A Strategic Brief has 6 sections when you work with or for me. Here they are:
Target Audience: Gender, age, lifestyle (or in the case of healthcare products a consumer’s condition), and “marketing” actionable beliefs or behaviors.
Insight: Written in first person and always with an “I wish statement at the end.” It’s how you convey what’s going on inside the consumer’s head when they think about the problem your product/brand/or service is going to solve.
Strategy: Always the answer to the “I wish” and always contains the words first, best, or only. Followed by the technology or the main unique feature, that supports how the wish will be granted.
Positioning: The one thought you want to leave in the consumer’s mind so they will buy your idea or at least want to find out more.
Support for the Positioning: No more than 3 features of the product with an explanation of why they are important.
Tone and Manner….See below
In my experience tone and manner is often the least thought about part of a strategic brief. It might simply be because this section of the brief offers so much opportunity to be abstract, or that writers at this point are tired. Strategic briefs are tough to write well, because they require an economy words to convey big ideas to people who have to create effective advertising campaigns. Strategic briefs have to follow logically from one section to the other and “tone and manner” is no exception. For instance you can’t write about a hi-tech healthcare product that relieves back pain in a new way, and then provide guidance in the tone and manner that instructs the creative team to write in a tone that is funny and a manner that is direct. More reasonable would be to write in a tone that is empathetic and in a manner that is educational. Okay, so now we’ve stumbled on an even bigger problem. What is the difference between tone and manner? I searched for the answer and no one seems to have a good definition. So, I’ll add mine to the pile and see if it makes sense.
Tone-This describes the way the reader needs to hear the message in the context of the brand, product or service in order for them to digest the message most effectively. It is important that the tone match to the product message you are delivering. Comedy may work when you’re selling soft drinks, but not when you’re selling cemetery plots.
Here are some examples of words to use…Tone should be friendly/authoritative/professional/gentle/empathetic/newsy/exciting/sad/ sarcastic/comedic. Many times tone reflects a brand’s personality.
Manner-This describes the method in which the communication should be delivered and is less emotional in nature.
Here are some examples of words to use….Manner should be direct/educational/collegial/inquisitive/professional (yep sometimes tone turns into manner).
Maybe a more effective way of saying this is that tone is the artist and manner is the genre. Notorious B.I.G. can’t be rendered as bluegrass except in some very whacked out mind.
You can see that it is very hard to separate the two concepts of tone and manner but they should always work in concert, and work within the context of what you are saying is the message you want to leave in the consumer’s head.
The general problem I see with my students’ and other professionals’ writing of strategic briefs is that they don’t view them as being holistic. My students tend to “fill in” each section to get a grade and “turn in something completed” as an assignment. Except for a few, they don’t really grasp that the strategic brief is not the sum of its parts, but a living document that has to have all its parts working in harmony to be effective or even alive.
Most of the strategic briefs I see these days are dead on arrival because they contain so much organized nonsense that no one could possibly write something meaningful. Actually I wonder sometimes if anyone is actually using them anymore. A great example is a former client of mine that is in the restaurant business and owns a positioning that is full of heritage, uniqueness, and aspirational taste benefits yet has somehow settled on the line…Come see what’s cookin (note the clever leaving out of the g ) at Bob Evans. HMM that’s some news I needed…..people are cooking at restaurants. I’m running right in…sigh.
Good luck and good strategic brief writing.