"We don't have as much money as our competitors," says the members of the marketing team to one another.   Usually followed by some mumbo jumbo about bandwidth and time lines.  Thus setting themselves on a defeated path of non-creative, pigeon-holed marketing solutions.  It's 2016!  We're smack dab in the middle of the era of the innovator.  In today's marketplace, there are myriad ways smart marketers can cut through the clutter.  Here are a few ways of doing so:

1.)     Start With Huge Ideas, Then Cheat.

"Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss you'll  be among the stars." In the brainstorm process, just go for the best ideas possible. Don't prematurely count out ideas because of things like budget, or a department you don't have, or what someone else might have already done. You're in this to win this!  Not to limit yourself to what think you're "allowed" to do. So dream big.  Then, for the ideas you actually love, ask yourself how to make them unique, how to do them at lower costs, what the nucleus or important parts of the concept are, or if a partner(s) can come in to help absorb costs or offer resources to participate in the upside. But always explore each idea to it's fullest potential. In the process, think of how many ways people would/could/should experience your brand;  regardless of KPI's. Then reverse engineer a few KPI's.

2.)    Find Collaborators in Need.

Whether a startup with an amazing new product, or a stayed brand pivoting or launching a new service, everyone is looking for low-to-no cost and creative solutions to get their products out into the market place.  By creating mutually beneficial collaborations, both parties are inclined to put their best foot forward to spread the word, reach the audiences they've identified, and create a note-worthy moment. Consider a short-term creative opportunity (like Fall 2016, or SXSW, or Comic Con, etc.) with an eye for long term 365-implications (see New Balance x Marriott). Meet with companies regularly to get first looks at new developments. Meanwhile, there are corners of culture that are emerging and could use a good lift, and why not be the brand to bring a unique collaborative experience to your consumers.

3.)    Leverage Creative Thinking.

This is the unifier of all the points mentioned here. It's hard to do business as usual and not simply become another raindrop in the ocean.  Creativity comes from combined diverse perspectives (people) and solving problems from multiple vantage points.

4.)    Consider Constraint an Advantage.

Most times, the constraint actually leads to the innovation.  The desire/need to create a shortcut in terms of lead time, finances, or talent, becomes the key driver for creative thinking.  Without millions of dollars and years of development time, you MUST be creative in order to achieve success.  This theory has been applied in everything from marketing moments to building cities.  Click here for my recent interview on the subject. 

5.)    Combine Multiple KPI's.

A smart marketer will ensure that no matter how other-worldly creative they get, that there should always be a safety net to ensure success. Here are some-- although not all-- things to keep in mind. 

  • Press:  Is it PR worthy? Will we be able to set a new standard in our industr(ies)... retail, sports, finance, CPG, social good?
  • Earned Social:  Will people organically share it via social media?  If so, how do we make it as easy as possible? Why would they even want to share it?
  • ·Sales:  How do we include the sales funnel in the experience -- get butts in seats, drive tune-in, buy the album, get the tickets, buy the shoes.  
  • Brand Equity:  Will people just find what you're doing cool. Building affinity is sometimes a longer lead time than sales or hitting a particular season/moment.  But after a few times of would-be consumers finding you cool or meaningful, you've got customer for life. 

Add your own! The more you ask yourself about how to check as many boxes possible, the more safety nets you have in the ideas' success.

6.)    Be Second, But Be Better.

As much as we celebrate first-evers in market, there is much to be said about observing, then reacting. Since the Tupac Hologram at Coachella, A LOT of hologram experiences have popped up in market. Some cheaper, better, and more exciting than others.  When Periscope launched, some jumped right in while others watched and came back with even more creative uses of the platform.  Similarly with virtual reality, mobile advertising, digital billboards, and others.   

The moral of the story here is to always keep an open mind, dream big, tell your limitations to mind their own business, and always look for the creative solution to any hurdle you see coming your way.