We briefed an international team of creative people today for a global assignment. Some of the group shared the conference table in Chicago and others participated via conference call from Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Milan and other places. I've led or joined many such assignments and they're a lot of work and a lot of fun. I thrive on the diversity of perspectives brought from different languages, cultures and markets.
Yes, markets. Although anthropology drives much of what we do, our briefs are based on market situations. Can we suggest new users for an existing product? Does our new product fulfill an unmet need? How can we increase market share? We are also measured on these questions based on what happens in the market.
International assignments are complicated more by market situation than language or culture. We can always adapt packaging and retail material by dropping in the relevant alphabet or language, or write TV copy without on-camera dialogue. The more difficult task is to sell a particular product that may have a different frame of reference from country to country. It's underneath everyone's kitchen sink in Argentina but a completely new product in Thailand. (This is less of a problem when the global assignment sells the global brand itself versus a specific product.)
I've seen a lot of briefs in my career that were decidedly not brief. There are many reasons for this -- unsound strategy, unclear proposition, poor writing -- but it's an especially fatal mistake when briefing a global assignment. The language of the brief must be clear, concise and unambiguous. I've posted about this before, here and here.
Clear writing and clear thinking go together -- in any language.