Want to hire a creativity agency? Pick one that also has passion projects…

Rosanna Elliott explains how making our own creative endeavours helps us deliver better ideas to our clients.

creative ideas marketing

We aren’t allowed to draw on our office walls, but if we were…

The Means Agency was founded to do creative work. We know that commercial contracts will always be the bread and butter of our business, but we also love building our own things too.

Rather than being entirely separate things, we find that the commercial and the self-generate work feed into each other. Our efforts in one area help us perform even better in the other. Here’s how:

They generate transferable energy and skills

creative ideas transferable skills

When was the last time you thought of an old timey lightbulb?

Our self-generated projects and the ideas we make a reality for commercial clients have a lot in common. While the latter requires us to deliver to a brief and the clients’s vision, the benefit of working with us is our creativity. Our clients come to us for imaginative ideas executed dynamically.

Take blog posts for example: Our background in writing scripts for theatre, film projects and TV pilots allows us to write in a wide-range of registers. The voice we write in for our clients is theirs, not ours. But we are able to use analogies, humour and design in a way that best presents their products, thinking and charm.

In turn, the habits that client work hones and refines – such as professional discipline, detailed planning, and project focus – are invaluable to ensuring that our self-generated projects move from ideas to reality.

It’s all too easy to get carried away with a personally exciting creative project and overlook the practicalities of completing it effectively. That becomes much less of a danger when you take a business-minded approach. We temper creative ambitions with an awareness of commercial and logistical realities.

Self-generated funding

funding creative commercial

Those are old pound coins. We don’t want those.

 

Usually with a self-generated project — whether it’s staging a play, publishing a poetry book, or putting on an arts event — you need to invest more than time. You need cash. The question is where does that money come from?

At The Means, a proportion of the revenue drawn from our commercial projects flows into our self-generated output, whether that’s our forthcoming Coffee House Theatre project or upcoming publications.

This model means that our own creative projects are owned entirely by us and our partners.

Financially sustainable creative freedom is an ideal situation for any creator, and it’s our goal to expand and enhance that idea as we grow.

If you’d like us to apply our creative minds to your company’s toughest challenges, get in touch at hello@themeans.rocks. You can also follow us on twitter @readthemeans.

Get a grip: what climbing (and an unexpected marriage proposal) can teach you about great marketing

Bouldering. It’s indoor climbing with crash mats but without a harness. Sounds tough, right? Well so is creating great campaigns. Here’s how not to fall flat on your face, according to CMO, Emily Jarvis.

woman climbing

My Twitter followers know all too well that I’ve been bouldering (or, climbing) for two years. You’ll see me making my ascent at Highball most weekends. Around the same time, my professional career moved from publishing into marketing.

Turns out, this was no coincidence.

The two have a lot more in common than you think.

Here’s five ways to find your balance and deal with the daily grind of creative challenges coming your way — with added climbing-based puns and slang thrown-in.

1. Offering marketing advice is no different to giving Beta to strangers

Beta: Beta means information about a climb. In rock climbing this may include a climb’s difficulty, crux, style, length, quality of rock, ease to protect, required equipment, and specific information about hand or foot holds.

man climbing boulder

You want people to read your stuff, right?

Half right. You want people to read your stuff and engage with your brand.

It doesn’t matter how many people help you to hone your writing technique or strategy along the way. It’s about results.

The Means Agency helps you to get these results. We want to see you do well (and we hope you also want to see us do well in return).

Whether it’s just advice on a piece of content or an existing strategy, I am a big fan of taking out the red pen and talking through the ways to get even better results.  

I call it Emily’s “Consultancy Beta”.

2. Follow your route to the finish

indoor bouldering

Creating a marketing strategy that goes off without a hitch doesn’t exist. Your market is super competitive, there’s assorted challenges and sometimes roadblocks in the way that you have to deal with before you reach your goal. And that’s before you’ve taken into account the key performance indicators (KPIs) and stakeholder targets you have to meet.

The route to the top can be full of micro-challenges that take additional time and learning to complete. Keep a grip on the task at hand and stay focused.

Once you match both hands on that final hold all of this only makes the mental reward of completing such a feat much greater.

3. Strength doesn’t always prevail over technique

…The same applies to your marketing strategy. Your own tenacity doesn’t prevail over experience.

The more times you complete point #2, the more you learn from your mistakes. You identify the parts of your campaign that worked and those that needed improving. You analyse the numbers and you identify ways to improve next time.

It’s a continuous cycle where you learn from your experience. But you also get a little stronger each time.

