Where does the Single-Minded Proposition spring from?

No two creative briefs are exactly alike, but most contain a box that asks for “communication objectives” or “reasons why we’re creating this advertisement.” These two mean the same thing.
A brief also asks for the Single-Minded Proposition. Sometimes it’s called the key proposition or the One Unique Thing. Whatever you call it in your brief, it must list the one overriding reason why people will or should want to buy your product or service.

A question was put to me: In a recent post I said that every SMP starts as a product benefit. I also wrote in my book, How To Write An Inspired Creative Brief, that the SMP is found among the short list in Communication Objectives.

It looked like I’d created a bit of confusion.

Allow me to address a very pertinent question.

Yes, the Single-Minded Proposition emerges from the product benefits. A product can have hundreds of benefits, ranging from the core benefit that gives the product its singular appeal, all the way to very tenuous benefits that may in fact be valuable but aren’t going to have a significant impact on sales.

For example, it’s hard to argue with the unique design appeal of an Apple iPad. That’s central to its huge popularity. You just want to reach out and hold one. And play with it. That could be the benefit that turns into the SMP.

On the other hand, my favorite chewing gum comes in a sleeve of 12 pieces. Why not 15? Or 9? Is this particular sleeve size a benefit? Well, yeah, I guess. But it’s not terribly significant. And it won’t necessarily effect my purchase decision.

So all product features translate into some kind of product benefit.

They also translate into communication objectives, or reasons why we are asked, as creatives, to come up with an ad, whether’s it’s a magazine ad, an email, a TV spot or something we put in the mail. We’re not given a list of 8 or 15 communication objectives.

It should be only 3 or 4.


The path from product feature to product benefit to Single-Minded Proposition isn’t direct. It’s not literal.

This spot on the brief is exactly where I think brief writers stumble and over think things. That’s why I’m a big advocate of using a common vocabulary when you write a brief. It’s a matter of eliminating confusion and inexactness and finding the right words to describe what you really mean.

I suggest, here and in my book, that you use verbs to write communication objectives.

Why verbs? They’re action words. They’re all about doing something. And we want our targets to do something: Buy the product we’re selling.

Let’s use Apple again. We know that Apple stands apart in the tablet business because of its clean, intuitive design. I’d argue it’s at or near the top of the list of product benefits.

But I wouldn’t list “cool design” as a communication objective. It’s too vague. It doesn’t tell the creative team what to do about this…coolness.

Instead, I’d rather use a verb to guide the creatives in their thinking. I say “guide” rather than “instruct” or “direct” because as a brief writer it’s not my job to write the ad. I’m the first step in the creative process.

So, what might I say? Romance…excite…thrill (the verb, not the noun)…energize…

You get the idea, right? Keep it simple. Use direct verbs to describe the reasons why the creative team has been asked to write the ad.

The progression looks like this if we’re using the Apple iPad as our example:

Product feature: Uncomplicated, simple design (what the product is)

Product benefit: iPad’s cool makes you cool too (what the product gives you)

Communication objective: Jolt the target into falling in love (again) with the latest Apple device (what we want the creative team to do)

Single-Minded Proposition: “________________________________” (how to communicate the product benefit that achieves the communication objectives)

(Hey, I’m the creative, not the brief writer.)

One tip: the SMP can be off the wall, outrageously over the top. How so? It’s not meant for public consumption. Its purpose is to inspire the creative team. Get their juices flowing.

You, as the brief writer, get to take the first crack at writing a headline. That’s the best definition ever of a Single-Minded Proposition.

So brief writers, arise and be daring. But don’t confuse the product benefit with the SMP itself!

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