Creative briefs: Stop telling me the solution

By Mike Clark of

Clients/Buyers seem to always have an answer. Maybe after being burned by bad creative, they learned to do this to protect them selves. Let’s say there’s a new, natural, organic hand soap that needs packaging. Maybe the buyer fills out a creative brief, or maybe they tell you what they need, verbally.

But instead of telling you the problem that needs solving—they tell you the solution.

Here’s what this looks like:

Telling you the solution: “It needs to look natural, so I expect to see green trees, leaves, water droplets and earth tones.”

Telling you the problem: “It needs to look premium. It will have a high price point. It should feel fresh, luxurious, invigorating.”

When they tell you the solution, it halts your creative reins, and often times, they get something mediocre that looks every other natural hand soap package.

On the other hand, when they tell you the problem, you can create something that will truly answer the need and make this product stand out.

It’s as simple as that.

What should you do about it?

I’m famous among my buyers for saying, “Stop telling me the solution, and tell me your problem.” I educate my buyers about how to do this. Believe me … a savvy buyer wants to know how to communicate with you to get the best results.

Instead of letting the buyer use words that hinder the creative process: “I like green, I like leaves, polka dots will work here,” guide them towards words that will help you do your job better: “delicious, tempting, refreshing, a tremendous sense of clean.”

And if your buyer is still telling you the solution instead of the problem, you can help them evolve with one of my favorite approaches, The Rule of Three, coming next week. Stay tuned…