Roll up to our next Rise session in London, where Crowd DNA's Laura Warby and Berny McManus will give a masterclass in how to work with trends…

Date: May 31

Time: 8.15am-9am

Location: Crowd DNA, 5 Lux Building, 2-4 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NU

We all know that spotting and understanding trends is the key to staying ahead of the curve. But in this world of constant innovation, differentiating between a fleeting fad and meaningful cultural progression is actually pretty difficult. Knowing your micro from your macro, or your emergent from your dominant, has never been so important.

So what exactly is a trend, and at what point should brands take notice? 

In this session, we’ll unravel what trends are all about and explore some recent cultural shifts that brands need to pay attention to in 2018 and beyond. We’ll provide a guide on working with trends; including tips on how to future-proof strategies and build lasting connections with consumers.

If you’d like to join us for coffee, croissants and a ‘how to’ guide to working with trends, please contact Pauline Rault. And feel free to pass this invite on to colleagues too.

Watch the trailer below:


Taking notes at Brandalism in Singapore...

We headed along to The Drum’s Brandalism event, held in partnership with HP, when in Singapore this week, where a panel session at the ArtScience Museum had those agency and client-side rubbing shoulders with artists, seeking a shared view on the role of art (specifically street art) in advertising. Inevitably, this was not easy to find, and much of the challenge centred around if the value exchange between creativity and commerce could ever really be set right.

Art and advertising have in fact been dancing around each other for over a century (Toulouse-Lautrec, Rockwell, Warhol etc), but some new perspectives never hurt. Here’s a few quick notes from the session -

It was suggested that a brand’s values must match with those of the artist – easy to say, seriously tricky to deliver against, we’d suggest.

Alternatively, and likely a more realistic exchange, that the secret lies in the brand creating an opportunity that the artist would not otherwise have had; as a modern-day patronage of the arts, you could say, with Coke, or UBS, or Beck’s, taking the role once occupied by Renaissance-era establishment.

Most on the panel cautioned against brands thinking that collaborating with artists could function as a kind of shortcut to cultural relevancy. And Didier ‘Jaba’ Mathieu, the street artist on the panel, said that it often wouldn’t help an artist’s credibility within the scene if they’d notched up a track record of working with brands

Shaky ground all round, then. Though some examples (not specifically current, admittedly) were put forwards of art/brand collaborations that had appealed:

Art House: an Airbnb initiative at Art Basel Hong Kong a couple of years ago, that saw 11 artists given a disused store to set up studio in. The scary, but ultimately rewarding part, explained panellist Matthias Schuecking (consultant and former Airbnb marketer) was just allowing them to do whatever they wanted.

Art House
Art House

Favela Painting/Let’s Color: AkzoNobel-backed initiative with Dutch artists Haas&Hahn which turned 34 houses of a hillside favela into a huge community art project. For the month of painting, community members ‘received an education as well as a paycheck’.

Favela Painting
Favela Painting

eL Seed: the French/Tunisian artist is known as a ‘calligraffiti’ pioneer, working on everything from Arabic script art in New York proclaiming ‘The only thing people have in common is the fact that they are different’, to painting across 50 buildings in Cairo. He collaborated with Louis Vuitton, creating designs over the classic monogram scarf and LV trunk cases (ok, so not advertising really).

Coca-Cola: their quest for personalisation went into overdrive when they set a target of producing two million unique bottles of Diet Coke. Physical pieces of art were first created that, though abstract, featured brand relevancy in the form of bubbles and visual interpretations of fizz. HP then digitised the designs, creating an algorithm that could generate infinite new variations of each design to adorn bottles.

From original art to two million bottle variations
From original art to two million bottle variations

The common ground here? Perhaps a higher than normal level of investment in the cause by the brand and/or surrender of control. Commitment and humility, then – two factors for brands to bear in mind when engaging with art; though there’s a tension in this space that, we imagine, won’t be solved anytime soon.

Here’s what went down at our Rise event all about modern families (where we welcomed our youngest ever Rise attendee, too!)…

At our latest Rise session in London, Crowd DNA’s managing director Dr Matilda Andersson and associate director Lucy Crotty (who also happen to be mums) spoke about modern parenthood in all its glory and grossness.

Starting bright and early (naturally, they’ve both got young kids), our presenters highlighted the need for family-centric brands, businesses and society to start taking note. With 90 percent of all new parents being millennials, what a family looks like – and what a ‘family’ even means – is fundamentally changing. And, despite some recent reworkings in popular culture, this pair of millennial mums still feel misrepresented.

But it’s not all bad. The key shifts shaping modern families reveal much to be celebrated: women’s empowerment, working mums and an appreciation of multifaceted female identity; the move away from ‘doofus dad’ to ‘involved dad’ and a focus on male roles in family life; and, crucially, the backlash against ‘perfect parenting’ towards a more diverse, realistic and relatable portrayal of parenthood.

The question, then, stands of how to speak properly to these shifting families. Matilda and Lucy offered loads of thought-starters on how brands can recognise opportunities with modern parents. By being representative, tapping into their sense of purpose, embracing creative play, or helping them carve out quality time via tech-convenience – just some of the ways to speak better to families of all shapes and sizes.

Thanks to all that attended, ate croissants and help distract a crying baby. We’ve wrapped up the key points and more hints for brands into a digital magazine, available to download here.

Brand Beef

How Burger King takes curious pops at its (golden) arch rival...

Competitor brands normally do a good job of completely ignoring each other in their communications, but it’s intriguing when that’s not the case. Burger King has quite a history of beef (flame grilled, natch) with McDonald’s, and their latest swipe is one of strangest yet.

