Crowd DNA New York’s Eden Lauffer explores our changing buying habits and how 2020’s events influenced this season's holiday shopping…

In more ‘normal’ times, holiday shopping and gift giving can feel a little monotonous – a set of pots and pans as requested on a wishlist, the regifting of a yet another scented candle. But in 2020, as with most other aspects of life, things looked a little different.

We saw gifting trends this season reflect a yearning for simple joys with reciprocal benefits for both gifters and receivers. Using the three trends below as a springboard, we’ve deployed our Culture At Scale unstructured data method to explore social conversation around gifting, and provide direction on what to expect from 2021 shopping behaviors.

While sex tech remains stigmatized, brands are starting to position it as self-care. And with major celebrities involved, it’s sure to turn heads in 2021.
While sex tech remains stigmatized, brands are starting to position it as self-care. And with major celebrities involved, it’s sure to turn heads in 2021.

Intimacy meets technology

In 2020, we spent months without in-person gatherings and meetings. For many, this meant an end to dating and casual hookups. And with more time spent in isolation and shopping online, consumers warmed to new forms of intimacy. FaceTime dating aside, sex tech sales skyrocketed. This includes toys that link to apps (think Fitbit for sex) and VR sexual experimentation. Discussion about gifting last year had an emphasis on treating oneself, making sex tech a popular purchase.

In 2021, as economies begin to revive themselves and the hardship of last year fades away, treating oneself doesn’t feel as frivolous. And wellbeing doesn’t just mean meditation and mindfulness – expect consumers to be investing in themselves and others via the sex tech space, too. We’re also noticing intimacy sites sparking conversation around this unique junction between technology and self-care.

As consumers lean into DIY gifts, TikTok serves as an incredible source of inspiration and learning
As consumers lean into DIY gifts, TikTok serves as an incredible source of inspiration and learning

Mutually beneficial DIY gifts

Consumers have acquired new hobbies after a year of having to find different forms of entertainment. Through activities like baking and crafting, we feel mental health benefits like a sense of pride, an antidote for depression, an outlet for anxiety. With gifting, sharing homemade items delivers a sense of empowerment to givers. Recipients feel a stronger emotional connection to these gifts, too, because they place sentiment over the need for generic material items.

Moving into 2021, social conversations continue to highlight the sustained value creative expression brings to mental health. And in a shift toward more conscious buying, making things for others or yourself feels more enriching.

At the start of lockdown, conversations around gift cards and supporting local surged. This interest was reinvigorated around the holidays
At the start of lockdown, conversations around gift cards and supporting local surged. This interest was reinvigorated around the holidays

The revamped gift card

Businesses continue to suffer as Covid prohibits many stores and restaurants from operating as usual. But we’re still finding ways to support local businesses. Gift cards – once associated with dull, last-minute presents courtesy of generic stores – have become popular and thoughtful gifts. They allow us to support the businesses we have a relationship with from afar, or invest in future IRL shopping or dining. Gift cards make shoppers feel good and also help local businesses stay afloat in the interim.

As we enter 2021, we can expect consumers to continue going out of their way to support local businesses in this fashion. With the 2020 wave of the Black Lives Matter movement fresh, many will shop conscious of supporting BIPOC owned outlets. And having experienced financial struggles themselves, consumers post about how they empathize with the plight of small stores. We will see more interest in mutually beneficial shopping that helps communities and makes consumers feel good – and gift cards allow anyone to show support, even at a distance.

2020 took a lot away, but it also gave consumers a deeper appreciation for the simpler things in life. A collective understanding that we all face hardships left us with a desire to give to others, and also invest in our own happiness. Amid financial strife and isolation, with both our mental and physical health in flux, we became more creative in the ways we care for ourselves and those around us. Moving into 2021, consumers feel more gratitude for life’s simple pleasures and are willing to spend the time and money to bring a little joy after a rough year.


