Continuing our journey through the challenges and rewards of urban living, City Limits Volume Two explores mobility…

We’re back with another packed issue of City Limits – our view on urban living (the good and the bad), and how brands can reach for culturally-charged commercial advantage in these high-drama mega-spaces.

While Volume One took a deep dive into the urban experience, this time we’re focusing on mobility.

Mobility means much more than getting from A to B. It’s how we navigate and move around urban environments. It’s how we flock, migrate and end up living in cities all around the world. It’s how people succeed and progress in them. It’s also how we interact with one another while moving around them. 

In this issue, we explore transport innovations, the role of data, emergent trends and the visual language of movement, exploring how mobility is changing the very shape and size of cities across the globe.

Volume Two is available to download here. Enjoy the ride.

Watch the video trailer below:

As the self-care trend casts FOMO aside, Crowd DNA's Eden Lauffer explores how brands are encouraging people to miss out - plus how media portrays this cultural shift...

Over the years, social media has created an environment in which people feel the need to always be ‘on’ – and, even if they’re not, they’ve learned to create the illusion that they are. The fear of missing out (or FOMO) is now a commonplace term, used to describe that sinking feeling you might get when you scroll your feed and see you’ve missed an event, a friend’s party or the latest pop-up. The pressure to be socially active and ‘on’ is huge.

However, in contrast, 2018 has been the year of self-care. A trend often guided by influencers like Lee Tilghman of @leefromamerica and Catherine of @theblissfulmind who now list self-care in their bios. Self-care is going to bed early, rather than grabbing one last drink; it’s clean eating and staying in on a Friday night; it’s practicing yoga, reading books, and generally just treating yourself better. JOMO (or the joy of missing out) is the antidote to FOMO and sits neatly alongside this ever-growing self-care trend. So what does JOMO mean for the way we view our social life, the media and brand interactions?

Embracing JOMO doesn’t mean you have to be alone. A recent study by Mintel found that 28 percent of younger millennials (aged 24-31) prefer to drink at home because going out ‘takes too much effort’, and that half of Americans (55 percent) prefer to drink at home in the first place. Instead of constantly checking new bars off the list, millennials are enjoying ‘missing out’ with or without the company of others.

JOMO in the media

Mainstream publications like Huffington Post, Forbes, and Inc. now offer advice on how to take care of yourself. They regularly endorse taking time to prep healthy meals, miss an episode of a new TV show, or skip plans to go to the gym. Musicians take the stage on self-care too. In an interview with W, when asked about her song ‘Borderline (An Ode To Self Care)’, Solange expressed what self-care means to her. She explained how the safety of one’s home is a comfort in an otherwise turbulent world. Similarly, Mac Miller released a song called ‘Self Care’ in which he speaks to self-reflection and the power of looking within.

As for TV programs, it’s no longer Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte constantly going out for cosmopolitans. Now, popular shows like Broad City and Insecure portray real and relatable lives on screen, with scenes of characters FaceTiming each other from the toilet. TV is finally celebrating the joy of sitting on the couch doing nothing with your best friend.

Brands jumping on JOMO

No matter how personal self-care may be, brands have found a way to profit. Being part of the city that never sleeps, it may be hard to imagine New Yorkers practicing such things. Enter the rent-a-nap business. Mattress brand Casper has opened The Dreamery, a venue devoted solely to 45-minute nap sessions for $25 a pop. This concept is not new, though. It follows in the footsteps of Nap York, another rent-a-nap brand that provides even more self-care amenities like meditation classes, clean juices, and mindfulness events. Similarly, Hyatt hotels recently launched Hyatt FIND, a program that connects travellers with experiences that focus on self-care. Not only can participants do yoga with goats, make their own herbal beauty products and take private bonsai classes – they can also earn points with Hyatt while doing so.

FOMO helped brands encourage us to get out there and experience, post and buy. JOMO, however, presents an interesting tension. Self-care is all about unplugging and unwinding, but brands inviting us to Instagram photos of ourselves in branded pyjamas seems to contradict this practice altogether.

