Moving The Goalposts

From streetwear ambitions to curated content platforms, Crowd DNA's Gabriel Noble spots five talking points in football...

With the season well underway in Europe’s high profile leagues, we’re getting to see the innovations and cultural connections that football is trailblazing, as it looks to compete with other major global sports – and indeed for a share of audience time versus other entertainment options more generally. Here’s what we’re seeing…

Football meets streetwear

When PSG played Liverpool earlier this season, you might have noticed something unusual. Rather than wearing jerseys with the Nike tick, they were emblazoned with the Jumpman logo of Air Jordan, a brand rooted in streetwear and basketball. The PSG x Air Jordan collab illustrates how football clubs are beginning to realise their potential as brands in popular culture and, as a response, building on their own merch capabilities. PSG have set the standard, but as lines between football and fashion continue to blur – Poet & Yinka’s collaboration with Puma on their LDN City pack boots, Virgil Abloh’s Off White kit, or Nigeria’s World Cup kit – other teams will surely follow suit.

We expect to see kit sponsorship deals balloon, as the likes of Nike and adidas capitalise on this development and integrate the clubs they sponsor into their lifestyle ranges. On the flipside, as streetwear continues its journey to the mainstream, more brands like Palace (see their adidas Wimbledon collab) and Air Jordan are likely to play in this space with limited edition ranges, or, at the very least, third kits, football apparel and boots.

PSG x Air Jordan
PSG x Air Jordan

Championing football’s new cultural angles

As football continues to secure its place outside of sports culture, so the media outlets diversify also – from the likes of Versus who ‘showcase the cultural convergence happening across the worlds of sport, music and style’; to Mundial, who build on football’s casual culture and produce a magazine filled with fashion features and untold stories of the game. Diverse voices are coming to the fore too. Through the likes of Caricom, which explores the space where football and the black experience intersect; and Season Zine: dedicated to empowering female fans. This year has also seen Eniola Aluko join the Guardian as their sports columnist, giving further credence to this progressive shift. In 2019, women’s place in football will no doubt rise, as the Women’s World Cup edges nearer. 

Season Zine
Season Zine

Owning the conversation

Over the last few years, clubs and players may have been asking themselves where they fit in the content landscape, and how they can own the conversation with their fans. Through Amazon’s partnership with Manchester City in their All Or Nothing doc, we might be getting a taste of what’s to come, as top clubs put out their own long-form content. The same goes for players, as we saw the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Raheem Sterling feature on Player’s Tribune, a platform that connects them directly with their fans. However, this trend doesn’t come without others losing out. Many commentators fear it might lead to less transparency and an exclusion of traditional media, with clubs and players looking to control their own message.

Player's Tribune
Player's Tribune

Integration of football and eSports continues

Football leagues and clubs have been getting more involved in the eSport space. The MLS introduced the eMLS Cup for the first time this year, with each club being represented by a Fifa gamer. Its success hasn’t gone unnoticed, and it has now been announced that the Premier League are doing something similar. In the past, eSports and traditional sports have seemed disparate and incompatible, as League Of Legends and Dota dominate. It’ll be interesting to see whether this push by top clubs and leagues can put Fifa at the same standing as eSport’s incumbents, giving the game a more meaningful place in the eSports category.

eMLS Cup
eMLS Cup

La Liga goes global

Probably the most controversial of developments, the 2018/19 La Liga season will potentially see Barcelona play Girona in a competitive game in Miami, at the Hard Rock Stadium. As clubs and leagues look to grow their fanbase across the world, it was only a matter of time before this was trialled. But the backlash to this demonstrates that there’s a way to go before football mimics American sports like the NFL, who have been present in the UK since 2007. In the meantime, we can continue to see pre-season as a way for clubs to connect with fans across the world, through the likes of the International Champions Cup, where the world’s top clubs play matches across the US, Europe and Singapore.

Miami's Hard Rock Stadium
Miami's Hard Rock Stadium

As well as these five areas, other interesting developments include the way tech is being used to produce immersive fan-focussed experiences as Siemens, The Economist and Bayern Munich provide the opportunity to track a game’s big moments through the voices of fans. Amazon have also finally made a break into Premier League rights, while OTT service DAZN continues to expand and grow in size across the globe, most recently setting up shop in Italy. From the pitch upwards, a lot is changing in football.

