Is it us or has everything been really weird for, like, ages now? Our Crowd Signs trends film takes a look...

The latest short-but-sweet film from our Crowd Signs team is Mainstream Weird

Here we show how distinctions between the centre ground – so-called ‘mainstream culture’ – and the peripheries – ‘weird things’ – are being continually questioned. As a result, weirdness has reached a premium in the economy of culture. We’re seeing this in social media, fashion, TV and elsewhere. Stuff that once was simply too strange is finding wide appeal. People’s capacity for nonlinear thinking is expanding, as sheer weirdness becomes a mainstream means of carving out your identity online.

So why is this? 

Today’s digital world is one where subcultures are continually pushed to the foreground. Social media means that the most unconventional image or opinion moves quickly to the centre. This is part of a greater social movement which has seen visual culture become radically democratised. Everyday, from the comfort of your own home, you’re able to significantly disrupt traditional ideals of beauty, entertainment and opinion. This means that brands, especially the big ones, are often playing catch up.   

Today, weirdness goes mainstream so fast, it’s like it was never weird in the first place.

What’s next? 

Our time is marked by a blurring of traditional definitions across the cultural board. We predict that the distinction between ‘weird’ and ‘conventional’ will continue to dissolve. Trends spotters have long been obsessed with what’s ‘in’ and what’s ‘out’, what’s ‘dominant’ and what’s ’emergent’. This hierarchy is fast disappearing, and will soon be entirely displaced by a flattened multiplicity of choice.

And, at Crowd, we say amen to that. Power to the (weird) people.

City Limits, our editorial series exploring the ever-changing urban experience is back, and this time we’re venturing away from the ‘powerhouse’ cities...

Checkout the full pdf here.

In our first ever City Limits, in late 2018, the headline stat was one of phenomenal urban growth: 30 percent of the global population living in cities in 1950; 53 percent today; an estimated 66 percent by 2050. Then came the pandemic and an incredible shift to the narrative: suddenly cities were done-for, apparently surplus to human needs. 

We doubt that somehow. We’re as certain as can be that urban environments still hold many of the solutions we seek, still cultivate progressive thinking; and – as per our company maxim – still are where so many things become culturally-charged. Yet, as much as we do love the sheer clout of the heavyweight cities (we’ve chosen a few for our office locations, after all), we recognise that now, more than ever, small can be beautiful and the outer fringes can be stimulating.

Hence this issue is all about cities in terms beyond just scale, might and ‘powerhouse’ credentials. The smaller cities, where great ideas permeate through amicable communities and life becomes more liveable; the suburbs, where codes of social consciousness are now bubbling to the surface (thanks, Real Housewives Of Atlanta). We examine the diffusion of startup culture, share our love letters to small(ish) cities around the world and celebrate the challenger sounds of the tier twos. But we also ask, just how do you keep things weird when your once unchecked conurbation is routinely popping up in Monocle’s Small Cities lists?

Thanks, as ever, to the many amazing City Limits contributors – truly a team effort across all of our offices, and testament to how passionately and articulately we report on culture. Whether thinking big or small, centre or fringes, we cannot wait to get started on issue eight.

Andy Crysell, Crowd DNA founder.

We’re seeking a skilled strategic insights expert to join our London team on adventures at the intersection of brands and culture...

We’re seeking a skilled strategic insights expert to join our London business as an associate director. You’ll get to work on fabulously diverse and exciting projects as part of the Crowd DNA team dedicated to media, tech and finance clients.

The briefs we get are amazing – truly at the intersection of culture and brands. We want someone who can bring both provocative thinking and total diligence to this type of work, and who can call on circa six plus years of relevant experience. As importantly, we want someone who relates to our values and will treat those around them – team members, project partners, participants – kindly and fairly at all times.

The details

Here’s what we’re looking for:

Project Lead

– You need to have the confidence and necessary experience to take the controls of large and sometimes complex projects; to be an informed, energised and trusted advisor to our clients

– Demonstrable experience of working on multi-market projects is important, as is the ability to lead a team on them

– We’re looking for strong evidence of experience in areas such as brand positioning, proposition development, growth strategies, trends exploration and innovation/transformation projects

– A solid set of qualitative research skills (online and offline); also in areas such as desk research, interacting with experts and influencers, developing frameworks and personas, and using diverse data sources

– We’re looking for someone who can bring a real sense of craft to their work; from the outputs they produce and strategic recommendations they devise, to how they run workshops and articulate fresh ideas that have cultural-commercial relevance

– We want someone who’s enthusiastic about the idea of working alongside strategists, data analysts, trends specialists, writers, filmmakers and designers; collaborating both with those in our London team and in our overseas offices

