3 lessons your business can learn from the World Cup: And no, it’s not just about teamwork…

Designer and apprentice, Connor Pink, explains how you can take lessons from the World Cup and turn them into business advantages…

Expectations vs Reality

One of the biggest talking points in the World Cup 2018 is the guild between expectations put on teams and the reality of their performances. Two of the most notable examples of this so far are Germany and Argentina. Both were, in many people books, favourites to win the tournament. After all, Germany were the holders and had a strong squad while Argentina have the attacking brilliance of Messi, Aguero, Dybala and many more. But both struggled in the group stage and Germany are out. Argentina had to pull it out of the bag in the final game, with rumours that their coach is bound to be sacked after the competition.

A Section of Argentina’s World Cup 2018 squad

Section of Argentina’s squad

Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Mats Hummels in Germany’s World Cup 2018 home kit

Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Mats Hummels in Germany’s home kit

Now you may be thinking, what does this have to do with my business? Good question! In any business — including our own —you can’t set your expectations too high without setting yourself up to fail like Germany this year or England’s so-called ‘golden generation’ in past World Cups.


On the other hand, you don’t want to set your too low or other people involved — especially clients — will think you don’t believe in yourself. Not only that but you may lose potential investors as they may think there isn’t a good enough chance of a return or prospects who may be hesitant signing a contract with you. Additionally, there isn’t much satisfaction in achieving goals that aren’t realistic.


At The Means, we have had this satisfaction of setting goals and beating them, one of which is securing clients we can be proud to work with. We set a goal for new clients that we wanted in a particular time frame and we managed to beat it. Personally, I have set goals for my apprenticeship, for example, wanting a particular score in an exam or learning a new skill. Yes, I haven’t always hit them but it’s been really satisfying when I have.

Making the most of teamwork

Another major lesson that can be taken from the World Cup 2018 is the use of teamwork to achieve or even over-achieve. Two of the biggest examples in this tournament alone have been the host nation Russia and the previous winners Germany, Russia for all the right reasons and Germany for all the wrong ones.


Russia have surprised many people around the world, coming into the tournament as one of the lowest ranked teams competing. They managed to beat Saudi Arabia 5-0 and continued in good form through the group only losing to Uruguay. They used their teamwork to overcome the skill of one man particular— Mo Salah— who Egypt had hoped would pull their team through. The problem was he wasn’t fit for the first game and went missing in the second. The rest of the team just weren’t working well enough together to overcome their opponents.


Russia’s line-up in a recent friendly before World Cup 2018

Russia’s line-up in a recent friendly

Mo Salah celebrating a goal

Mo Salah, the main man for Egypt

Germany’s match against Mexico highlighted two vastly different approaches. Germany thought they were in control, but were just a bunch of individuals trying to attack whenever they could. Mexico worked as a team, soaked up pressure, counterattacked and exploited the spaces Germany left.

Mexico’s line-up in a recent World Cup 2018 game

Mexico’s line-up in a recent World Cup game

Some Germany players gathering for a free kick

Germany didn’t play like a team during Russia 2018

Utilising teamwork to achieve more than you thought was possible applies to any successful business out there. For us, when someone is struggling to come up with a creative idea for a project, we work as a team to create a solution — through brainstorming — or simply provide support with a break or a cup of tea. We’ve also learned new strategies to cope with stress thanks to our clients at The Walnut Tree Health and Wellbeing, which we’ll cover in an upcoming blog.


The final point is the benefit of training: Every footballer does it but even in business it’s important not to see training as something you do for the sake of it. You have to determine what kind of training will be most effective.


Like a football team, you need to organise a range of training exercises: Ones that reinforce your strengths, ones that improve your strengths and ones that reduce your weaknesses. A good football example is set pieces: If your opponent has a short team and you have some decent height then you should put extra training into this area, as it could be a really good method to scoring. But that can’t come at the expense of continuing to train around formation, your plans for attacking, defensive structure and other aspects like fitness.


