Bob Hoffman was right, mostly.

Recently, I read and commented on Bob Hoffman’s LinkedIn essay, “The Three-Word Brief.”

Bob was also a guest on The Brief Bros., a videocast I co-host with Henry Gomez, VP strategist at Zubi Advertising in Miami.

Bob was right. I was wrong. Well, he was mostly right, and I was mostly wrong. There’s more to it, but I tip my hat to Bob for thinking bigger than I was.

Bob argues that every brand should covet a creative brief that reduces everything to three, in-your-face words: Make us famous.

He adds that the brand decision maker should tell her creative decision maker: How you do that is up to you. That’s why I hired you.

My argument amounts to parsing words, but that’s only because Bob is preaching to a C-level crowd (and hoping the rest of us are listening), while I work with “the rest of us” when I do workshops on brief writing for the Association of National Advertisers and my private clients.

Bob reminded me that I need to yell a little louder to make sure the C-level decision makers are communicating to the people who populate my workshops. The C-level folks (CMOs, CEOs) need to tell the marketers who work for them what they expect. What they believe works for their brand. Do they like funny? Do they like celebrity endorsers? It’s their responsibility to communicate these desires and expectations.

Otherwise, everyone will spin wheels and end up with multiple rounds of work that often gets vetoed anyway because the decision maker wasn’t in the room at the beginning.

It’s a mess.

A mess confirmed by Matt Davies and Pieter-Paul von Weiler and their spot-on survey research which you can read at The gap between what marketers think they are doing and what they are actually doing is mind-boggling.

I believe that “Make us famous” is the end-all-and-be-all objective on every brief for a brand. Every brand should want to be famous. Every brand should charge its creative partners to create brand communications to achieve that end.

But “make us famous” is not the end of the brief. It’s the beginning. Creatives need more information. Not pages and pages. More like sentences and sentences. I think the best briefs have achieved this “inspirational” target in 100 words, max.

It’s not about word count. It’s about word quality.

Marketers must trust their creatives to do the “fame” making. As Mark Ritson said in a recent Marketing Week article, marketers must stay in their lane. Focus instead on giving creatives the best, cogent and relevant information.

Start by producing a brief that says “Make us famous” somewhere. Hone in on who your likely customer is, what the single-most important thing to say should be, a bit more about the product environment, and stop.

Then stand back. Let your creatives do their jobs.

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