How To Write A Single-Minded Proposition
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How To Write A Single-Minded Proposition

Five insights on advertising's most difficult sentence. Plus two new approaches.

Howard Ibach

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eBook - ePub

How To Write A Single-Minded Proposition

Five insights on advertising's most difficult sentence. Plus two new approaches.

Howard Ibach

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About This Book

What is a single-minded proposition? If you know Nike, you know the answer: Just Do It. This is the iconic line known and loved by Nike users worldwide that began its life as a single-minded proposition on a creative brief. Most SMPs don't become this famous. That's because they are exceedingly hard to write. But when they're done well, sometimes they reach this exalted status.

From the author of the critically acclaimed How To Write An Inspired Creative Brief 2nd edition comes a new critically acclaimed graphic text devoted exclusively to this small collection of wordsonthe creative brief: How To Write A Single-Minded Proposition: Five insights on advertising's most difficult sentence. Plus two new approaches.

In a step-by-step process, Howard demonstrates how fivekey ingredientson every creative brief work together to produce the single-minded proposition (SMP), the singular messagethatexplains your brand's promise. He interviewed over 30 advertising and marketing professionals all over the globe for their thoughts on this one key line. Then he introduces you to two thought leaders who offer alternative ideas on where the creative brief can go.

This neat package of thought-provoking ideas, easy-to-do practical exercises, andfun graphics fit together in a concise and compelling 100 pages. A quick read that you'll return to regularly for its clear explanations and valuable examples.

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Information

Year
2018
ISBN
9780578778822
Subtopic
Advertising
1
Why I wrote this book
“Ad agencies tend to be very good at stripping away the nonsense. We have one ear listening to what our client wants, but also one ear listening to what the consumer wants.”
Rob Schwartz, CEO
TBWA\Chiat\Day
New York
“Ask the right questions, and be ready to hear things from your customer that might surprise you.”
Kristina Halvorson
CEO Brain Traffic;
author, Content Strategy for the Web, 2nd edition
In 1989, I was a copywriter for a small business-to-business advertising agency in Milwaukee, my hometown.
Two facts about this job stand out and are relevant to my tale. The first is that the shop did not use a creative brief before I was hired. The document was not part of its day-to-day operations.
The second relates to one of its bigger clients, an American manufacturer of turf equipment, one of whose marketing executives I met on many occasions. This executive repeated a phrase I never forgot. He used it every time I, or one of my colleagues, asked this question on a new project:
“What’s the one, most important thing we need to say about your product?”
Almost 30 years later, his answer lingers in my memory and reflects thinking stubbornly pervasive among marketers to this day.
“We don’t have just ONE thing,” he would say. “We have a unique package of features.”
That’s the first, and primary, reason I wrote this book.
The second reason is because when I write about this topic on my blog and on social media it garners more views, comments and shares than any other. If you type “single-minded proposition” into Google, two of my essays tend to show up on the first page. Maybe that’s Google’s algorithms flattering my vanity. Try it yourself. I’d be curious to learn what you get.
The point is, people in our industry wrestle with the creative proposition. I know it from reading hundreds, more likely thousands, of Creative Briefs over the course of my quarter-century-plus career as a copywriter and creative director. I have come to understand the challenge by writing about the SMP and the Creative Brief for almost 10 years, and now actively speaking about it for almost as long.
So much rests on these few words.
The pressure to get it right is significant.
While it’s impossible, indeed unfair, to think of the SMP as its own entity that simply resides within the Creative Brief, but is not integral to it, this mini sculpture of words is often an enigma to its writers. This sentence deserves a book of its own. I leave it to you to report whether this one is worthy.
Who should read this book
If you’re an inventor, an entrepreneur, a sales person, a marketer, an advertising professional, a student of any of the above, a teacher of any of the above, or generally curious about discovering and communicating the singular essence of a person, place, thing or idea, this book is for you.
If you’re an account planner, understand that I am not one of you, and I am not a pretender. I am a former copywriter and creative director who learned from you, studied your Creative Briefs, asked questions, and read your articles and books.
You inspired me.
2
A hard question, a simple answer
“Miles Davis said that the essence of making music is to take one note and make it do the work of ten. That’s a description of a good single-minded proposition.”
Richard L. Gant, Adjunct Professor of Marketing
New York University, and Chief Experience Officer
RL Gant Group Inc., New York
“Don’t just write it. You have to believe it. Is it going to make you engage? If not, trash it and start over.”
Margaret Murphy, CEO and Founder
Bold Orange, Minneapolis
Writing a Creative Brief in general, and the single-minded proposition in particular, are exercises in reduction. They are about getting to the essence of a product or service. That’s why I love to share Albert Einstein’s famous challenge:
“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
Substitute “it” with anything — blue sky, love, your brand — and the challenge becomes tangible.
If, for example, you work for Nike, you can’t just hand a child a pair of sneakers and say, “See? This is what Nike is.” That’s not an explanation. It’s not even a demonstration. She knows intuitively that you put them on your feet. She will know instantly whether or not the pair you gave her is cool. Her body language will be impossible to ignore. But that does not add up to an explanation. You have to use words that a six-year-old comprehends. And when was the last time you read a copy of See Jane Run?
Now you begin to see the enormity of the dilemma Einstein lays at your feet — no pun intended.
I had this conversation with a senior marketing person for an internationally renowned musical instrument manufacturer. He told me his kid hears him talk about his product every day. The kid has seen it, touched it, likely tried to play it or maybe even knows how to play it. But the marketing guy confessed the difficulty of trying to explain what that musical instrument is, and why it matters, in words his child knew and understood. This from a guy who lives, breathes and plays his own brand.
LET’S GET SPECIFIC. Can you explain Nike Air More Uptempo basketball shoes for girls? What is it about this specific Nike product that you can clearly put into words for a little girl so she gets it? You can go out on a limb and assume lots of little girls know exactly what Nike Air More Uptempo basketball shoes are. But that’s not the assignment, is it?
Because if you can’t explain these “old-school kicks,” as Nike’s website describes them, I have to agree with Einstein that you not only don’t understand the shoe...

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