Got a creative brief? Start with Why.

By Roger Cayless

Why I’ve started listening

“I’ve just read a good book,” I tell my wife.

“No, you’ve just had a good book read to you.” She replies.

My wife thinks Audiobooks are “cheating”. I disagree. I argue that I’m still having to create the pictures in my mind, it’s just that instead of the words entering my head through my eyes, they arrive via my ears. I will concede that Audible has done nothing to help my spelling, but it has allowed me to listen to a whole load of books I would never have got round to reading. And who wouldn’t want Steven Fry to read them Sherlock Holmes as a bedtime story?

Maybe, “Listening – reading for cheats?” would be a good blog for another day.

Whether you are writing a creative brief or on the receiving end of one, it can be tempting to jump straight to the solution and lose the overall purpose. Simon Sinek’s book ‘Start With Why’ is a good lesson in reminding us where to begin.

I’ve started with Why

My most recent listen was Simon Sinek’s, ‘Start With Why’. I knew about Mr. Sinek as I’d watched his TED talks and read plenty of articles about him. I’d also bought his book years ago at an airport, but watched Despicable Me on the flight instead. I was familiar with the basic premise, but listening to it brought it all to life. I found myself nodding along in agreement then boring everyone about it. Friends, family, colleagues, a man unfortunate enough to sit next to me on the train, no one was immune from my eulogising.

The main theme of the book is that, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe”. He illustrates this with his Golden Circle. At its centre is, ‘Why’ – your core belief. Next is, ‘How’ – how a business fulfills that core belief. Finally, in the outer ring is ‘What’ – this is a business’s products and services.

The book uses examples of businesses and people whose success is tied to a core belief that is consistently applied across all they do. Apple is used as the paragon throughout the book, with its core belief – it’s ‘Why’ – cited as ‘challenging the status quo’. Apple’s ‘How’ is given as making things that are beautifully designed and easy to use. The strength of Apple’s ‘Why’ and ‘How’ has allowed their ‘What’ (their products and services) to span multiple industries and disrupt them; computing, music, telecoms, to name a few.

When you have a strong core belief that flows through how and what you do, customers can decide if it aligns with their viewpoint. If it does they can become loyal disciples and advocates of your brand. These customers use your brand because of what it says about them. Conversely, the book gives examples of businesses whose ‘Why’ has gone fuzzy, and what happens when they lose sight of their founding beliefs (nothing good).]

Why LEAP agrees

‘Start With Why’ is a ten-year-old book, so the above is not a new revelation, but what struck me was how it chimed with something LEAP espouses when we receive a creative brief. We talk a lot about the importance of taking the time to go ‘upstream’ of a request to get under the skin of the problem. A creative brief is really just a question looking for the best possible answer. If a brief tries to provide the answer as well as posing the question, then it immediately narrows the thinking of the person whose job it is to answer it.

We encourage people not to jump straight to the solution when either writing or answering a brief. We think deeply about the drivers behind a brief and go beyond ‘What’ is being asked for, and start with ‘Why’.

After all, Simon says.

P.S. I do draw the line at thinking you’ve read a book because you’ve seen the film.

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