by Colin Jowell

If you are a marketer or business owner reading this, and you’ve ever briefed an agency to help you, there is a near 100 per cent chance that at some stage, behind your back, they have probably complained about the quality of your brief. You shouldn’t take this personally. It is human nature unfortunately that when people first encounter a problem that they cannot solve, they blame the problem rather than their inability to solve it immediately. And the flipside of this, is that if you have been really clear, you will be accused of narrowing the scope and stifling creativity. So you might as well embrace the fact that you can’t win.

Allow this then to be some consolation. In over a year of operation as an independent, I can probably count on one hand the amount of times we’ve received a brief that offered a large degree of clarity. In no small part, this is because we no longer really expect or demand them.

It’s not to say that the discipline of thinking clearly about who the target market is, what drives them, and the behaviours and attitudes you wish to change aren’t important. It’s just that that clarity is best gained as an output of a process, rather than an input.  And inclusive processes work better when managed well: too often, stakeholders are brought in after the fact, past the point where their contribution can be truly valuable and efficiently integrated. Whether those stakeholders are your management, shareholders, staff, or a spouse, it is actually more about “when” and “how”, than “who”.

Regardless of the size of your business, having a fairly “open brief” is absolutely necessary if you trying to innovate in your category. Even if you are an expert, there are still going to be a bunch of things you don’t know, and everyone is better off acknowledging that at the start, pooling their knowledge. Creating room to test and learn is essential- even recycled ideas can have a new lease on life when re-imagined, repackaged, or just rerun with different time and circumstances.

Why prematurely force a decision that will be based on the way things were, not the way things could be.  Your marketing should be an exercise in developing your brand, or your business, rather than an attempt to defend it.

As it is in life, so it is in marketing: The problem with overly tight briefs is that they are terribly uncomfortable to wear.