Gift card economy: ((giftcard* OR “gift card*” OR “gift certificate*” OR giftcertificate OR giftvoucher OR “gift voucher”) AND (localbusiness* OR “local business*” OR smallbusiness OR “small business*” OR supportlocal OR “support local” OR “shop local” OR shoplocal)), Nov 1, 2019-December 31, 2020

Intimacy meets technology: Brandwatch: ‘sex tech’ OR sextech, Nov 1, 2020-Jan 4, 2021

Mutually beneficial DIY gifts: TikTok: #giftideas, #diy

An exciting chance to join our fast-growing APAC team in 2021...

18 months into Crowd DNA’s Sydney adventure and things are getting ever more exciting. Our client base is growing at speed, we’re joining the APAC dots with our Singapore office, and we’re truly living up to our ambition of providing brands with culturally charged commercial advantage.

We’ll be recruiting for a number of roles in Sydney and Singapore in the coming months (speculative CVs welcome). First up: we’re looking for a consultant/senior consultant level hire for Sydney.

You’ll get to work on exciting projects at the intersection of culture, insight and strategy for some of the most forward-facing brands in the world, covering themes such as audience understanding, brand development, new market entries, product and experience innovation, and thought leadership. You’ll get to collaborate alongside the wider Crowd DNA team in our other global offices and play a key role in helping our Sydney start-up to get to the next level.

Here’s what we’re looking for:

Two to five years of experience. Probably in an insight agency; possibly elsewhere in the marketing comms field

While you won’t necessarily have ticked off every research method under the sun, you’ll come with a good basis of qualitative techniques (if you can bring some quant and/or trends and/or social listening to the party, too, better still!)

You’ll have a strong sense of why culture is important to brands – and you’ll be ready and confident to share that point of view with our clients; in presentations, reports etc

Though much of our work is about exploring culture, we’re doing it to create commercial advantage for our clients. Thus, we’re looking for a recruit who can demonstrate strong client management skills

While Crowd DNA as a group is 12 years old, it’s relatively early days in Sydney. We want someone with a real appetite for working in a start-up business (think diverse challenges, fast learning)

The role comes with a competitive salary, great benefits, the chance to work on some of the most stimulating and culturally-driven projects out there; and the opportunity to progress and make a real difference in an exciting and progressive business. To apply (attaching a CV and covering letter), please get in touch with Elyse Pigram.

Recruiting For Crowd DNA NYC

We're seeking a quant-focused associate director to join our Crowd Numbers team in New York...

Crowd DNA has solid ambitions to increase its Crowd Numbers capabilities (that’s the name we give to our super skilled, highly dedicated quant team) in the US, meeting client needs across categories such as media, tech, finance and apparel, often delivering solutions in partnership with our Strategic Insights, Crowd Signs and Socialise teams.

This role offers the opportunity to take a front seat role in our NYC plans, working on diverse and exciting projects for some of the most exciting brands in the world. The briefs we get are amazing – truly at the intersection of data, culture and brands. We want someone who can bring provocative thinking and new ideas to quantitative work; who can develop enduring client-agency partnerships; designing new approaches and meeting future facing business challenges.

In more detail, here’s what we’re looking for:

– Five plus years of relevant experience; this could be in a research role, or as a strategist/planner who can point to solid quantitative skills

– Someone who’s played an important role in developing and winning business and managing client accounts

– Experience and confidence to lead complex, multimarket projects from start to finish and to be a trusted advisor to clients

– Ideally experienced in some of these areas: media, tech, fashion, e-commerce and digital journeys; a background in international as well as domestic research would be a plus

– Confidence in presenting to clients, expressing ideas, developing clear and energizing data visualizations, debrief decks and reports

– Track record of producing high-quality, winning proposals and project designs

– Experience of applying and leading work involving techniques such as segmentation approaches, drivers analysis, max diffs and conjoint

– Comfortable with, and enthused by, blending quantitative research with other methods, such as qual, trends, social listening and alternative data sources, including client’s own data 

– Enthusiastic about working alongside strategists, writers, film-makers and designers, as much as researchers; also for collaborating with equal enthusiasm with our teams in other cities

The role comes with great benefits (betterment scheme, training, sabbatical, company lunches and days out, flexi hours etc); the chance to work on some of the most stimulating and culturally-driven projects out there; and the opportunity to progress in an exciting and progressive business. To apply (attaching a resume and covering letter), please get in touch with Dr Matilda Andersson.