SHOPPING AT AMAZON 4-STAR

Crowd DNA New York's Eden Lauffer ventured to the Amazon 4-Star store, a new concept launched in SoHo, to check out how this omnipresent brand is seeking to bridge the online and offline...

The last year has seen the likes of Toys ‘R’ Us, Sports Authority and Brookstone either downsized or closed for good. There are myriad factors behind their economic woes – but the strong presence of online retailers, backed up by reviews and cheaper prices, is a big one. The main culprit: Amazon.

A 2018 NPR study found that 67 per cent of American online shoppers trust Amazon “quite a lot.” Consumers are even willing to go as far as to let Amazon deliver packages directly into their homes via Amazon Key. So what does a brick-and-mortar store offer consumers that Amazon can’t offer them online?

The 4-Star offer

Planted in a high traffic area of SoHo, Amazon’s 4-Star store sits in the vicinity of the Marc Jacobs headquarters and the MoMa Design Store – a sign of how Amazon seeks to position its new offering. The pitch: a collection of best-selling items, sold by Amazon, with (you guessed it) a four-star or above rating.

The store showcases a strange mix of products, where reusable lunch bags sit beside limited edition Chewbacca toys. Among all of the seemingly randomly placed Swell bottles and Flappy the Elephant toys, the store’s central focus is the electronics section. Within that section, the tables with Amazon products like Alexa and Kindle have ‘try me’ labels.

Bringing the online, offline

On the first table of merchandise proudly stands a ‘Most Wished For’ sign. Shelves and tables are labeled with typical Amazon categories – some with a local twist, such as ‘Top Selling Around NYC’. There’s even an offline version of Amazon’s recommended items, with products labeled “if you like this, you’ll also love this!”

Each item in the store has an electronic marker detailing that item’s current price, and its up-to-date four star rating. Many items have two prices – a discounted one for Prime members, and a full-price for the uninitiated – perhaps a sign of the future for Prime membership online, too.

A place for advice

Consumer trust in Amazon is furthered in the 4-Star store, especially in the the case of their own brand electronics that were formerly only available to try via purchase. Stores like GameStop and Apple give consumers a space to play with electronics and speak with experts before making a purchase. In the 4-Star store, employees are friendly and informed, instilling confidence in shoppers’ purchase decisions.

Making your city feel smaller

While Amazon is teeming with reviews both raving and scathing, consumers have no way of knowing who these reviewers are. In the 4-Star store, signs like ‘Top Selling Around NYC’ make fellow shoppers feel within reach. The NYC specific tables also come equipped with actual user quotes about several of the products, whether it’s superglue, a power strip, or a hot new book.

New York can be isolating, but with a view like this of what those around you are doing, the city feels warmer and more inviting. For example, on the ‘Trending Around NYC’ table, shopper quotes discussed the values of a hand vacuum, something particularly relevant for small New York apartments.

The verdict

The store does an excellent job of bringing the Amazon experience offline. Yet, finding specific products is likely easier online, and the strange mix of products in the store means it lacks a clear focus. However, with our world barreling in the direction of online only, an attempt at building community between shoppers seems like a nice gesture – considering Amazon’s leading role in the ever-changing retail landscape.

 

We're recruiting for a couple of new roles in our London office right now. Exciting projects and amazing clients guaranteed...

Associate Director – strategic insights (circa £52,000-£57,000)

We’re seeking a skilled and strategically-minded insight specialist to design and lead projects across categories such as tech, finance, media/entertainment. Next to having a track record in at least some of those categories, you’ll need to show proof of experience at all points from proposal writing, to managing the complexities of global work and providing impactful outputs that drive change. Reporting in to one of our strategic insights directors, you will have line management responsibilities and the license to develop new ideas and lead some of our most exciting commissions.