Crowd IRL, IRL at AURA

Crowd DNA’s Andy Crysell and Joey Zeelen spoke (IRL) about getting IRL with clients at the latest AURA seminar in London…

Innovation in research usually conjures up images of eye-tracking, neuroscience and facial-coding. Perhaps even automation and AI, or using virtual reality as a research tool. But it’s not always about machines and tech. Often, stepping back into reality and immersing ‘in real life’ can trigger the alertness and receptivity needed to uncover new insights. Combine this immersion with actual, real-life clients and you get a whole new innovative approach: Crowd IRL. This is the subject that Crowd’s Andy Crysell and Joey Zeelen spoke about at AURA’s latest insight seminar in London.

Crowd IRL is what we call getting out on-the-road with stakeholder teams, immersing them in the lives and culture of people. Andy and Joey explained how it’s used to disrupt the confines of reporting back – going beyond simply inviting clients to attend the debrief or viewing facility, for example – before bringing Crowd IRL, to life, with our recent work for Axe.

Exploring the modern game of attraction around the world, the Axe work was an opportunity to flex Crowd’s methodology muscles. Briefly recapping the project (which covered eight markets using mobile missions, cultural reports, ethnographic sessions and, of course, Crowd IRL), Andy and Joey then presented the following ‘how tos’ for successful client immersions.

Plan well, but not too much  

It sounds obvious, but planning is key – it’s your fault if a client gets lost in the field! For Axe, a video intro and immersion pack was sent beforehand, alongside a clear budget and details of a WhatsApp group (vital). But Andy and Joey also explained the need to allow for detours or impromptu conversation by not over-planning. They kept the Axe briefing purposefully light and supplied simple thought-starters (instead of weighty discussion guides) to leave enough gaps for the magic to happen.

Set the tone and lean on local expertise

Next, they explained how they set the immersion ‘rules’ by briefing the Axe team to keep their senses switched on; to observe everything; and to let the consumer lead wherever possible. The benefit of local expertise was also highlighted by showing how collaboration with on-the-ground contributors helped unlock certain scenarios and articulate the details of discussion (crucial when clients were speaking to awkward teens about their love life).

Facilitate fluid sharing and wrapping-up

The importance of gathering and disseminating images, videos and notes was also discussed. For Axe, WhatsApp and WeChat were used during the immersions to encourage teams to share content in a fluid, low-friction fashion. When one group came up with something interesting, another group could then pick up on the same theme. This also helped with the all-important wrap-up session. Axe teams were plied with pizza then asked to share stories and contribute to rolling analysis, with the end goal being to ensure co-ownership among the global teams.

The presentation finished with Andy’s point that one-size doesn’t fit all when it comes to Crowd IRL. Projects can range from a few hours to a few days; feature different ages or different subcultures; and switch focus between regular consumers and experts. Among a sea of exciting, new technological innovations discussed at AURA, Crowd IRL stood out as a uniquely human and non-complex way to unearth truly empathetic insights.

Get in touch if you’d like to discuss how a Crowd IRL project could work for your team.

Walking the tightrope of diversity can be scary. Crowd's Roberta Graham shares ideas for authentically diverse branding...

The issue of diversity carries a lot of weight, and rightfully so. But how can brands avoid the usual pitfalls on the path to inclusivity? Many of our clients are scared to tread on such sensitive territory – others question whether they have a place there at all. Yet we believe that it’s possible (and necessary) for brands to engage with diversity. Here’s some thought starters to building inclusive brand futures.

Avoid tokenism

It’s important to focus on nuances rather than race, gender or sexuality as separate issues. These are not mutually exclusive! Ticking boxes in this way can get you into the danger zones of tokenism and be painfully obvious. For example, Johnnie Walker’s Jane Walker rebrand campaign was accused of appropriating women’s rights to increase sales. An unfortunate outcome considering Diageo as a whole have some very interesting stories to tell around their commitment to diversity.  Remember: crow-barring diversity into your brand will not work.

Stick with what you know

Becoming socially progressive doesn’t mean drastically altering your consumer profile. Jumping from targeting white cis men to creating comms centred around non-binary identity clearly isn’t the way to grow. Catering to the audience you already have with diversity in mind maintains your message while inviting others to join the party. But make sure to gain valuable insight before approaching any new demographics to avoid clunky, offensive stereotypes.

