May 26, 2016


So you have this project that has potential for being something really great. The only problem is [fill in the blank]. A miniscule budget? Impossibly rigid guidelines? Little or no resources? How about all of the above (and more), you say? Perfect.

Mark Barden is a partner at strategic brand consultant eatbigfish. He spoke at Planning-ness 2016, and before I listened to him talk about his approach to the pretty darn common challenge of working with constraints, I admittedly would question the realistic ability to do more with less. He of the glass-mostly-full camp asserted that limitations invite teams to think differently, offer the chance for inventiveness and are “the impetus for a better outcome.” Right on.

It’s all in the way you frame it—setting a bold ambition, getting into a transformer mindset and looking for novel solutions by asking propelling questions that force us off the tried-and-true path. Barden spins it this way, encouraging implementation of any one or a combination of multiple “We can if we ...” ideas:

Think of it as ___

Remove X to allow for Y

Access the knowledge of ___

INtroduce a ___

Substitute X with Y

Fund it by ___

Use Other people to ___

Resource it by ___

Mix it together

In other words, if you don’t have the resources, you have to be resourceful to create abundance. Like Virgin Airlines. They had little money to promote their launch, but that didn’t keep them grounded. They looked at the assets they did have to build relevance and value: Planes = captivated audience, San Francisco area = large Twitterati/sharers, Sir Richard Branson = glamour/celebrity. Then they arranged a trade with Victoria’s Secret for the first fashion show in the sky—a legitimately lofty way to gain visibility.

Now back to your project. Even if it doesn’t have the same scope as a large-sized company, you can define the right level of ambition for your brand. Just remind yourself that when you’re crafting the story, the possibilities are boundless. Truth.

For more inspiration, don’t hold back. Check out A Beautiful Constraint and see where strategic questions can propel you.   

Dana Denberg is an associate Creative Director at Dixon Schwabl and planning advocate.