Senior Consultant – quant & analytics (circa £38,000-42,000)

We’re looking for a confident addition to our quant and analytics team to get hands on with leading projects from start to finish. You’ll need to demonstrate a flair for creative project design, experience in multi-market studies, and a passion for integrating quant and qual work. Solid segmentation experience and a track record of using advanced analytics such as max diff and conjoint is a plus. Reporting in to our quant and analytics director, besides leading projects, you’ll have the opportunity to sharpen your commercial skills, preparing proposals and working on business development.


Both roles come 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 CV and covering letter), please get in touch with Dr Matilda Andersson.

Crowd DNA Singapore: we’re also looking to build out our newly launched Singapore office. More info here

Semiotics: Decoded

Our recent Rise event in London was dedicated to demystifying semiotics and cracking its many commercial applications. Read on for the full decode...

Crowd DNA resident semioticians Roberta Graham and Laura Boerboom took us on a journey through semiotics at our latest Rise breakfast. While it can sometimes be an intimidating methodology to embrace – especially when considering how it applies to real business challenges – the focus of this session was on demystifying semiotics and explaining how we use it to fuel culturally-charged commercial advantage for our clients.

To kick things off, Roberta and Laura discussed how every detail communicates; whether it’s linguistic or visual, audible or tactile. Semiotics is the process of unpacking this meaning found within brand comms, media, art, community activity and, well, every area of culture. It’s about understanding the specific socio-cultural context and zooming in on the words, gestures, colours, shapes and textures that are present too.

To demonstrate this, Gucci’s SS18 campaign was used to show how quickly different meanings are created and commercialised – here, Gucci places their high fashion, tailored aesthetic against a backdrop of quintessentially British signifiers of working class culture, such as the Fish & Chip shop and terraced houses. Tapping into the trend of high/low cultural contrast, Gucci re-enforces its ability to elevate and stand apart, while maintaining a grounding within nuanced heritage. They’re choice of Harry Styles is also particularly relevant as a symbol of this trajectory from ‘ordinary’ to ‘icon’.

After more decoding examples and frameworks, the morning then moved onto how we use semiotics to join the dots between culture and commercial objectives. In other words: the real-world application of semiotics. Roberta and Laura talked through how we use the methodology to help brands in two distinct, but interlinked ways: exploration and execution.

The first route – exploration – allows us delve into the cultural fabric surrounding a category, brand or product to help shape brand futures, identify white spaces, optimise innovation pipelines and future-proof cultural relevancy. The second – execution – is focused on using semiotics to draw meaning from culture’s codes in order to define strategy, shape new brand positions, comms, packaging, products and more besides.

The session concluded on those all-important, key takeouts for ‘How-To’ semiotics, which we’ve wrapped up into a digital guide for working with this exciting methodology – available to download here.

Thanks to all that attended and joined the conversation. Keep an eye out for more culturally-awakening breakfast events soon.  

Hello Singapore

Crowd DNA is super excited to be up-and-running in Singapore. We've a lovely office and we've some exciting clients - and now we're looking to build out our team...

Thus we’re keen to hear from talented, culturally switched-on people in the area. We’re keeping things wide open right now, in terms of level of seniority – and we’re interested in those with qualitative research, strategy and cultural intelligence experience. Potentially also those who think they can bring beneficial transferable skills from futher afield.
 
If you’d like to hear more about our plans for Singapore/APAC, and to have an informal chat with our Singapore managing director, Emma Gage, about potential opportunities, do get in touch.

Catch Crowd DNA’s London managing director Dr Matilda Andersson and senior consultant Roberta Graham discussing how leading edge behaviour can predict what’s next for mainstream consumers...

MRS hosts Methodology In Context on November 22 in London  – a chance for insight professionals to explore new, creative and dynamic methodologies and how best to apply them within research. We’re excited to announce that Crowd DNA’s Matilda Andersson and Roberta Graham will be presenting Leading The Pack: a session focussing on how leading edge behaviour can predict what’s next for mainstream consumers, and the methods and tools we use to do so.

Predicting the future is at the top of any insight and innovation wish list. All too often, however, brands fail to spot what’s coming next by sticking too close to their already existing consumers. Using leading edge participants as predictors of mainstream behaviour is obviously nothing new, but doing so accurately – and in a way that’s relevant for specific categories or brands – remains one of the greatest enigmas within our industry.