The same can be said about business: Improve on what you’re good at but don’t neglect other people’s weaknesses. For example, we produce a lot of blogging content for clients but realise that our experience in journalism and video production can give us an advantage over agencies that just have content writers. We’ll also work with freelancers in area’s where our team can be strengthened.


Training is especially important to The Means when it comes to my apprenticeship. I am learning skills in areas that I would have previously considered weaknesses and improving every day.


And while The Means is more like Iceland or Nigeria than Brazil or Spain right now, we take this lesson from tournaments like the World Cup: A small team that works together, focuses on improving its skills and understands its opponents can score a surprising amount of goals.


If you’ve got a project that you want to get over the line or goals that remain unscored, contact us today for a free, no obligation chat about how we can help — hello@themeans.rocks

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.


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.

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…


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 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 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.


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.

Afraid your product is boring? It’s not and a good blog can help you prove that…

SaaS companies can struggle with communicating in an entertaining and informative way about their products. Rosanna Elliott explains why well written blog posts are an invaluable resource when looking to expand your reach and increase leads…

woman pretending to fall asleep

She probably went to drama school for this

We’ve worked with SaaS companies and we get it, sometimes you’re extremely proud of your product but it’s difficult to make it seem interesting to the uninitiated.

It’s not that your product is actually boring. It’s probably awesome, but SaaS products can struggle to speak for themselves.

A company blog is a great way to articulate your vision and the benefits of the product, getting people as excited about it as you are.

It can’t be any old blog though so here are a few pointers you need to bear in mind if your efforts are going to make a positive impact on your reach:

Here’s 3 ways to make sure your blog does the job:

1. Write about things people actually want to read about

So you’re blogging to extol the virtues of your product. That means every blog post you write should be hyper-focused on the intimate technical detail of your software, right?

Wrong. There’s a better model than going in with specificity and potentially alienating your audiences. If you pitch your posts to a wider crowd by starting off with a concept that strikes a chord, is relevant to current events, or otherwise piques interest you can bring in the details of your product effectively.

It’s not a trick to capture an unwilling audience, it’s a way to help your readers realize the wider relevance and benefits of your solution without a hard sell.

2. Ensure the tone is accessible

lecturer in front of blackboard

A blog post shouldn’t feel like a lecture

A blog post is not a academic paper or a technical manual. The tone should reflect this. I’m not saying that everything you write has to be trendy, dynamic, and wryly funny, but you should at least write in a clear, punchy, and engaging style.

You’ll lose a lot of readers off the bat if you fail to make your writing understandable and digestible.

Along these lines, don’t be afraid of writing about what might seem obvious to you as a SaaS expert.

You aren’t writing for the inner circle usually, in fact it’s often the case that your product users see value in your software and sell it to executives and budgetholders.

Make sure you format your blog posts in a readable way. No one likes to trawl through reams of unbroken text with no salient subheadings or illustrative images.

3. Post regularly

person looking at wrist watch

Anyone else still struggle to tell the time without the numbers?

Once your blog has a readership you don’t want to lose it by only posting sporadically. To make a significant impact, you need to be posting about 3–4 times a month; roughly once a week.

You might struggle to come up with new ideas at first, but once you get into the swing of things you’ll realize there’s always a jumping off point in tech news, current events, or product updates.

It’s simple, posting regularly makes sure that your audience stays engaged with your brand. The more write, the better (making sure you’re quality is consistent, of course). If you write it, they will come.

If you’re looking for people to really deliver on what a competent blog programme can promise, then get in touch at hello@themeans.rocks. We can help.

Growth hacking? We do it but we don’t call it that — here’s why

The Means Co-Founder and CEO, Mic Wright, takes a look at one of the most annoying buzz phrases in marketing and explains why you should be using all the tools available to you without talking like a tool at the same time…

three shovels digging soil

Growth hacking. Ninja. CEO mindset. Startup grind. The hustle — that thing you can’t knock, because Jay-Z said so. There’s a huge issue in startup culture — we don’t use the s-word to describe ourselves by the way — with terms invented to make basic things that every business should do sound cool.

