Skew It Yourself: How to Brief

Brand Strategy 7 minutes reading
Words: Oliver Dyer. Illustration: Florencia Mazza. Skew Studio.
TLDR. Skew offers a step-by-step guide to developing an effective brief for licensing, brand extension, brand identity and well, anything. The key takeaways focus a how the project brief is a consultative process and provides a checklist covering brand overview, business objectives, target audience, constraints, and desired deliverables. ""

Skimpy Briefs

I can’t tell you the relief agency people feel when they get a brief from a client. Any brief; brand licensing, brand extension, brand identity, it doesn’t matter. It tells you so much about where the client is at and what is going to happen next. First, it tells you that the client has thought through the challenge they’re looking to address and how to do it. It tells you that there’s probably been some internal discussion about the resources needed to do it and how long it’s going to take. It's a surefire indication that this engagement is worth pursuing. It inspires confidence in the stakeholders.

And it’s surprisingly rare!

Rare Brief

Can you imagine finding, interviewing for, and starting a job without a job description? How would the company even advertise for the job? How would they pick a candidate? What should they pay them? What experience should they have?
Imagine you somehow got such a job. Day one. You walk in. The employer has sky-high expectations but you’re supposed to do... what exactly? Just make it up as you go along? Even if you did muddle along for a while and everything seemed to be going great, how would you know if you’re doing well? What would success look like?

That’s what starting an agency engagement is like without a brief. Do you need to do it right away? No!

It’s absolutely fine to have early conversations. But, as soon as there's an expectation for the agency to start outlining solutions, you need to begin working on a brief.

Roast Brief

Likewise, it’s absolutely fine to ask an agency to help you with a brief, but then there are some implicit ground rules. If you are going to be writing the brief alongside the agency, then it’s expected that unless it’s specifically been called out beforehand, that you’re not turning this into a competitive pitch. No. Anything is possible as long as it’s agreed upon upfront. But if you're devising a brief alongside the agency, the expectation is that the project, if it proceeds (a topic for another article), is being commissioned, not pitched out.

Brief Encounters

Briefing isn’t a document, it’s a process. It’s a consultative process that is ultimately about drilling into the challenge you’re facing and the outcome you’re looking to achieve. A common pitfall when beginning a briefing process is to focus on outputs and deliverables. This becomes more important as the project's strategic nature and the potential impact of the result on the outcome increase.

If you brief “I want a logo,” you’ll get a logo. But will it answer your challenge? Better to brief “I want an identity that resonates with my target audience, is memorable, flexible, and communicates the attributes of my IP to an international audience without being too literal.”

The output of that may be that you don’t need a logo. Maybe you need a word mark and some amazing animated, secondary collateral that brings the mark to life. I’m exaggerating to make a point but the takeaway is that your brief should be focused on meeting your challenge. This gives latitude for your creative agency to be, well, creative without ever losing sight of your goal.

Let Me Be Brief

This is the big picture stuff like who are we trying to reach, what values are we aiming to communicate, what does success look like? Arriving at these challenges can be best done as a conversation or series of conversations and refinements.

Then with the big picture stuff done you can move onto the more prosaic but no less important pieces of the puzzle. Bringing in other stakeholders can be important here to ensure that you provide the agency with everything they may need to come back with a targeted, detailed, and effective response.

We practise what we preach at Skew and work closely with clients to help them develop outstanding briefs. Below is the actual checklist we use to help our clients build their briefs. It’s not a complete brand brief template, nor a box-ticking exercise, and not everything will be relevant,but it’s a great start that you can steal and use today.

Turning Over A New Brief

  • Brand Overview

Current Brand Position: Describe the current market position, key offerings, target audience, and unique selling points.

Brand History: Brief history and milestones achieved, including previous extensions if any.

Visual Identity: Existing logos, typography, colours, and other visual elements.

  • Business Objectives, Short-term Goals:

Objectives for the next 1-2 years.

Long-term Vision: Where the brand aims to be in 5-10 years.

Key Challenges: Current hurdles or challenges the brand is facing.

  • Brand Extension Strategy

Reason for Extension: Why is the brand considering an extension? E.g., tapping into a new market, leveraging brand equity, etc.

Desired Perception: How should the audience perceive the brand post-extension?

Metrics of Success: How will success be measured, e.g., market share, awareness, revenue?

  • Target Audience

Primary Audience: The main demographic and psychographic characteristics.

Secondary Audience: Additional segments you're hoping to appeal to.

Audience Insights: Any research or understanding about their behaviours, preferences, or pain points.

  • Competitive Landscape

Key Competitors: Brands that are either in the desired extension space or share a similar audience.

Market Trends: Trends in the desired extension area or wider industry that might affect strategy.

  • Brand Values and Tone

Core Values: The brand's foundational beliefs and principles.

Desired Tone: The emotional resonance or feel of the brand post-extension.

  • Constraints and Limitations

Budgetary Constraints: Any fixed budget or resource limits.

Timelines: Important dates or deadlines.

Mandatories: Non-negotiable elements or considerations.

  • Stakeholder Insights

Internal Stakeholders: Insights from employees, management, etc.

External Stakeholders: Insights from partners, distributors, etc.

  • Desired Deliverables (While the focus is on objectives, giving a tentative idea of expected deliverables can help guide the process.)

Initial Ideas: Logo variants, taglines, product design ideas, etc.

Collateral: Packaging, digital assets, advertisements, etc.

Strategy Documents: Brand extension strategy, rollout plans, etc.

  • Additional Information/Comments

Existing Research: Any previous research or surveys done that could be of relevance.

Other References: Brands, campaigns, or extensions admired and reasons why.

Truly Madly Briefly

Just as a well-structured brief brings a sigh of relief to agency folks, a poorly crafted or absent one can spell confusion and missed opportunities. Remember, the art of briefing is not just about ticking boxes; it's about initiating a journey of discovery and alignment between you and your creative partner. So, don't settle for skimpy briefs that leave everyone guessing. Instead, dive deep into the consultative process, clarify your challenges, and set the stage for creative solutions that truly resonate. Ready to craft a brand extension brief that turns heads and drives results? Reach out to us at Skew, and let’s start that conversation today – your brand's future success story is just a well-crafted brief away.

Still have your briefs in a twist? Get in touch today with your brand extension project or book onto our January retail masterclass designed to crack brand challenge in just one day here.

Oliver D, Skew
Written by
Oliver Dyer
I make Fan Brands, connect brands to fans and make creative that fans of brands love. Some people call this 'Licensing', those people are wrong.

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