Proposals, Team Management, Budgets & Wider Responsibilities

– Track record of writing high quality proposals and of project design – plus a clear interest in devising strategies for establishing and growing relations with clients

– Accurately updating Crowd DNA’s leadership team on project progress and on the development of those who report into you

– Solid understanding of costing projects, budget control, and effective collaboration with suppliers and project producers

– Responsible and empathetic line management of team members, both in the context of live projects and their broader development and wellbeing

– An active interest in furthering diversity, inclusion and equity in the workplace and through our work

Working at Crowd DNA

The role comes with a competitive salary of £48,000-£59,000, and clear paths to promotion and to new opportunities. Benefits include:

– Bonus and pension schemes

– Generous gender-neutral parental leave policy

– 10am-6pm hours (also flexi time, early finish Fridays in the summer, and 1⁄2 day for birthdays)

– Flexible WFH/WFO policy

– Paid sabbatical after five years; 30 days ‘work from anywhere’ scheme each year

– Company awards, days out, betterment scheme, drinks, lunches

– Training sessions and guest speakers

– Cycle to work scheme

– Westfield Health benefits programme

It’s an entrepreneurial and energised environment, fast paced and collaborative. If you fancy working in a place where setting the agenda for the future of cultural insights and strategy is coded into the way of working, please get in touch with our head of people, Alex Smith (HR@crowdDNA.com), providing a covering letter and CV in the first instance.

 

Crowd Signs: Radical Rest

Our latest Crowd Signs trends film takes in some radical rest...

Our Crowd Signs videos give us an opportunity to share concise takes on cultural change. In the latest, Radical Rest, we’ve noticed that whereas rest was once thought to be downtime, a chance to recharge between periods of work, work, work, recently the right to rest has become something that individuals are fighting for. A part of our lives we individually protect and actively nurture.

Rest has become something to militantly carve out, rather than squeeze in to a busy schedule.

Why is this?

More than anything, people are increasingly wary of the ‘always on’ lifestyles, where productivity is the only measure of a person’s worth. These are lifestyles where burnout and exhaustion are badges of being busy, and privilege. As a result, people are looking for actively unproductive ways to unwind, rising above the grind. 

In short – rest has become radical 

So What’s Next? 

We predict that our definitions of rest will become increasingly active, not passive. As individuals indulge in a more radicalised version of downtime, the highest quality rest will be seen as a right, rather than a luxury. Its practice is considered a key ingredient to a fulfilling life. 

Check the vid – while we take a quick nap. 

 

 

A fantastic opportunity to take charge of Crowd DNA's editorial output...

Reflecting our place at the intersection of culture and brands, Crowd DNA has produced so much great content over the last 13 years. High quality, provocative points of view on everything from life in New York neighbourhoods to the future of womxnhood; new trends in sports fandom to the after-dark economy; data analysis of the BLM movement to the semiotics of banking. We also create content to share our craft – such as how we use scenario planning in strategy, capturing stories from our KIN network of experts and creators, or new ways to engage people in citizen journalism.

We’re good at this stuff, but we can get better – which is where this role comes in.

We’re seeking a content and comms manager to join our team in London, to take the lead on this vital aspect of the Crowd DNA brand. It’s about ensuring we have things to say that are credible and current; and that chime with our clients and the wider marketing/comms industry. Also, importantly, that reflect the values that we as a team hold dear.

Here’s more on what we’re looking for –

Around five+ years experience, most likely in an editorial or content role. So you could be coming at this as someone fully immersed in journalism about culture, but who’d like to develop their capabilities in the sphere of brands and consultancy; or alternatively, someone fully immersed in content marketing but who wants significantly more of a cultural perspective to their work. Of course, you might already have experience at both ends. That’s definitely ok, too.

High standard editorial skills, both in your own writing and sub-editing the work of others (while you will sometimes be commissioning other writers and working with members of the Crowd DNA team, the anticipation is you will lead on much of the written content).

Film, photography and design – confident at briefing and directing our video/photographers and designers when their input is needed. Our outputs sometimes take the form of mini documentary films, for instance.

Blogging and social – comfortable with blogging platforms/CMS, and at creating content for social media

Proficient at planning – you’ll be managing our content calendar, factoring in a mix of recurring formats and one-offs. We’re ambitious and want to create a good flow of content but we need timings to be realistic and the running order to be well-considered.

