The single-minded proposition is like a magnet: When you brief your creative team, it’s the first thing that draws their attention. They go right to this box/question and they are not afraid to judge the writer of the creative brief based solely on the answer they find.
It’s a harsh truth. It may not be fair, but it’s reality.
So here are three of the most common errors I’ve encountered in my 30 years of reading creative briefs, and some practical suggestions for fixing them.
1. Your single-minded proposition is too vague or uninspiring.
As the focal point of the creative brief, the single-minded proposition (SMP) carries a lot of weight. Perhaps too much so. It’s a very difficult little bugger to write. It’s like writing a headline. In fact, John Hegarty, founding partner of Bartle Boogle Hegarty in London, says that crafting a single-minded proposition is like writing the first ad for the project at hand. So the pressure is on you to do it well.
Fortunately, Hegarty relieves the pressure a bit by adding that your “first ad” doesn’t have to be great, but it has to be good.
My first suggestion is to partner with someone from the creative department. Don’t try to answer this question without an ally to help you. Choose a copywriter, but even an art director can write a good line. Use each other as sounding boards, or as creatives prefer to call their partners, as BS detectors. You won’t land on a great SMP on your first try. You’ll need to go through iterations until you arrive at something inspired.
Next, be brave. Step up and take a creative risk. With your creative partner ready to react, you’ll arrive at a shortish sentence that aspires to “first ad” status. Listen carefully to how your creative partner fashions an idea for the SMP. You’ll start to get a sense for what creatives everywhere look for in an inspiring line. Then practice with your own ideas.
The point is, say things out loud. Write them in your notebook. Share them. Get feedback. You won’t get good at a focused, inspired SMP without getting the clunkers out first.
2. Your SMP is a laundry list of benefits.
This is the “better safe than sorry” version of the SMP. Include everything and hope something is valuable.
The result is the resigned eye-roll from your creatives.
Again, collaborating with a creative department partner should prevent this. Also, remember that your single-minded proposition has earned its name for a reason.
Put another way, think of the SMP as a popularity contest. Among the short list of product benefits that are the most important, only one can be the winner. One benefit stands out among all the others as the most desirable, around which you can build a piece of communication.
That’s your single-minded proposition. Focus on the word “single” and you will never end up with a dual or even a triple-minded proposition. It’s not about how many cool benefits your product has. It’s about finding the one that touches the most hearts.
I like this analogy: In India, there are guys who can fall asleep on a bed of nails. You’ve heard about this, right? Hundreds of nails lined up just so and the sharp points don’t break the skin. You don’t have to be from India either.
But can you imagine falling asleep on a bed with a single nail where your pillow is? Or where you rest your derriere (that’s French for your bum by the way)? I don’t think so.
That’s your guide when you write the SMP: Keep it focused. Make it about one especially relevant, resonating, compelling idea. One point gets through. Too many points and you lose your audience.
3. Your SMP is a paragraph.
This isn’t quite the same thing as #2, where you list all the benefits. It might be focused on a single benefit, but it has not been edited. It’s a first draft of an SMP. It reveals a lack of confidence in your own ability to be clear.
I may sound like a broken record, but this is where you need to have a creative brief-writing partner, preferably someone from the creative department. Collaboration leads to editing and revising. Between the two of you, you’ll reduce that paragraph to a single sentence. Perhaps a phrase.
Better yet, try to make it sound like a tagline. Many a great tagline started as a killer single-minded proposition. That “first ad” inspired what became an iconic word or phrase.
The single-minded proposition is the hardest “line” to write on a creative brief. It won’t happen on your first try. Give it its due, and work with a partner to hone it.
Follow these tips and you’ll avoid having a broken or clunky SMP in the first place.