The hidden potential in secondary media

The Loi Evin is a law passed in France in the mid-1980s, restricting the nature and channels of alcohol advertising. Advertising for any kind of alcohol was no longer permitted on television or cinema, and where used in static media like print or posters, it could be used only under very restricted terms: all they could show other than the brand name was a bottle, a glass, ways of serving the drink, and the means of distribution. Anything else, including the use of people, was forbidden.

In France, at the time, Heineken was a distant challenger to the market leader, Kronenbourg, which was roughly ten times its size, although Heineken commanded a 30 percent price premium over its rival. Not content with the status quo, the French marketing team developed a twofold strategy to grow.

While apparently neutered in advertising, and with the most effective media lost to it, the Heineken team and their agency nevertheless found a witty way to use a corkscrew with two outstretched arms to playfully convey the spirit of beer refreshment in the static media that were still open to them. 

The creative constraints around how they could advertise precipitated a more memorable idea than the one that preceded it before the law was passed. But perhaps the most interesting effect of the advertising restriction was the effect on their structural packaging—an area in which they had, like most beer brands with advertising, previously been relatively sleepy.

Heineken France began by rethinking the way they segmented their beer range, and offering a range of beer bottle sizes and shapes much more carefully tailored to each type of beer occasion. Beyond occasion - specific sizing and long-necked bottles, they then moved to use the physical pack as a primary canvas for news and creativity.

The non-reclosable aluminium beer bottle designed by Ora Ito took a familiar pack size and product and gave it an entirely new kind of desirability. Every two years, new editions of the bottle were accompanied by a stylish, limited-edition aluminium bottle that was sold only in the high-end city outlets. They took a mainstream premium beer, if you like, and gave it the codes of an upmarket spirit brand like Absolut.


Since the Loi Evin was passed, Heineken has grown 600 percent in a finite French market, deposing Kronenbourg as market leader in both volume and value by 2013, while maintaining its profitable 30 percent premium.

Kronenbourg was subject to the same communication constraints as Heineken, over the same period of time, so clearly not everyone saw the opportunity in the constraint. Perhaps the market leader simply lacked the mindset and motivation to find the new kind of solution so powerfully developed by its challenger Heineken. It found itself guillotined as a consequence.

Brands with a significant marketing budget focus their creativity within the frameworks of the usual channels. A brand unable to afford or use those channels still needs to be fresh and innovative, so their creativity is forced to find a different medium. 

Structural packaging, an annual report, the in-flight safety video—the constraint pushes them to unlock potential in assets which, for the resource-cursed, remain overlooked dullards of necessity and hygiene.

This article is an excerpt taken from 'A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform your Limitations into Advantages' written by Adam Morgan & Mark Barden.

A Beautiful Constraint calls for constraint–driven problem–solving to become a much more widespread capability and offers an original framework to achieve that.