Ideas! You’ll need lots of them, both to bring new energy to our existing content streams (such as City Limits and Crowd Tracks) and to create new ones. We looking for takes on culture that will challenge and motivate our clients. And we’ll want you to quickly learn about our methods and techniques, so you can start devising compelling ways to communicate them – ways that inspire rather than sounding like a ‘hard sell’

Collaborative and solutions-oriented – you’ll be working with our senior team across our offices to develop ideas that live up to our brand ambition of creating culturally charged commercial advantage. You’ll also be working with trends, insights and ideas provided by the wider team; and collaborating with them to make sure we are maximising the right channels for sharing the content that we create.

The role comes with a salary of circa £50,000pa, and great benefits (pension scheme, generous parental leave policy, flexi hours/wfh, betterment scheme, training, paid sabbatical after five years, company lunches, days out, 30 days ‘work from anywhere’ scheme each year etc).

It’s an entrepreneurial and energised environment, fast-paced and collaborative. If you fancy working in a place where setting the agenda for the future of cultural insights and strategy is coded into the way of working, get in touch with Alex Smith, our head of people, providing a CV and examples of your work in the first instance.

Crowd Tracks: Sports Fandom

Our Crowd Tracks report is back. This time we’re turning our attention to the global goings-on of sports fandom...

Download the new report here.


Crowd Tracks is our social data series, where we use our Culture At Scale method to highlight and analyse trends at the intersection of brands and culture. At what feels like a watershed moment for supporters of all types of sport, we’re bringing you the latest in fan experience, values and culture. 

In this edition we uncover how fan protests have mobilised on social platforms across the world, analyse Instagram data to track emergent fandom, and explore the rise of new, immersive experiences for fans, featuring 5G stadiums and VR.

So what’s happening in sports fandom around the world?

Sports experience is diversifying globally and fan culture is becoming more complex and inclusive. In the UK we saw a diverse team GB bring home a historic win of golds, silvers and bronzes, providing a balm for a divided nation; while in India eSports has boomed, with fantasy cricket leagues becoming nice little earners for some. Japan’s Naomi Osaka became a style icon on the cover of Vogue after pulling out of the French Open due to mental health concerns. And in rugby: global following of the sport continues to rise, with World Rugby publishing a report stating plans to attract 10% more followers by 2025.

But that’s not to say things can’t get tense out there…

2020-21 saw sport become increasingly embedded within the thorny issues of global politics. Racism and ongoing BLM protests have seen conversation spikes in the US, Europe and around the world. America has been divided by opinions on NFL players taking the knee, as has the UK where racist abuse of black players during the Euros saw widespread condemnation. 

Mental health concerns have been firmly thrust into the foreground in most recent sporting events, with athletes such as Simone Biles speaking out. Indian cricket became highly politicised, getting entwined with farmers’ protests. 

The ethics of sports partnerships have also come under the spotlight, with many calling for a boycott of the T-20 league after what were seen as unethical sponsorships from the Chinese company Vivo. 

What trends are on the rise? 

People want more muscles. While gym culture is a mainstay of IG culture, images of muscular bodies have increased by 45% in the last nine months. Wrestling is up by 70% and Boxing has seen a 55% rise. TikTok has caused dance to quite simply soar. Dancing has risen by a whopping 215% and cheerleading too is up by a similarly impressive 163%. And more young women are skating, the sport’s searches rising by 98%.   

Which brand really pushed the boat out?  

The last year saw the NBA get seriously phygital. They tapped into the emergent interest in NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) with Top Shot, a platform that allows fans to buy special, unique digital souvenirs. But it doesn’t just stay in the ether. The NBA are looking at ways of making this physical as well, bringing the digital collectables into the IRL sport experiences.  

What’s the future of fan experience? 

In short – TechnologyTechnology is set to offer new revenue streams for clubs and preserve the stadium experience for decades to come. 69% of fans report the use of emerging technologies has enhanced their viewing experience both inside and outside the stadium. Sports brands need to act fast on this or risk losing out to the ever-dominant tech industry.

And finally: how have fan values changed? 

Fan communities used to be defined by one thing: their shared support. Now, sports fandom – and fandom in general – is built around cultural values beyond the sport itself. Whether it’s a desire for accountability, transparency, or greater representation, fans are now banding together around shared causes, calling on clubs and athletes to use their power for good.

Thanks to social media, fans can share information and mobilise, take issues into their own hands and vocalise what matters. Sporting institutions need to prioritise the voice of the fans, and make smart appointments – such as heads of diversity or culture – to ensure their businesses are run fairly and in line with their fans’ values.


You can download the full Crowd Tracks: Sports Fandom report here

Culture At Scale is a powerful new addition to how Crowd DNA pinpoints and tracks trends. Supported by the advanced NLP, AI and machine learning capabilities of strat7.ai, we tap into the sheer size and incredible pace of the online conversation, presenting future scenarios and defining credible opportunities.

