2009 has been a tough year for everyone.

Many of us have had our best laid plans derailed because of the downturn in the economy.

Job losses, delayed retirements, budgets and staff cuts, etc.

Everyone is being asked to do more with less.

At Virgin, this is the norm for us. But honestly, I think it’s what keeps us on our toes.

Our staffs are forced to be more clever, leverage stronger partnerships and get the most out of every event or promotion.

We can’t sit back fat and lazy on big media budgets.

But even though this “challenger mentality” has been the norm for the brand since it was founded in the 70’s…2009 has been amplified.

Nevertheless, I do believe there is a silver lining to the constraints we all face.

When I am in a situation where my plan A (and sometimes even my Plan B) get tossed out the window…I almost always find myself thinking of Steven Spielberg.

WTF? Steven Spielberg?

To this day, the one movie that scares me more than any other I have ever seen is Jaws.

The underwater shots of the dangling legs of unsuspecting swimmers, the music -“dunton, dunton, dunton”, the subtle disruption of the water’s calm surface as the Great White surreptitiously slithers by. All this creates a tension I can barely tolerate.

Cinematic brilliance orchestrated perfectly from script to final cut. Right?
Well actually…no.

I read somewhere that there were serious mechanical issues with the shark.

Steven Spielberg had actually planned to show him full on in many more scenes. But the model wasn’t functioning properly. And he had to devise a plan to create the suspense and fear using other methods and other camera angles – and a lot less actual shark.

In the end, I think it’s a much better movie than it might have been if the mechanical shark had been functioning properly. It’s so much scarier than other disaster movies where very little is left up to the imagination.

I love this story.

It shows the power of taking an obstacle (in this case a malfunctioning -and no doubt very expensive -mechanical shark) and turning it into an opportunity for even greater creativity and impact.

It reminds me that when everything appears to be going wrong, maybe it’s time to look at the situation differently and find the “divine” in the “disaster”.

In my life as well, I see all around me people turning lemons into lemonade.

Delayed launches that actually turn out to be better timing.

Careers changes from a hated job as a banker to new found passion as a novelist.

Or leaving a comfy corporate job to become their own boss.

Some things that may never have been ventured if the recession hadn’t provided the nudge.

I’m sure you’ve got some similar stories to share.

So, next time something goes awry in your brand or personal plans, instead of giving up – try channeling your inner Spielberg and you might just turn a mistake into a masterpiece.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

What disasters have you been able to turn into opportunities?

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Julie is the Founder and CEO of BrandTwist, a brand consultancy that helps entrepreneurs and corporations build stronger, more profitable brands.


  1. Great reference. This economic hiccup will turn out to be one of the most creative periods of our lives and everyone should be looking forward to the show! I’m taking this opportunity to learn of other creatives and its nice having the time to meet new people. Some great collaborations are being made right now. Have a great day.

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