There is always room for progress

Examine your current and desired demographics. Focusing on their place within culture can identify opportunities for progression. For example, if you are selling predominantly to white cis women, considering their changing identity and how individuals are adapting to cultural shifts will help create representation in line with emergent trends. Ask yourself: what are early adopters in this category doing? How is femininity changing? Why is white, female identity important to your brand? What does all this look, speak and act like in your chosen markets?

Diversity works for everyone

Current and dominant narratives, such as those around white men, are not excluded from this; and intersectionality is not about erasing them from comms either. It is simply about achieving a fairer and more balanced representation, making space for everyone.

For this reason diversifying is key to broadening your customer base. Involving others in your brand identity allows you to communicate more widely. This can be a simple, subtle progression rather than a grand gesture.

And lastly, keep it simple

One-off, bold statements don’t work and often leave brands open to scrutiny. The kind of genuine progress that consumers want comes from sustained action and awareness. This can be as simple as more diverse casting; multiracial groups, complex female or LGBTQ+ roles and people of varied abilities have a place within every brand. Try to resist the temptation to labour the point. Remember, diversity is not about patting yourself on the back for creating a more accurate representation of the population.

Negotiating the web of diversity can be a challenge for any brand eager for change. Need an expert on your side? Get in touch to find out more.

How are brands relating to the way women view the world? Crowd DNA semiotics expert Roberta Graham explores…

Recent feminist movements have fostered a cultural pressure for work created for women by women. As more female narratives appear, this challenge to the established representation of women has been labelled as the ‘female gaze’.

You’d be forgiven for assuming this was, as the name suggests, the antithesis of the well established ‘male gaze’ (a phrase coined in 1975 to describe the position of women in cinema as objects of heterosexual masculine desire). While the male gaze focuses on how the patriarchal world looks at women, the female gaze is not only about broadening representation, but how women look at the world themselves. Here we explore examples of culture and branding through female eyes.

Femininity on film

With a host of Oscar-nominated films about the female experience directed and produced by women, surface-level representation is being taken over by real control. The multifaceted women in Three Billboards, Ladybird, and I, Tonya all signal progress made in front of, as well as behind, the camera. Not limited to traditional female narratives, the gaze is also expanding representations of race, gender and sexuality. For example, Ava DuVernay has been broadening the African American narrative in mainstream cinema with Selma and, most notably, 13th, for which she became the first black women to be nominated for an Oscar in a feature category.

Still life and sensuality

With emphasis on texture, composition and light, photographers such as Harley Weir, Petra Collins and Eloise Parry create dreamlike realities where softness is often their strength. Weir, in particular, gained attention by disrupting the still life tropes of fruit and flowers as symbols of sexuality, by transforming them into portrayals of the female form. By making the inanimate animate she subverts the familiar objectification of women’s bodies, taking ownership of a lazy and stereotypical shortcut to femininity. This has been echoed in Weir’s commercial work, most recently for Calvin Klein.

Freedom of movement

As women take ownership of their bodies, value is shifting from physical appearance to expression through movement and dance. Spike Jonze for Kenzo, FKA Twigs for Apple, and Misty Copeland for Under Armour all show women using movement as a means of breaking free from the confines of social ideals. These abstractions show the female form as strong, capable, dynamic and unique.

More recently, H&M’S female tango by Holly Blakey depicts a diverse crowd of women united by dance. After rejecting a male lead, they become a collective of individuals passing on their infectious confidence from one to the next.

Strength in numbers

In the push for equality, healthy tensions have arisen within females bonds. Contrast can be seen between soft, easy sisterhood (think Solange’s ‘Cranes In The Sky’) and the power of female group resistance (Beyonce’s ‘Formation’). In 2017, Barbie also re-evaluated Girlness in a gently rebellious collaboration for iD magazine; while Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ celebrated the strength of diversity within female collectives using the words of Maya Angelou to encourage women to come together by enforcing their individuality: “I’m a woman, phenomenally, phenomenal woman. That’s me.”

The experience of being a woman is clearly multifaceted but, while we celebrate the women breaking boundaries and the diversity of narratives, there’s a hope that the female gaze will one day become so commonplace we won’t even need to discuss it.

We're ten years old, so we're taking a journey back to where it all started...

