IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

Can creativity be defined in a brief? What is a creative brief — and is there a point to being brief?


Brands are inordinately complicated orchestrations. Being that they inherently involve relationships to humans, the idea of “briefness” is a less than valuable proposition. Instead, a “brief” should be as interesting as a story, enriched with depth and personality, the ringing string of strategy and market conditioning. There is a red thread of psychic character — brands, being made by humans, have inherent qualities that attach to the human quality. Not saying that a brand is something that is entirely anthropomorphic, but rather that the relationships are the key point of enchantment and attractiveness. In the case of human brands, there are components that relate to the quality of that brand spirit — the human leadership — that will guide the characteristics of emotional connectedness. Brands, to survive, must flourish in their link to the personal connection.

IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

Stories unfold. Legends emerge. Beauty in enterprise and richness in commerce can be embellished with robust layering of context.

Clients often ask — “can you write a creative brief on our brand change — where we’re going, our innovation?” There’s the need, during the present clime, for virtually every enterprise to consider how to newly frame its evocation — what is the new voice, and how does the vocation speak to community in a new way. We’re doing this for virtually every relationship that we have.

IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

The archetypal question
When you meet someone for the first time, the real question that pops into your opening conversation might be — “what is your story?”

IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

Simply enough, the story is what is the carrying forth, it’s the relation. And relationship is that, the distinction — the carrying and the embracement — to the layering of the story. The sequence lies in the nature of how we think about ourselves — how we recall our experiences in our lives — and, importantly, how we tell it.

The mind filters experience and the telling of construct in narrative — the mind relates to the memory in a string of stories, not in the layered sentiment of “facts.” This, lies in the nature of the story, the telling of a stringing of ideas. A red thread of the mnemonic gathering, woven up as a tapestry of experiences.

IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

It might be presumed that — either in, or outward — the layering of the story is starting with a human inspiration. Whether the strategy is to acknowledge the human connection: the foundation, the leadership, the family, the extended lineage, or to take that reach and invert it, either way, the links to the human bridge — and the hybrid nature of messaging and layering are critical. Deny them, and the brand will vanish as a commodity. Precision, hand craft, technology, insights — it will be a reflective proposition — the brand reaches to the inward community of foundational leadership, or outward to community. That intermixing is the inherent influence, confluence of commerce.

Finding the fire of passion brands
IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

Kate Newlin, a friend, consultant, author and strategist has been writing about and examining the nature of the “passion brands.” We’ve called it — in referring to brand leadership, “the passionate” — people that have an inordinate capacity for the unbridled passion of the commitment, focus and character of involved leadership. Like Guy Kawasaki’s evangelism, it is about the fevered community of posses, ambassadors and brand storytellers — connection is rampant, even addictive.

Listening to some people at a Starbucks, talking about their “bikes” was infectious, in the sharing and spreading of their love of their “Harleys.” It went on. I was impressed by their unceasing storytelling. One, to another, and another.

Finding passionate brand fire: good questions to answer

IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

The foundational questions will drive the path to the rightful alignment — but it will start at the heart, and the soul, of the brand. That is — what is the message that comes from the center? That’s where life is — defining the life of the brand starting at the heart of the enterprise.

Building the personality of the brand expectation — performance:

IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

The sweet and artful allusion of Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol — “simple, please” — is a poetic opening to the interpretation of the creative brief — and the real point, is the notion of personality and artfulness in articulating, potentially, the power and beauty of the creative foundations. “Do whatever you want.” In the detailing of structure, brand leadership might position a creative brief as gathering this sequence of questions:

• Sales focus
• Promise
• Equities
• Opportunities
• Essence
• Personality
• Values
• Benefits
• Attributes

But is that enough?

IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

Structuring the line of queries for the exploration of innovation and transition — it lies in supporting the values of what is held in the heart of the brand. Overall, what assets are held — what values are shown?

IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

Balance that examination against the foundation of the strategic considerations — what equity assets might be considered? Examine:

Start at the top, go deeper.

According to the nature of the human propositions, and aligning this with business considerations — character relates to the string of performance and community.


IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

These layers of examination move to how they ride out to action planning — if your brand, your story, stands for these series of attributes, can you build on them — defining what they mean for visualization? How to execute?

IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

Studying the legacy of the brand from one tier to another — how to build strategies that bridge the inherent values and how they can be bridged to concepts of attributes of functionality. To the layering of form, design, factoring of product, retail experiences, entertainment and finally performance and results.

IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

The nature of psychic performance of brand — defining how the mind works in relationship to brand storytelling. What will be carried forth? Who is the ambassador? Find soul.

IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

Examining the cartography of design strategy: defining the creative brief — an essay of expectations

The definition of creativity, brand and the brief or essays of design strategy
Think conversationally: Building briefs are like conversations – they need to be shared to be understood. It’s not email alone – a conversation helps.

Focus on intentionality: Building briefs for new brands requires layers of intention – the principles of the brand’s premise needs to be foundational, but could be expanded – for testing – to multiple tracks for exploratory.

Brands and the red thread: Briefs are the “snapping line” for creative development and efficiency – a poorly written brief will waste time, dollars and advancing to the right outcomes and positioning.

Expanding the rippling of the ideal:

RICH AND ROBUST – Great briefs have insights, stories, legends of heritage, or new ideations – research insights should be included.

CONCISE AND ARTICULATE – Writing needs to be precise, but artful – the brief should begin to frame the attitude of the brand – where it’s been, where it’s going and what it shall be.

WHO / WHAT / WHY – the foundations are simple: who are we trying to captivate (and who are we trying to beat), what holistically are we saying – big picture, middle picture, smaller details, and most importantly, why should we be doing this offering?


THE CLIENT, THE CONTACT – Who’s driving this?

WHAT’S THE PROJECT? Code name, brand extension, new sku?

BACKGROUNDER – What’s happening in the market? What’s driving this internally – team insights, leadership initiatives, pet project, failing market, cannibalizations, trend analyses?

“This is our product, this is what we’re trying to say, here’s who we are speaking to, and this is our recommendation for what we think this should be looking like” – attributes, assets, stylistic reference, etc.

WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN? What’s the action: “creating greater market share (be specific — define deliverables, market expectations).”



Centralizing the messaging of power:

Leading to the single most compelling statement of the uniqueness for the achievement of objectives: simple sentence, clear command.


Explaining the how’s and why’s of:
Functional and emotive belief
For example, these types of layers to “believe in:”

  • —There’s a story, it’s authentic (years in the making)
  • —We have the best innovation minds in the business (on the edge)
  • —Our flavorists have won awards for their new sensations (constantly improving)
  • —It’s healthy, better for you (proof)
  • —A perfect solution for relaxation with the perk of renewed energy (inventive convention)


How to sell: Defining marketing strategy – what are the promotional plans?

Stories in stories: User anecdotes, verbatims, research reports

What’s happening out there: Trend commentaries and research

Organized analyses: Brand bibles – anatomical overviews of the category, state of the art competitive reviews

The crowd: Market insights


Concepts and written objectives/response
Responses and interpretations
Opening thinking and sketched ideals
Image assemblies and strategic references


  • —Interceptions
  • —Interviews
  • —Ethnographic insights
  • —Qualitative focus
  • —Quantitative online
  • —BASES® geographics
  • —Reasons to purchase final confirmations
  • —At shelf and epiphany learnings



Audience responsiveness: relevant?
Is there a story that works: resonant?
Will this packaging concept extend: resilience?
Will the brandcode® expand: hybrid media applications?
Surprise at shelf: epiphany?
Fighting the competition: distinction?
Reason to believe: authenticity?
Strategic references: Examining Girvin tools in design strategy
We seek the anatomy of the physicality of the brand – identity is body, it is landscape:

IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

Explore, sketch, idealize, actualize:

IGNITE THE FUTURE | Theories of innovation, brand, story and influence

Build the cart of examination and team building — the BrandQ U E S Tquestion, understand, explore, strategize, tactical development:

Outcomes and recommendations — building the brand and design strategy essay — a holistic identity

A summary of conclusions
The consumer is everything (know them, dig in).

It all begins and ends with them (every brand starts with a human, and serves one).

It’s about fulfillment, engagement, embracement and helping them to live their dreams (brand relationships can be big as life).

Brand equity is the story (and investment) that’s been told: it’s the genetic DNA of the brand.

Brands will be more than merely taste, color, product or packaging – they are levers back to the central story.

Think of the design strategy as the foundation to reach into the interpretation of the emotionality of the brand story, syncing with people, empowering the build to community.

The red thread ties the knot.

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