You can use this to get more ambitious, more daring with your ideas and push the limits of your skills that little bit closer to the danger zone.

via GIPHY

I once saw an avid gym-goer on his first climbing session. Much to his frustration, his muscular physique held him back. He underestimated the amount of technique required to climb. You can’t go in guns blazing and expect to succeed.

So practice, learn and apply.

4. Reaching for the goal early means you can miss important details

Being taller doesn’t necessarily make you better at climbing. It makes you lazy. You skip entire steps of your strategy.  It also uses more of your strength and leaves you less prepared for the next climb. We like to call this “the accordion approach”, as illustrated by my friend below:

Climbing a boulder

The marketing moral? These footholds are there to help your campaign succeed. You could be missing important details that make your campaign more accessible for your audience. Like only advertising your business on Twitter because it’s easier than LinkedIn. You could be cutting corners — if your audience is more engaged on LinkedIn, that’s where you should be.

I refer you back to point #3: Practice your technique, learn and apply the strength in the right places.

5. You will fall more than once, but there will be rewards

So your budget gets cut, or you lose a marketing colleague. That marketing campaign isn’t going anywhere though. This is your comeback, a chance to re-evaluate your strategy and decide on the most exciting ways to deliver it.

Even with all the planning in the world, you could still fall flat on your face. It’s how you pick yourself up that matters.

In the constant battle to achieve your targets, don’t forget to reward yourself and your team for the little things. You still carried out a campaign as a team, and that’s worth celebrating. The announcer from the MoneySupermarket ads would call it a: “workplace win”.

sprained ankle

I sprained my ankle last year while climbing and learned this the hard way. It’s the old “pick yourself back up and keep trying” routine. So I had to take an eight week break and motivate myself to pick the sport back up.

During that injury-enforced absence, something happened that I couldn’t have predicted. The personal climb of my relationship with my boyfriend reached a new height. He proposed. And I said, ‘Yes.’

Don’t get me wrong: I know the proposal is just the start of another climb, as anyone who has planned a wedding will tell you and marriage will be a whole new mountain to conquer. But I’m not climbing alone. And neither are you…

ring on finger

Want to Flash your marketing and get your Beta from The Means agency? We can help you get a foothold on your strategy and bump-up your campaigns. Have a look around our brand new website and drop us a line if you want to work with us hello@themeans.rocks.

Space pirates, Peter Thiel and Radio Free Mars: Future propaganda will be broadcast from private space stations

Mic Wright indulges in some speculative thinking to consider the consequences of private space companies on the way we will communicate in the very near future. Warning: It’s scary…

Space Pirates by Vaghauk on DeviantArt

Space Pirates by Vaghauk on DeviantArt

In 1964, Ronan O’Rahilly came up with a plan to get around the iron grip the record companies held over popular music broadcasting in the United Kingdom. He was going to become a pirate and his vessel was called Radio Caroline. For three years, it flouted the law of the UK and forced the establishment to found a radio station that would play the songs they had previously scorned. That station was born on 30 September 1967. It’s still with us – BBC Radio One.

That’s all history. The kind of cosy history that can be repackaged by Richard Curtis as a romcom – the not-so-great The Boat That Rocked. But the pirate spirit and the desire to slash the rule into pieces comes around over and over.

It was reborn again in the 80s in the thriving pirate ecosystem in London and other major cities in the UK. When you regulate media – which is inevitable – pirates always hove into view. And that’s the speculative story I want to tell you today. The story of the space pirates:

Let’s set up some conditions – billionaires are investing heavily in private space travel, the next step from private space ships is an expansion in the existing network of private satellites and, from there, a move towards private space stations and, eventually, private orbital platforms and, if terraforming comes to pass, private planets.

We won’t jump straight to the private planets today. We’ll just go as far as the private space ships heading towards the private orbital platforms. Where does the law of Earth end and the lawlessness of the void begin?

Existing international law on space covers things like collisions and who can own the moon (answer: nobody) but it doesn’t discuss what happens if a private individual creates an orbital platform. Right now, theoretically, a space station would be beyond the control of terrestrial authorities.

And that’s where the space pirates come in. How do terrestrial media regulators deal with broadcasts from beyond our atmosphere? What do you do when the next Infowars exists on a private orbital platform bankrolled by a billionaire like Peter Thiel? Can you stop that activity?

Well, maybe through sanctions on Earth but what happens when the billionaire in question decides to ditch Earth entirely? And protects their money though all kinds of blind trusts and holdings in cryptocurrencies that you’re already struggling to regulate.

