Does Your Creative Brief Pass the Birthday Card Test?

Photo by Andrei Z on, (cc) some rights reservedI just found a stack of old index cards from a guest talk I gave about creative development at New York’s The New School years ago.

It was a diverse audience, most of whom were not in communications, so I used the idea of birthday cards to discuss how many different ways there are to say the exact same thing: Happy Birthday.

It was a simple object lesson, but it worked. People started talking about picking “just the right card” for a family member or friend—and what it felt like to receive a greeting that was off the mark.

It strikes me, years later, that this unsophisticated point could be a lot deeper than I thought, especially when posed as a question:

Do you know your target consumer well enough to pick out the perfect birthday card for him or her?

Picture yourself at Hallmark or Kate’s and imagine that you’re shopping for your target audience. If you don’t know enough about who they are—and what makes them tick—to pick a card that will make them smile, then how in the world are you going to sell them something?