Embracing Constraint: What brands can learn from The Beatles

The Beatles collage of album covers, brand constraint.

The more I see, the less I know

The Beatles.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you can’t help but be fascinated by their enduring success and ahead-of-its-time creativity. Things most brands of today strive for, but rarely achieve.

But what’s at the heart of this impressive legacy?

Is there something, other than undeniable exceptional talent, that contributed to their success?

I think there could be.

I’d even go as far as saying it could be something brands of today could borrow, learn, and prosper from.

That something is constraint.

Not a word you hear every day in the music industry, but something The Beatles knew a lot about.

In 1966, just 6 years after forming and at the height of their success, they stopped touring.

That year, a world tour bought home that live performing wasn’t sustainable for them, so they chose to constrain themselves to the studio.

And this was one of the best things they ever did.


Because it enabled them to focus. Focus clearly and deeply on what they did well, without the distractions of touring and everything that bought with it.

It was a brave move, but it paid dividends. The work that followed flowed beyond music into multi-media and set a new standard in expertise and innovation.

Sure, technological advances undeniably helped the process. But unless quality is fed in, the best technology in the world is meaningless and ineffectual.

So, this got me thinking…

Can brands of today learn from this? I’d say the answer is a big, fat yes.

In desperation for more – be it growth, profits, standout, customers, reach – brands often diversify away from what they do well. They go on tour, if you like.

It can work – if the depth and focus that made the brand a success in the first place isn’t lost or eroded.

If it is, the bravest thing they can do is ‘return to the studio’, reflect and reset then move forward doing what they do best.

And it’s no different on a micro-level too. Think about the creative campaign brief.

A brief without constraints is initially a creative joy – but it doesn’t always produce the best, most effective work. It doesn’t foster resourcefulness or force us to dig deeper for solutions.

Lack of constraint allows us to go wide (and wild), sometimes too wide and too easy to lose focus.

And before you know it, the message can be diluted, the connection can feel impersonal, and impact can be weakened. And in todays attention-deficit and cognitive overloaded environment, it gets lost.

So, I say let’s embrace constraint.

In your next brief, remove ambiguity. Reduce budget. Make the world smaller. Tell us where we can’t go, or what we can’t do.

Let’s force ourselves to think deeper not wider and see what happens!


Tomorrow, we’re hosting a one-off event, The Beatles: An Untold Story of Album Design.

It’s sold out, but you can still book a complimentary ticket and we’ll let you know if a last minute space becomes available.

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