With that in mind they’ll ask: what tools and frameworks do we need to turn this art into science? And is observing ‘leading-edgers’ the future of brand health and cultural relevancy?

For those keen to learn more about how we use leading edge behaviour to keep an eye on the future, you can find out more info here.

As legislation relaxes, perceptions of marijuana are changing. Crowd DNA’s Eden Lauffer explores how women are leading the cannabis rebrand...

We all know the pothead stereotype: it’s the Dazed And Confused crew or films of Seth Rogen. However, with cannabis now legal in Canada and nine US states, that image is shifting. In fact, a recent poll found that 61 per cent of Americans feel cannabis should be legalized, a number that’s grown 49 per cent since 1969. So what does the future of cannabis look like and who’s driving the rebrand?

Female celebrities push for normalcy

A recent survey found that 56 per cent of Americans find that ‘smoking weed is socially acceptable’. In efforts to push this further, some celebrities have stepped up. However, widespread acceptance won’t come from brands led by the likes of Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson; celebrities who don’t fit the stoner stereotype also need to get involved. Coming out with Whoopi & Maya and advocating for cannabis relief during menstrual cramps, Whoopi Goldberg has helped bring normalcy to the market and destigmatize usage. Similarly, Melissa Etheridge is working on Etheridge Farms in hopes of offering products such as arthritis balm to a wider audience.

Women and moms enter the market

It’s not just celebrities starting brands. Take Miss Grass, a shop and blog for women, which has a cannabis focus but also provides typical women’s magazine topics, like fitness tips. In an interview with W, Miss Grass co-creator, Anna Duckworth, spoke of their mission to dissolve the stoner stereotype, which lacks a female narrative. Duckworth’s counterpart, Kate Miller told W, “There’s a lot of ways of using cannabis, and many don’t even get you high,” in reference to their products like CBD lube and lotion. Women report using cannabis for menopause and menstruation, but also to relax and enhance sex.

According to a BDS Analytics study, of the 49 per cent of women who use cannabis as medicine, 54 per cent report they are mothers with children under 18 in the home. Publications like Splimm and The Cannavist Mom stand with moms, serving as a newsletter for parents who indulge in cannabis, offering articles as well as a safe space. Mom-friendly products have landed in the market too. Mother & Clone, a CBD spray that lasts only 60 seconds, was created by a mother dealing with postpartum depression. Similarly, TONIC was started by a female personal trainer who struggled with anxiety and found benefits in CBD (as it lacks THC, the psychoactive ingredients of cannabis).

Beyond female friendly products and publications, women are taking the business side of cannabis by storm, too. Already recognizing the buying power and influence women have had, organizations like Women Grow, the largest network of cannabis professionals, are empowering female leaders to strive in the cannabis market in hopes of starting more women-led companies.

This is clearly a space to watch. According to Forbes, by 2021 the cannabis industry is set to grow 150 per cent. That, paired with the 70 to 80 per cent spending power women hold in the US, means that female cannabis users are a group to focus on. As legalization sweeps the US and cannabis continues to enter the beauty and wellness space, brands preparing to tap into the market shouldn’t neglect the huge share of voice women hold.

A new chapter and a new city for Crowd DNA...

Following our launch in New York last summer, we’re now equally excited to be touching down in Singapore. Emma Gage, former managing director of Flamingo in Singapore, is heading up our business here and we’re raring to go.

The Singapore launch is designed to both service Crowd DNA’s existing clients in the region, and develop new business opportunities, with an emphasis on helping decode how people and the world are changing.

Andy Crysell, Crowd DNA group managing director and founder, says: “We’re excited to now be launching in Singapore and cannot think of a better person to lead our business in the APAC region than Emma. She can call on significant experience in our core field of offering authentically culture-fueled strategic recommendation that enables brands to adapt and improve.”

Emma Gage, who’s lived and worked in Singapore and Shanghai for nine years, says: “Crowd’s ‘culture-first’ approach is an obvious fit for the region, combined with an innovative set of approaches and a hugely talented and creative team.  I can’t wait to get started.”

To discuss Crowd DNA in Singapore further, please contact Emma Gage or Andy Crysell