Regulating what we see and hear will become ever more difficult. The descendants of Radio Caroline will be Radio Free Mars and shows broadcast from private orbital platforms that make Infowars look like the most balanced and reasonable journalism ever imagined.

The propaganda wars now will seem like brush fires compared to the raging inferno that’s coming.

Want to be better at communicating in the here and now? Hire The Means! We can help you with media training, comms campaigns and all sorts of other creative endeavours. Follow @ReadTheMeans on Twitter or email us – hello@themeans.rocks

Keep your eye on the ball: Why businesses need reinvestment and how Manchester United illustrate this perfectly

Connor Pink, Head of Design at The Means Agency, explains why no matter what size your company is, you need to constantly reinvest. Otherwise your business could suffer like Manchester United did…

Machester-United-crest-on-Manchester-United-Flag

Manchester United became the biggest club in England through reinvestment

To demonstrate my analogy, I’m going to use five key points in the last 20 years of Manchester United’s history to show how you can be one of the biggest companies in the world, and still suffer from a lack of investment.

Our story begins almost twenty years ago, in the summer of 1999. United were on a massive high, having just completed a famous treble — the Champions League, Premier league and the FA Cup. This was only a result of constant reinvestment, not only on a board/ownership level but also on a client level.

By this point the team had built up a massive fan following packing out an 55,000 thousand-seater stadium every week and using this money to develop a world famous academy and buy some of the best talents available. This created a well balanced squad with the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Peter schmeichel, David Beckham and Paul Scholes.

This shows not only a good level of reinvestment, but reinvestment in the right areas. It proved that it worked, and not only with the treble of 1999. United went on to win the title in 2000 and 2001.

Sir-Alex-Furgerson-Ole-gunnar-solskjaer-with-treble

Sir Alex Ferguson and Ole Gunnar Solskjær with the treble of 1999

In September 2003, however, things started to go wrong. When Avram Glazer bought a controlling stake in Manchester United, the club was then burdened with his personal debt. Although the consequences didn’t come straight away, the problems of reinvestment came to emerge later. This is something we would never let happen to The Means, as we will always invest back into the company whether this is on a board level or on a client level.

Every time we work with a client we take great pride in producing the best return on investment.

For Manchester United, the signs of a lack of reinvestment became evident in the summer of 2009. United played an impressive attack and counter attack, won the Premier league title for a record-equalling 18th time, and reached the Champions league final. Then they sold their best player, Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid for a record £80 million pounds.

This wasn’t necessarily a problem, as your top player could be replaced if you reinvest correctly. However United didn’t do this, they made 85 million in transfers but only spent 21 million. Not only did they not invest enough money but the players they brought in were also not high enough in quality to fill the void.

Here at The Means we’d never sacrifice quality to cut costs , you’ll always get quality for your money, and the right person working on your project.

Cristiano-Ronaldo-in-front-of-Real-Madrid-logo

Cristiano Ronaldo hadn’t even reached his peak when he left United for Real Madrid in 2009

In 2013, United’s squad was ageing and past their best. The lack of reinvestment meant that the squad wasn’t being refreshed and the academy was deteriorating.

The biggest sign of trouble was Paul Scholes having to come out of retirement to help keep everything together. Despite this working out, United had no future plan to cover for Sir Alex Ferguson retiring and to help refresh this ageing squad. The result was David Moyes being made the scapegoat for the lack investment after trying to complete mission impossible.

Fast-forward to the present day and things are looking good at United. Investment is starting to reappear and the squad is looking like it has the quality to win titles again. It took a lot to get there, like the investment in José Mourinho and a budget of 296 million to spend (which is a lot higher than the 56 million received on selling players).

All this was needed to bring in world class talents like Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku. Not only this, but Jose has kept the tradition of bringing through homegrown local academy players like Scott Mctominay and Angel Gomes. This is beneficial to any company.

Young people need an opportunity to grow and become the future but won’t do it without the leadership of an experienced head.

Alexis-Sanches-Romelu-Lukaku-Anthony-Martial-Paul-Pogba-in-Manchester-United-shirt

From left to right — Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba — Proof United are reinvesting again

This is something we pride ourselves on at The Means, having that perfect balance of youth and experience. We have me, the young apprentice that can also bring skills and experiences to the team — I’m The Means version of Marcus Rashford. Then we have Mic our CEO, and Emily our CMO to give us help whenever we need it and guide us to our full potential. They’re our Michael Carrick and José Mourinho.

Have a creative project and want some help reaching the goal? Shoot us a line on hello@themeans.rocksto find out how we can help you.