We’re all about culture here at Crowd DNA, so we wanted to celebrate our ten years by flashing back on the good, the bad and the random (we’re looking at you mannequin challengers).

We’ve created ten videos, each covering a year of the last decade, highlighting key moments – from the news stories that shook the world to the fads that became viral. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe and then you’ll remember that in 2008 Katy Perry kissed a girl and Barak Obama became president…

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

Crowd DNA project producer Gabriel Noble shares tips for authentic and credible ways to recruit research participants...

At Crowd DNA, we’re often tasked with recruiting very specific audiences; be that leading edge consumers in Tokyo and Mumbai, or 17-year-old female skateboarders in the banlieues of Paris. In order to reach these types of individuals, sometimes traditional recruitment techniques just won’t cut it.

Instead, we take inspiration from other industries and use bespoke and on-the-ground methods (such as fashion street casting) to find people that really live and breathe their city. We often support this with digital recruitment methods, like hashtag analysis and social listening, to reach the perfect mix of individuals. Here are a few of our favourite alternative recruitment techniques.

On-the-ground methods

Street casting: instead of relying on our own industry, we regularly look to other sectors, bringing people onboard with skills from different backgrounds. This is where fashion street casters come in. They are confident and experienced in finding interesting and unusual individuals to help us reach client objectives.

Cultural gatekeepers: when researching subcultures around the world, cultural gatekeepers are often the key. We use the term gatekeepers to mean ‘insiders’ who can unlock access to groups who are usually hard to reach. They can be hired using our CrowdStars network or through platforms like Instagram, where we’re able to see how individuals are immersed in subcultures. Cultural gatekeepers are most relevant when we want to speak to leading edge individuals. 

Remote methods

Facebook advertising: Facebook has been getting a bad rap recently, but when running projects where we need to find individuals based on certain interests, its psychographic targeting is really useful to hone in on specific segments, areas or passions.

Hashtag analysis: hashtags have proven handy when we’ve needed to speak to niche groups. For instance, when tasked with finding cricket fans in New York (yes, that’s right, we found cricket fans in the US!), we investigated the hashtags that people were using around the subject to find a fantastic group of friends who told us about their passion for the game and, crucially, how they watch and consume it in the US.

Brandwatch: Brandwatch’s ability to scour multiple social media platforms for mentions – along with its precise geographic targeting – makes it a perfect tool for recruitment. Once we’ve identified relevant hashtags and keywords, this information can be uploaded and, bingo, Brandwatch shows us all the people from a specific research location that have mentioned what we’re looking for. This is also a good way to build upon preliminary hashtag analysis; putting it into practice to ensure we find those individuals we’re looking for, wherever they may be.

These alternative recruitment methods allow us to cast the net wider for greater range, less-jaded participants and more realistic representation; all to find the right mix of individuals to help our clients stay ahead of the game.

Crowd DNA Is Ten!

A decade. Whoosh! Where did that go? We've racked up ten years in business...

Best not to get too self-referential in these moments (the future is always more exciting than the past, after all), but a quick note to mark ten years of Crowd DNA. Back in June 2008, we started out as a launch team of three, a couple of crates of kit and some office space in Shoreditch’s Biscuit Building, provided by the nice folk at Poke.

Since then, there’s been a move next door to the Tea Building, another move across Shoreditch to Hoxton Square; an opening in Amsterdam, one in New York City; and another (rather more east…) to follow very soon.

There’s been work in 55+ markets, too many truly amazing projects to even scratch the surface of listing here, quite a few summer day trips to the seaside, loads of Kling Kling awards – and, mostly, a challenging but hugely rewarding sense of modifying it all as we go, and of relishing the fact that pretty much everything around us is in a heightened state of flux.

It’s been an ever-evolving mission to make insight work more immersive, more energised, more strategically relevant, more empathetic of the real world; possibly just a bit more fun, too. And definitely more culturally relevant. It’s been quite a journey. It’s not all gone to plan, natch, but we’re as dedicated to our learn-as-you-go (and often make-it-up-as-you-go) ethos now as back when Crowd DNA started.

Endless thanks to the incredibly smart, creative, energised, awe-inspiring Crowd DNA team (without whom…), and contributors and clients who’ve been on board over the years. It’s been great, it really has – but the best, we’re confident, is yet to come.