We're recruiting for a brand new role at Crowd DNA, taking the lead across our foresight and content specialisms...

We’re seeking a skilled and entrepreneurially minded person to manage our Crowd Signs and Socialise teams and offers.

Crowd Signs: trends, semiotics, culture at scale (social and unstructured data), KIN (global network of experts, connectors and creators)

Socialise: in-house creative team, including film, editorial, digital, design

These two disciplines form an important commercial opportunity, but also play a crucial role in maintaining Crowd DNA’s positioning as a leading force in cultural insights and strategy, leveraging our POV in the form of content marketing and thought leadership material.

Key responsibilities:

– Leading the growth of our Crowd Signs offer; including business development, directing pitches, working closely with the team to deliver commercial advantage to our clients, ensuring repeat business and a growing pipeline of opportunities.

– Leading the growth of our Socialise offer – creating Crowd DNA’s own content, as well as managing outputs where we’re socialising insights for our clients; and innovating/monetising new opportunities for Socialise.

– Managing the Crowd Signs team – currently consisting of five multi-disciplined trends researchers, semioticians and big data analysts; making certain we deliver high quality project work at all times. We expect you to be experienced in trends work and, at a minimum, comfortable overseeing the other fields and keen to learn more.

– Managing the Socialise team – currently consisting of two videographers, one editorial lead and a designer. Next to managing the team, we expect you to be high standard at creating written editorial and, at a minimum, comfortable in overseeing the other fields and keen to learn more.

– Collaborating with Crowd DNA’s senior team to make sure Signs and Socialise contribute to existing client relationships and category specialisms, maximising the opportunity for revenue growth across all business functions and global offices.

– Enthusiastic at the prospect of managing a cross-office team, as we look to build out our Signs and Socialise skillsets in different locations.

This role will form an important part of the senior team across the Crowd DNA group. It’s a fantastic opportunity to join, in a senior capacity, a consultancy business that gets to work on a huge number of incredibly thought-provoking and culturally-oriented projects for amazing brands; and to be a key contributor to how we push the boundaries of what we’re about as a business.

We are open to candidates based in London or New York City for this role. It comes with great benefits (betterment scheme, training, sabbatical, company lunches and days out, flexi hours etc); and the opportunity to progress in an exciting and progressive business. To apply (attaching a CV and covering letter), please get in touch with Dr Matilda Andersson.

We’re anticipating less sofa-bound times ahead in our latest edition of City Limits, all about the future of offline retail...

City Limits Volume Six – download it here.

So far in our City Limits series – Crowd DNA’s ongoing exploration of the urban experience – we’ve looked at city living, youth culture, mobility, city-centric solutions and the night economy. We’re now back with our sixth edition, exploring the future of offline shopping. In what has been a savage time for the retail industry, we hope to provide some much needed respite, inspiration and kudos to a sector so integral to urban culture.

Shopping has always played a huge part in the fabric of our cities. And while much does look bleak for the high street, we firmly believe all is not lost. Our Retail Therapy edition of City Limits goes in search of innovations and experiences that celebrate IRL shopping in all shapes and sizes. There are tough times ahead, but we steadfastly believe there will always be a place for browsing in real stores; for seeing, touching, feeling products, and gaining a deeper sense of connection with the brands and we love.

The full magazine includes:

– A semiotic analysis of shopping in the context of the experience economy

– Interviews with local retailers in APAC, with learnings for global brands

– Four emerging trends to keep an eye on in the new era of retail

– Spotlights on the lasting appeal of pop-ups and the resilience of shopping malls

– A round up of concept stores that will get us heading back into cities in no time.

City Limits Volume Six – download it here.

Crowd DNA New York reflect on their Culture At Scale election predictions and what we can learn about trends in American culture...

This post is the final part of our Click State series covering the US election, analyzing digital activations and online conversation (using our Culture At Scale method) and turning emergent trends into valuable learnings.