The one I want to hack apart today is ‘growth hacking’. It’s become a really popular term over the past 10 years or so but it’s really just a clumsy re-badging of some evergreen concepts, painted over with a patina of guff about how ‘the internet has changed everything, my dudes.’ Well, it has but basic human desires remain pretty constant — food, drink, sex, companionship, status, money.

Here’s what extremely reliable internet encyclopaedia and home of irrational pedants, Wikipedia, has to say about ‘growth hacking’:

“Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels, product development, sales segments, and other areas of the business to identify the most efficient ways to grow a business. Growth hackers are marketers, engineers and product managers that specifically focus on building and engaging the user base of a business.[1] Growth hackers often focus on low-cost alternatives to traditional marketing, e.g. using social media, viral marketing or targeted advertising…”

Okay, look, I know you want to seem special and cool but every smart person trying to increase leads, sales or attention for a business uses these techniques now. Harnessing them doesn’t make you a ninja or a growth hacker, it puts you right in the centre of how business works.

ninja clip art

That sword looks like it could hack growth for days

Huge advertising businesses like WPP use all those tools. Just because you — like us — are working out of a small office or from a few desks in a shared space doesn’t make these techniques super-punk somehow.

We work with clients every day to harness limited resources and use them to increase sales, reach and leads. That’s fundamental to what we do. But is it ‘growth hacking’? No. Because we care about words and the way people use them. Hacking is a term that has a rich entomology.

Being a hacker involves something more than using tools to a high level or exploiting the underlying structures of systems. Applying the techniques of viral marketing is not ‘hacking’. It is just working within the limits of the system. Growth hacking is not hacking in any meaningful sense and most people who purport to do it will charge you a lot for doing very little.

hooded figure

If this is you thinking about marketing, then you’re probably doing it wrong

We call ourselves a creative agency rather than growth hackers or a marketing agency or any number of other labels for a specific reason.

I came up with the kernel of the idea for The Means because I believe our team is fundamentally creative and that’s how we solve problems for our clients — with creativity. It is not about unlocking some Konami Code for marketing, product development or producing words, pictures and video. No. It’s about being creative. And, honestly, you cannot hack that.

Do you have a problem that seems intractable? A business challenge that is breaking your brain? Contact us today and find out how we can help: @readthemeans on Twitter | hello@themeans.rockshttps://themeans.rocks

Content isn’t king, it’s a peasant: Why the c-word is a terrible label for creative work

There’s a lot of nonsense words thrown around in marketing. Rosanna Elliott argues that the term content falls into that category…

Bunch of content right here. Turnipy content.

Content. It’s everywhere. But here at The Means, we aren’t content to call our work content (yep someone actually paid me to write that). I know, I know, it seems like I take issue with everything these days, what with my very recent post on why we don’t like the s-word, but consider this:

  1. I definitely do, but that’s okay because pedantry is fun
  2. There is actually a really compelling case for scrutinising the way we’re using language

So content is clearly in our bad books. The question is why? I’ll answer that question with a question: ‘What is content?’

I’ll give you a picture break to let you think about it.

A visual representation of how I must sound so far

Ok, times up. What is content? If you said either:

A.) the things that are held or included in something

B.) the material dealt with in a speech, literary work, etc. as distinct from its form or style


C.) information made available by a website or other electronic medium

Then congratulations, you’re a pro at googling the definitions of words. Sidenote: If you said that content is a warm fuzzy feeling, then….alright good one. Most importantly though hopefully you’ve noticed something.

That thing is that the word content is vague, impersonal, and indistinct.

 We don’t produce content like some sort of monstrous automated and soulless machine.

Would you want this thing writing your blog posts?

What we actually do is write articles, novels and poetry, devise and produce videos, plan events, design images, create marketing campaigns, and much more.

We put a lot into the things we create, and it’s sort of disheartening for the work we make to end up as this amorphous and throw away beast that is “content”. It’s like saying Mozart made noise.

When you come to us looking for material that will improve your brand communication, we won’t give you the sloppy promise of “content”, we’ll give you precisely what you want. Whether that’s a comprehensive social media programme, a series of blog posts, or a dynamic event.