 

We're looking for a consultant-level addition to our team, working on business development, client management, pitches and project design...

The focus in our commercial team includes external communication of the agency, business development, responding to briefs and understanding client needs, project design, briefing in new commissions to the project teams and having a strategic overview on live work. To help us with our growth, we’re seeking a consultant-level hire with a passion for working at the intersection of brands and culture.

What we’re looking for in more detail:

– There’s some flexibility over the seniority of the role (with pay and expectations to match), but this is most likely for someone with between 18 months and four years of agency experience

– We say ‘agency experience’, as while you might be working in the insight field, there’s scope for hiring someone with a background in a different type of agency (creative, strategy, media etc)

– We want someone who demonstrates an interest in insight, strategy work and trends, but who also comes equipped with a particularly commercial brain; if you can show previous experience in something business development-related, that’s a plus

– Evidence of/enthusiasm for helping solve brand challenges and interpret business objectives

– You’ll need to be seriously pro-active, super-quick at taking on new challenges and not short on confidence (we’ll want to get you speaking with clients ASAP; you’ll be expected to collaborate with director-level staff)

– First rate communication skills (both verbal and how you get ideas down on paper and in presentations) is absolutely key

The role comes with a salary of £32,000-£38,000, clear paths to promotion and to new opportunities, as well as great benefits (bonus and pension schemes, generous parental leave policy, flexi hours/wfh, betterment scheme, training, paid sabbatical after five years, company lunches, days out, 30 days ‘work from anywhere’ scheme each year etc).

It’s an entrepreneurial and energised environment, fast paced and collaborative. If you fancy working in a place where setting the agenda for the future of cultural insights and strategy is coded into the way of working, get in touch with Dr Matilda Andersson, providing a covering letter and CV in the first instance.

Human After All

It’s easy to forget the importance of empathy in the face of new technology but, as Crowd DNA director Paul White explains, for cultural insights, it will always be the star of the show...

In the world of research and insight, it’s easy to be tempted by new methods, new delivery systems and new technologies. And while staying current is really important, delivering great results always comes back to the core skill of qualitative work: empathy. 

Nursing scholar, Theresa Wiseman, breaks empathy down into four key attributes:  

 1. Seeing the world the way others see it

2. Beginning from a non-judgemental space

3. Understanding another person’s feelings

4. Communicating your understanding of that person’s feelings back to them.

A perfect place to start, but we like to think there’s a fifth step to this process in cultural insight work, and that is: Communicating people’s feelings honestly and objectively to the client that commissioned the research.

So, if empathy is the cornerstone of our industry, why is it so easy to forget? Short answer: we unknowingly participate in systems that push it out of the conversation. Consider the chat you might have with a food stall trader compared to a targeted ad telling you the latest lunch deals. Both are marketing the same thing, but feel very different. We can’t change the current model of communication, but it has pushed us further away from IRL interaction. Short-termism then compounds this with quarterly targets and the need to make quick wins. So we all stay on the treadmill, often unable to take a long enough view to address larger human needs and do something truly empathetic.

This perspective is intensified by a tendency to focus on the newest, slickest methods – because, honestly, suggesting we’ll talk to some people and build recommendations on what they said (yet again) doesn’t sound as exciting as whatever the latest method might be. In our opinion, as long as your methodology is answering the problem you’re trying to solve, you’re on the right track. No need to get starstruck by the latest eye-tracking, VR gadgets or neuroimaging if it takes you away from the initial problem – a problem which is almost always a human one anyway.   

Next, if we know empathy is in short supply, how do we build it in? It starts by remembering our own humanity. At Crowd, we treat our colleagues and clients like humans and create space for people to bring themselves into their work and interactions with participants. By being present and using active listening, we are able to develop deeper connections and quickly bypass the researcher/respondent relationship. There is always insight to be found by truly listening, seeking to understand and not being scared to ask why. 

Don’t be afraid to advocate for human beings. All of us (even global heads of marketing and CEOs) happen to be people – and looking for commonalities between yourself and your customers is key. When we make business decisions in boardrooms (or Zoom calls) with little view of the outside world, the people at the end of the process can be easily forgotten. Instead, bring real people into the room in any way possible. This could be audience immersion work, insightful videos to build empathy or literally inviting your living, breathing customers into your process. 

We must stop reducing people to their ability to consume products. It’s a false shortcut that does no one any good. People are consumers some of the time – but they’re people all of the time. They have lives, worries, families, goals and dreams. It’s only by being more empathetic as professionals and companies that we are able to realise this, and harness the power of cultural insight to add true value to people’s lives.