Post election day (week), Americans across the country have felt a whole slew of emotions; loss, relief, joy, confusion – to name just a few. Looking back over the emergent trends we spotted during our analysis of online conversations, we can see how our hypotheses have since performed in the wake of Biden’s win.

Connecting with young Latinx voters in Arizona flipped the historically red state blue.
Connecting with young Latinx voters in Arizona flipped the historically red state blue.

Localizing The American Identity

In our first post, we explored the idea that the collective American identity doesn’t feel relevant to the localized needs of specific states across the US.

We saw both Wisconsin and Arizona flip blue after leaning red. There was a huge turnout of Black voters in Wisconsin, a state where this community has long fought voter suppression. With messaging from the Democratic party around Black Lives Matter and programs urging Black citizens to vote early, it’s clear that directly speaking to a population with their specific needs in mind can drive change. Similarly in Arizona, Biden’s campaigning to young Latinx voters drove them to the polls for him.

However, in Florida, where Democratic candidates focused on hyper-local issues, they missed a huge voter bloc: Cuban and Venezuelan-Americans. Because of their countries of origin, this population was immediately deterred by notions of the party’s ties to socialism (despite other unfavored ideals of Trump). In juxtaposition with Wisconsin and Arizona, we see that while candidates catered to Floridians’ needs, the party’s overarching story failed to address the concerns of important voting blocs. This proves the importance of focusing on local identities while ensuring they’re cohesive with the larger story.

Democrat or Republican, Americans on TikTok find unity in the faults of our political system.
Democrat or Republican, Americans on TikTok find unity in the faults of our political system.

Mobilizing On TikTok

In our analysis of TikTok and the election, we investigated how the platform makes the world feel smaller, builds camaraderie and empowers its users.

Immediately following the result, conversation about the election gave way to a sense of coming together as Americans. TikTok users on both political sides hashtagged states like Texas and Florida to discuss the nail-biting races in those locales. Jokes were made about Wisconsin and Pennsylvania flipping at the last minute, and Texas defaulting red despite speculation. This shows that no matter how divided America may feel politically, we can still find common ground in a shared ability to laugh at elements unique to American politics. It’s through this ability to poke fun at ourselves that Americans find unity on platforms like TikTok.

From serious to humorous, brands expressed opinions on the election's outcome in a range of ways.
From serious to humorous, brands expressed opinions on the election's outcome in a range of ways.

Brand Allies

In our third installment, we discussed how brands are presenting themselves as institutions we can look to for guidance – and, in turn, how Americans are expecting more from the companies they choose to spend with.

We explored how brands are being expected to pick a side. We saw Patagonia, for example, clearly standing against Trump. But what does this look like post-election? So far we can see brands either blatantly or more subtly celebrating Biden’s win. Brands like Oreo have promoted the result (and themselves) with messages like “It’s a Double Stuf Oreo type of day.”

But the brands we should keep a closer eye on are the ones who stay true to their claims now that the election is over. For example, MTV put its resources into urging young voters to get out to the polls. Now, they’ve taken a clear stand with the president-elect, reminding young Americans that the fight isn’t wrapped up. This both shows solidarity with their audience and a long-term commitment to social justice and political influence.

Through this exploration of conversations during the election, it’s clear we can no longer lump Americans together as one nation. Brands need to consider the individual, and very specific, identities that define our citizens and make up our states. Similarly, taking a stand and picking a side shouldn’t be shied away from. But, even with these points in mind, brands can still play an important role in unifying the country via humor, creativity and helping us laugh at ourselves.

New Roles @ Crowd DNA London

2021 here we come: we're seeking a consultant or senior consultant to join our strategic insights team. Exciting work for amazing brands guaranteed...

We’ve flexibility on this one – meaning we’re open to talking to an established consultant level qual expert (think senior exec) looking for the next step up; or a recently promoted senior consultant (think research manager) looking for a new challenge.

Senior Consultant, strategic insights team (£37,000-47,000pa)

This position is for someone who’s ready to play a key role (generally as project lead or co-lead) on consistently exciting, often global, briefs for clients across categories such as media, alcohol, fashion and finance; and where the emphasis is on immersive methods and getting to powerful strategic outputs. The work leans heavily on bringing a truly cultural perspective into play – naturally, we expect this to be very much your thing.