If you have the project, we have the means to deliver it. We guarantee you’ll be content with the results. Get in touch at hello@themeans.rocks and tell us exactly what you want.

The man don’t give a Zuck: Why Facebook’s crisis PR is absolute 💩

In the heart of a scandal that cuts to the very heart of what Facebook does and means in the world, the company is absolutely failing to respond effectively. Mic Wright, co-founder and CEO of the Means Agency, looks at why and what you should do…

Facebook should be used to bad press. The company was formed out of a spiral of negativity at Harvard after Mark Zuckerberg stole pictures that didn’t belong to him to create Facemash, a way of rating fellow students’ attractiveness.

There’s a lot of (Facebook) blue water between that incarnation of Zuck and today’s pseudo-statesman who spent last year on what looked to almost everyone like an exploratory tour of the US states ahead of some future run for the Presidency.

But if Zuck 2024 is ever going to come to pass, the Facebook founder and the many tentacled social media monster that he leads will need to seriously improve their crisis PR.

Right now, a coalition of The Guardian, Channel 4 News and the New York Times is busting open the way Cambridge Analytica weaponised Facebook data for Steve Bannon and, ultimately, the Trump campaign. And Facebook are…

…absolutely screwing up. When Facebook were called to testify before Congress about the election and Russian ad spending, Zuckerberg himself did not appear, sending top lieutenants instead. Now, with the Cambridge Analytica scandal is bubbling over and he’s been silent.

Some Facebook execs have made statements… on Twitter, which have subsequently been deleted. Facebook itself threatened The Guardian with legal action before its story was published and have also tried to pressure Channel 4.

Zuckerberg has yet to publish one of his now infamous personal Facebook posts about the issue, despite committing himself to fixing the company this year (as if that wasn’t already his responsibility as the CEO of a public company). And the whistleblower behind the story? His Facebook and Instagram accounts have been suspended. Nice work, Facebook.

For a company as large and influential as Facebook to be so cack-handed about public relations and handling reputational crises is shocking. This is the product of an arrogant culture, one where Facebook believes it is doing good in the world and those who disagree are simply misguided or worse enemies to be repelled and destroyed.

In a crisis, your company needs to be:

  • As transparent as legally possible
  • Consistent in your communications across channels
  • Willing to put up senior executives who are solid media performers
  • Ready to show how you will prevent a repeat of the bad behaviour / failure / problem that is at the heart of the scandal.

You cannot go to ground. You cannot be aggressive and overly defensive. Optics matter. Attacking whistleblowers or claiming, as Facebook has, that something is not a breach because you want to argue about semantics is an extremely bad idea.

Most storms can be weathered in business but deception and dissembling almost always result in legal, business and reputational consequences.

Hey, Zuck! We’d happily give you some advice… for a small fee. For anyone looking for an agency that can help with media, creative and product development projects, we’re worth a look. If you’ve got the problem, we have the means to fix it.

Drop us a line at hello@themeans.rocks

I use the NME: Reflections of a teenage music mag obsessive on the NME’s dreaded demise

The NME finally got the bullet that has been in the chamber for years. Digital expansion? It’s online irrelevance for a brand that still meant a lot of former teenage music mag obsessive (and CEO of The Means), Mic Wright. Here he explains why…

I was an odd kid. I’m an odd adult. These things tend to follow on like that. And one of my oddities was a desire to buy copies old music magazines. I had stacks of Sounds – dead before I had my musical awakening – and Melody Maker from the late-70s through to when it closed, I had NME from its various golden eras and I was a voracious reader of the then-living Select magazine. I bought the weird new titles and the obscure mags about music that I wasn’t even sure I’d like.

Eventually, in my third job, I became Front Section Editor at Q Magazine. I lasted 9 months as a full-time music journalist, broken by repeated redesigns and an office that was in free fall. But the brief period I had allowed me to commission names that had been legends to me in print – Sylvia Paterson, Johnny ‘Johnny Cigarettes’ Sharp, David Quantick, Mat Snow… the list could be very long.

