to develop a unique tone-of-voice based on materials sourced from Google? Indeed, Google is a great resource, but it is a vastly generic resource. And when the work delivered is not insightful or outstanding enough, the finger-pointing begins.
But there have been bright sparks. As a freelancer, I’ve met clients whom are genuinely focused on creating communications that are compelling, insightful and truly unique.
Well how are they different you ask? Here you go…
Their brand is their lifeblood, they live and breathe it. They are intrinsically wired to the growth and development of their brand. They care enough to provide relevant, insightful material along with reasonable lead time to exhaust all possibilities.
They are Transparent
Every aspect of their business open to scrutiny. They give copywriters no-holds-barred access to the inner workings of their organisation, creating the possibility of uncovering unique business traits that can result in the much coveted ‘aha’ moment.
They know the ins and outs of their business, and willing to work to translate that knowledge into a solid brief. You won’t hear the words Catchy, Punch or Juicy from these guys. They know what they want as much as knowing what they don’t want.
It turns out the thing we creatives think ought to be better written, is the very thing that’s limiting our creativity in the first place. Yup, creative briefs block creative thinking.
Creative briefs are written by brand or account managers; whom are both normally analytical, tactics-driven and strategically sound. These are a bunch of people who are left-brained if you will. Their objective is to manage a project to produce a desired result while being on time and on budget.
Now a recipient of a creative brief is usually a right-brained creative director, art director or copywriter; who some say is hard-wired to ignore a creative brief. It seems the tendency to disregard a brief is actually a natural reflex, and not an act of defiance as normally assumed.
Creatives are motivated by their craft and their need to excel in what they do. They also know other creatives are watching their work and that the next awards night is just around the corner. There is this need for a creative to justify his existence in the creative department, and to satisfy his toughest critic – himself.
A well-written creative brief then comes along to put a spanner in the works.
The fact of the matter is that most creative briefs are hardly creative. They’re full of dry data, assumptions, restrictions and guidelines; exactly the kind of thing that does not get creative juices flowing. The ‘better’ a brief is, the harder it becomes to translate it into a compelling, effective and engaging communication.
So allow me to apologize to all the suits that I’ve previously chided for not giving me a proper brief. It seems we never needed it in the first place.
Isn’t it a no-brainer to know thyself before your tell others about yourself? In the context of a product, service or brand, it’s about learning everything you need to know – from attributes to USPs and strengths to weaknesses – before even considering a marketing effort.
It really pains me to see the lack of knowledge and understanding that permeates the corridors of marketing departments. It is disheartening to come to terms knowing that marketing or brand executives do not take the effort to live and breathe their assigned portfolios. It has become so rotten, that almost everything is done to please the bosses instead of pleasing the targeted consumers.
Are SWOT analysis’ even conducted by companies these days? Maybe the fears of discovering the threats and weaknesses mix trigger a phobic reaction. There’s a serious lack of responsibility and a high tendency to make assumptions. Briefs these days do not even come with requisite information. Wait a minute… hell, there are sometimes no briefs at all.
At the very least, the absolute bare minimum, a job order (instead of a ‘brief’ since they are pretty much non-existent) must outline these points:
– Who are we talking to? (psycho & demo)
– What is the objective? (what’s the purpose of this communication)
– What is so interesting about what we have to say/sell/give? (USPs)
I bet many marketing “professionals”, handling key accounts, would not be able to furnish the above without referring to their superior or Google. No doubt, there are many talented marketing and brand people out there whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with. And I must say I’ve learned tons from them.
But there are this I-Know-It-All, I’m-Better-Than-You and Do-As-I-Say bottom dwelling creatures that make me want to puke. But then again, I would not even waste my energy on throwing up for them.
Please, take the effort. Learn, ask questions and take the initiative. And don’t act smart if you don’t know what you’re doing, we notice you know?