I just cracked open a book that’s been taunting me from my bookshelf for the past two months – The Houdini Solution by noted copywriter Ernie Schenck (McGraw-Hill, 2007).

I’m only a few chapters in, but I’ve already found a passage that really intrigues me. It starts on page 21. It (and the rest of the book) deals specifically with thinking INSIDE the box – meaning doing creative thinking when restraints are boxing you in. In marketing (and life) this is often how we are presented with opportunities. Very seldom do we get a “blank canvas”.

“Instead of working around creative obstacles, Jack (White – most noted for his lead in The White Stripes) invents them. So severe are these self-imposed restrictions, they border on the monastic. No computers. No digital recording technology. No bass guitars. No studio equipment invented after 1968. No clothes that aren’t red, white or black. It’s a kind of forced creative captivity that nurtures innovation and strives for a form of music that’s far more rooted in talent than it is in technology.”

This idea of thriving in an environment that is intentionally staged to be more difficult is fascinating to me. Often, in marketing, budget is the obstacle that boxes us in. Let’s face it – traditional media isn’t cheap (and digital counterparts can be equally expensive). Often, clients feel that if they don’t have deep pockets, they can’t do anything remarkable.

This is wrong. Very, very wrong. So incredibly wrong. Perhaps one of the most wrong things ever. Some of the greatest marketing campaigns ever have stemmed from small budgets. Instead of worrying that you don’t have enough to spend, instead, be concerned with who you are spending what money you do have, with. Look for a group that can think “inside the box”, finding a unique way to tell your story with even the most severe restraints.

I know a couple of guys that can help if you can’t find anybody. Thanks for reading.

-the one that writes