I was sometimes more excited about meeting these writers than I was the stars we were writing about. I loved the music press that had been in its pomp when I was too young to realise.

Yeah, I got into Nirvana when I was still a pre-teen, just before Kurt killed himself but I couldn’t be a real fan. I bought Colombia on vinyl from Norwich HMV but wasn’t old enough to see Oasis live, let alone hitchhike to Knebworth a few years later. I loved the Shine compilations that were cheap and accessible, colliding all the Britpop bands together. I obsessed over Wake up, Boo! and now I’m friends with Martin Carr on Twitter as if that’s somehow a normal thing.

Why all this odd and scattershot nostalgia splurge?

Because they shot and killed NME today.

Yeah, they talk about digital expansion but the death of the print version is the death of a dozen eras of music journalism.

They gutted it first of course. They fucked that horse until it could no longer stand let alone neigh.

By the end, the NME was a skeleton. A brand extension. A place to extol the rock and roll benefits of certain hair care brands.

I knew NME, sir and you are no NME.

So raise a glass to the ghost of the British music press. And buy a copy of Q sometime, because its one of the last mainstream spots for interesting writing, led by an NME veteran who still gives a shit.

Beyond that, hunt out the small music magazines still wedded to print and actually obsessing over great songs.

And visit Drowned In Sound and The Quietus and MusicOMH and a tonne of other websites that have the passion to keep going but need the traffic and support to pay their way.

I won’t mourn NME today. I’ll feel sorry for the freelancers who have been fucked over and the staff who saw the ship sank. But NME’s pulse grew almost imperceptibly faint more than a decade ago.

Want to be more creative with brand than NME’s owners were? Talk to us – if you have the project, we have the means to help you. Hello@themeans.rocks@ReadTheMeans

Urinals and user experience: What toilets teach you about UX, UI and bad design

Design isn’t a piece of piss and looking at what goes wrong with toilet facilities is a good way of changing your thinking about UI and UX. Mic Wright, Co-Founder and CEO of The Means, explains how…

The inspiration for this piece was simple:

In the toilets on the ground floor of the Topman/Topshop store in Oxford Street, one of the biggest retail spaces in the UK, there are two urinals. These urinals are so close together that only one can be used at any one time. ‘So what?’, you’ll probably say. But there’s some interesting issues in this one design decision.

The too-closely arranged urinals have clearly been placed to fulfil the minimum possible criteria but that doesn’t work.

Men try to avoid standing directly next to someone when they are at a urinal. Also, men with physically larger frames simple couldn’t use these urinals – its a literal impossibility.

So, the one cubicle in the toilets becomes a de-facto urinal.

This situation is not an issue when the toilets are not busy but when they are, there are larger queues because of the lack of facilities, distorted usage patterns and poor layout – the urinals are also jammed between the cubicle wall and where the door swings inwards.

The design lesson here? Working to what you consider to be the minimum acceptable tolerances will lead to a poor and partial user experience.

The shittest thing about most public toilets isn’t shit

This situation – toilet facilities designed in clumsy and extremely half-hearted ways – is extremely common. It’s partially a product of architects treating toilets as an annoying requirement that must be filled rather than an opportunity to improve the experience for people using their buildings.

Public toilets have become very scarce in the United Kingdom for various reasons, from the decline of public spaces – stolen by corporate interests – to council cuts to government failure to address problem drug and alcohol use. That state of affairs means toilets in commercial premises are more used and more under pressure than they were in the past.

That means the user experience requirements placed upon toilet facilities have changed.

Another issue is that architects and building planners work on the assumption that footprint can be reduced by cutting the number of cubicles in toilet facilities for male-identified people. But that’s a mistake because it ignores the use cases of trans people, disabled people and people with medical conditions that mean they require a cubicle.

That’s the last design lesson in this post: Design to fulfil the actual use cases people have rather than what you assume they will be.

Don’t think I was taking the piss with this post. The Means is a creative agency and we are flush with ideas for improving product design and communicating better with clients. If you’d like to talk to us about a project, tweet us @ReadTheMeans or email hello@themeans.rocks. We’d be delighted to chat to you.