Three questions to help you get better answers.

If you brief agencies or in-house creative teams, you may occasionally have been frustrated when they seem to have heard a different brief to the one you gave. This video explains.

We’re not talking about those moments when they knock you back with an unexpected flash of creativity, of course. We mean those times when you said (for example) “We’re challenging the market leader so we need trial” and they deliver a campaign that’s aimed at building the category. So here, with thanks to Dave Trott, is a simple system that you can both use, to get more clarity and better work.

The three questions

Each question requires a choice between two alternatives, which means they’re easy to ask and easy to understand.

1. Market growth or market share?

Almost every market has a leader and one or more challengers. The leader has the greater share and the others want some of it. If you’re the leader, then what you probably need is market growth, so by building the category, you’ll build your sales (because you have most of it).

If you’re one of the challengers, the last thing you want is to build the category, because the leader will get most of the benefit.

Instead, you need to differentiate your product or service by asking ‘What’s our USP? Why should someone choose us, rather than the more obvious choice (the leader)?’

So when you’ve chosen one option in question 1, you move on to ask:

2. Current users or triallists?

Do you want more spend, frequency or loyalty from existing users, or do you want new people to try you?

It helps to think of Coca Cola and Pepsi here. Pepsi do taste tests, because they’re no 2 and want new people. Coke don’t, because there’s probably no-one who hasn’t tasted Coke. Instead, they aim for more spend, frequency or loyalty from existing users.

Now the Coke/Pepsi dynamic is a simple one, and your own category is probably more complicated, but merely by trying to apply the question to your own situation will clarify your thinking and your briefing.

Right. Now that you’ve answered question 2, move on to:

3. Brand or product?

Have you got a real product difference? Can you create one based on what you know about consumers?

Or are you in a market where the products are pretty much the same, so you must differentiate your brand instead?

Do you want your creatives to develop ideas based on reputation, familiarity, trust, or some other emotional characteristic of the brand?

Or do you have a real product or service difference? Can you sell improved performance? Greater value? Longer life? Happier outcomes?

Taken with your answers to the other two pairs of questions, this third simple choice will lead to better briefs to your creative teams, and better work for your product and your brand.

It’s all about clarity of thinking, but if we haven’t made ourselves quite clear enough yet, watch the video. It’ll help!

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