What's Your Problem?

The way I see it, if we get the problem wrong then the solution will never be right. It seems silly doesn’t it? But getting to the root of the problem can be one of the trickiest parts of creating a brief.  We have a few techniques that we use to make sure that we’ve got the problem nailed down. By working through these, it should help with creating your brief and making sure you get a solution that you’re happy with meaning that you can get the right message, in front of the right people at a time that they're most likely to read it! Win, win.

What kind of problem do we have?

First things first, we need to identify what category the problem falls into. I always think there are four buckets that a business problem will sit in. They each impact one another but one should more strongly align to the issue that needs solved:

  • business strategy: this covers solving issues around sales, financials and getting into new markets
  • marketing strategy: do you need to change perceptions, challenge perceptions or sell a specific product?
  • brand strategy: this should be an overarching and long-enduring message that transcends communication and marketing
  • communications strategy: this is an evolving messaging that addresses the brand and/or marketing problem.

Once we’re clear on what category the problem falls into, we can test that and build upon it. Here’s some of my top tips for digging a bit deeper into the issue. You don’t need to use all of these but they are more a toolbox that you can refer to:

One sentence brief

It's said that a problem shared is a problem halved, but I prefer to go with the saying that a problem well put is a problem half solved. 

The main one sentence brief should summarise what the key challenge is and the opportunity that you want to solve. That key challenge will change depending on the consumer and competition and the opportunity should be the direction that the business is heading in.

A great way to structure this is to follow this format:

  • We believe X (specific to the customer)
  • Needs X (practical/need to satisfy)
  • Because of (insight)


You've got the problem summarised so we're sorted right? Wrong I'm afraid. I always recommend probing and testing out that problem to make sure it really is a problem and to test my thinking around it. By diving a little deeper on each of the following topics we can start to think about what challenges are holding us back from achieving that beautifully succinct one sentence brief?

  • Competition – what is the nature? Price? Brand attitude? Staff?
  • Consumer – their behaviours and beliefs?
  • Environment – media interest, legals, regulation?
  • Brand – how are you positioned?

And internal factors:

  • Resources – spend/infrastructure/innovation/systems
  • Culture – management/beliefs/attitude

Moments that matter

You've thought about specifics to the consumer but when it comes to communications we also need to consider where and when consumers are most open to listening to your message. This article by Think with Google ( https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-gb/marketing-resources/micro-moments/winning-the-moments-that-matter-right-person/) is a good place to start because in reality, when consumers are looking for a solution or a product they’ll start with some Googling.

Here’s the top things to consider when mapping some moments that matter:

  • Find the top searches related to the issue that you're trying to solve
  • Consider what the most popular questions asked of your customer service team are
  • Map the customer journey from the whole business from acquisition right through to when a customer leaves.

You can then begin to map these activities against moments in the customers lives (the moments that matter!), and when they are looking for your solution to the issue they need to solve. These moments are broken into three categories:

  • Micromoments – thing we do every day like eating, sleeping and paying bills.
  • Regular moments – things we do because of the things we do every day such as checking the train times, checking traffic and road closures or googling customer service phone numbers.
  • Moments of change – these can be life changes but they might also be the moments that a customer might change how they feel about your brand i.e. they receive a bill that's higher than they expect.

Now that you've done some deep diving, is you one sentence brief still right?

  • We believe X (specific to the customer)
  • Needs X (practical/need to satisfy)
  • Because of (insight)