In more detail, here’s what we’re after:

– We imagine you’ll have around three to five years experience in an insight environment

– Demonstrable track record across areas such as project design and management, conducting mixed methods, guide writing, online and offline moderation and drop dead awesome analysis/debriefing

– A tangible enthusiasm for presenting work, running workshops and for reaching bold conclusions that combine creativity and good commercial sense for our clients

– First-rate writing skills (we expect you to be contributing to our blog and producing reports)

– Proof of experience at integrating trends into your work (potentially quant, semiotics and other disciplines also)

– Our work generally involves multiple markets – we looking for someone who relishes the opportunity to travel (one day…) and develop narratives and strategies that have global relevance

Consultant, strategic insights team (£26,000-36,000pa)

…Or we’re seeking a strategic insights consultant. Much of the senior consultant description remains relevant (if with less experience required in each area), though we anticipate putting you on a clear path to leading major global projects, rather than expecting it from day one. We envisage 18 months to four years experience, probably in an insight environment but this could be elsewhere in marketing and media.

The role come with great benefits (betterment scheme, training, sabbatical, company lunches and days out, flexi hours etc) and the opportunity to progress in an exciting and progressive business. To apply (attaching a CV and covering letter), please get in touch with Dr Matilda Andersson.

Crowd DNA x STRAT7

Here's some more info on Crowd DNA joining the STRAT7 group. And some slightly gushy stuff on the journey that got us there...

We’re delighted that the news is out there: we have joined the STRAT7 group of businesses and we’re all set for the next stage of our journey. Pausing on the whooping for just a second, time to tell you a bit more about what’s ahead…

Still in its embryonic stages, STRAT7 hosts a number of best-in-class companies working at the intersection of consultancy, insights and data, with more acquisitions coming soon. We’ve been impressed at all stages of the pre-deal conversation with their understanding of what makes Crowd DNA unique (our brand, our work, our team, our point of view) and the role we can take within STRAT7.

We’re looking forward to playing our part in growing the group, to exploring synergies, amplifying our own offer and flying the flag – as enthusiastically as ever – for culturally charged commercial advantage.

We’re also looking forward to roadmapping new opportunities – from growing our global presence further to specialisms and innovations – and will be sure to share news on these as they reach fruition.

We generally prefer looking to what’s next than what’s been, but it seems an opportune time to think back over Crowd DNA’s 12 years, too. We launched in June 2008, slap bang in the middle of the worst financial crisis prior to, well, this financial crisis. But we weren’t going to let that dent our positivity. We started with four clients – Sony PlayStation, Channel 4, Kiss FM, Topshop – and a loose yet fast-evolving ambition to do things just a bit differently in insight. In terms of method innovation, for sure, but as importantly in how we talk about insight; how we communicate; the people we look to bring into our team and, of course, our efforts to set everything in a broader cultural context.

We first set up as a team of four in a small space rented from the lovely folk at Poke, a couple of floors above Mother creative agency, in Shoreditch’s Biscuit Building. Next stop: just across the road to the Tea Building. Then up the high street to our current London home in Hoxton Square.

And along the way, we’ve achieved the hugely satisfying aim of launching in other markets. That’s launching as in headfirst, having to learn extremely quickly as we go (we wouldn’t have it any other way). You can now find us in Amsterdam, New York, Singapore, Sydney and, you never know, maybe a few more places to come…

And in those 12 action-packed years, our work has got progressively more global, too – we gave up counting at circa 60 markets worked in. Our long-held belief in the power of content and editorial to socialise insight has flourished. And our strategic insights core has been augmented by the increasingly impactful additions of quantitative research, trends and semiotics, our KIN network and our growing interest in working with unstructured data. All of it powered by the creativity and first-rate thinking of the smartest, nicest team in the business.

We’re dead proud, and hugely grateful, for everything we’ve achieved as Crowd DNA so far. But enough reminiscing, because we’ve got plenty more to do in the years ahead. STRAT7 offers us an excellent platform for growth and we cannot wait to get stuck in.