I recently started helping out with a Stanford Business School course called “Humor: Serious Business”, which is teaching students about the power of humor in work. I came across the curriculum while researching my TED Salon talk on humor last fall, and the professors kindly invited me to be their cartoonist-in-residence.
Last week, one of the lessons involved talking like a human. Very often in the workplace, we forget to talk like we actually speak in real life. Whether in emails, presentations, or any other written communication, we often to default to a stilted, buzzword-heavy, way of communicating with each other.
In marketing, nowhere is this more apparent than the creative brief, which is rarely creative and never brief.
The creative brief is often treated as an afterthought — a laundry list rather than a leaping-off point for creativity. The quality of the eventual creative work follows as a direct result of this.
As Creative Director Howard Margulies once put it:
“When you write a creative brief, you’re not filling out a form. You’re crafting the story of your product and its reason to exist and thrive in the world. This is the first, and arguably the most important creative act of the entire process. And yet it’s often approached with all the delight of passing a kidney stone.”
The Stanford course assigned homework this week to students to find a particularly bad email they had written in the last week, and then simply take the time to re-write it as if they were human. I think that’s good homework for any marketer too. The creative brief is a good place to start.
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years:
“Creative Brief” May 2011
“Brand Video” September 2015
“How to Write a Creative Brief” August 2017