American agency David Miami has crafted a print campaign which features real pics of rather large homes owned by former McDonald’s big cheeses (so many burger puns on offer in this post), each boasting a patio grill and the assertion that “flame grilling is hard to resist” – flame grilling, of course, being Burger King’s point of difference.

Previous Burger King pops at their rival include dressing a Queens, New York, outlet up as the ghost of McDonald’s on Halloween. There’s a fine line in getting this type of stuff right – if you’re not careful, you can come across as bitter, twisted and perhaps a little overshadowed. But we reckon the rather random, and unexpected, nature of these executions sees them coming out well.



At our next Rise session in London, Crowd DNA’s resident parents, managing director Dr Matilda Andersson and associate director Lucy Crotty, set about reframing modern families...

Date: April 26

Time: 8.15am-9am

Location: Crowd DNA, 5 Lux Building, 2-4 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NU

Parental burnout, gender neutral toys, screen-time wars, feminist dads, LGBTQ+ families, postpartum body positivity – it seems we’re all too aware of the joys and perils of modern parenthood. And, as the next generation of millennial parents arrive and shake things up, the whole status quo of parenting is dramatically changing, too.

But are we speaking to and about families in the right way?

This session explores changing attitudes to parenthood and, in particular, how modern families are portrayed. Looking at some of the tensions and backlashes against ‘perfect parenting’, we’ll help brands identify new opportunities – and to speak better to families of all shapes and sizes.

If you’d like to join us for coffee, croissants and a very real, up-close journey into modern parenthood, please contact Pauline Rault. And feel free to pass the invite on to colleagues and estranged family members alike.

Watch the trailer below:


Crowd DNA’s Joey Zeelen looks at the sobering-up of Gen Z through his own experience of teen drinking...

Growing up in Holland in the noughties, my use of alcohol – or drugs, we’re talking Holland here – wasn’t any different to others my age. I started drinking at 15 and, like most millennials, alcohol was a big part of life. It formed my identity; it was the centre of socialising and the entirety of my teenage fun.

Saying that, it’s sometimes surprising to read about the sobering-up of Gen Z. Most explanations (health consciousness, well-being) fall flat when I think of the importance of alcohol during my own teen years. To understand this shift, I sought out some explanations on an internal level. When looking at my own drivers for teen drinking, Gen Z’s rejection of alcohol starts to make a lot more sense…


As a teen, alcohol shaped my sense of self and influenced the people I looked up to. Liam Gallagher, Kate Moss, music from Nirvana and gabber house – they were all inseparable from alcohol (and drugs). Now, icons like Lil Yachty and Adwoa Aboah promote a new culture of abstinence where it’s okay to say no. Intoxication is no longer a requirement of ‘cool’.


A big driver for teen drinking was experimentation. Alcohol made me feel different, brave; it enabled me to do things I’d not dare otherwise. But is this still relevant? When talking to Gen Z, it always strikes me how open they are to subjects that were once alien or embarrassing to me (unless drunk). Perhaps alcohol isn’t needed for experimentation anymore, and they are simply more capable of discovering on their own, sober, terms. It’s no doubt, too, that the online space has become a better and more efficient vehicle for discovery.

Social Connection

While socialising played out in the pub/club in my teen years, social connections now form in different spaces: usually in isolation, on social media or at home. Similarly, online entertainment and platforms now provide young people with the stimuli and experiences that would have once been gained by going out drinking with friends.


Long-story-short, I enjoyed alcohol because it enabled me to ‘let go’. Now, young people are so focused on results and prospects (not surprising when you look at the societal pressures they face), which must influence their ability to go wild or be unproductive the next day. On top of that, when they do party, they’re image conscious – why become embarrassingly drunk when it might be immortalised on social media?

But I doubt the desire to ‘let go’ has gone for Gen Z; it’s just taken on different forms. New indulgences now exist, which are better suited to their needs. We only have to look at the growing Xanax culture – linked to rappers like Lil Xan or Lil Peep – to see how, from a cultural stance, it makes sense. The effects of these drugs are less noticeable (or embarrassing), and offer a potential way of dealing with the pressures and anxieties of modern teenage-hood.

Secondary sources can help inform insights, but to really get to know young people and understand their drinking habits, we need to deep dive into their actual lives, needs and daily motivations, too. Sobering-up then makes a lot more sense through the eyes of a boozy millennial – cheers!

We get to work on lots of interesting and highly engaging projects at Crowd DNA, but collaborating with IKEA on the Clean Air brief was a particularly rewarding one...

With 80% of people who live in urban areas being exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organisation limit, this is a major topic. Unless action is taken now, the number of deaths will double by 2050 and will account for 12 every minute.

IKEA’s commitment to sustainability is widely recognised, with their ‘Better Everyday Life For The Many People’ maxim a major global talking point – which is where the clean air work fits in.

IKEA came to Crowd DNA requesting a comprehensive understanding of clean air (from awareness levels and misconceptions, to how it changes behaviour) in society around the world.

The first phase of the project looked to develop context and saw us producing a clean air report from extensive desk research and expert interviews – from leading toxicologists and start-ups CEOs on the front-line of air pollution innovation, to artists who are looking to creatively highlight the topic.

Stage two explored current consumer behaviours and attitudes related to clean air. We conducted mobile self-ethnography across the US, UK, China, Germany, Italy, Poland and India, using our understanding of behavioural science to better understanding true consumer behaviour in two key ways:

1. Mapping consumer behaviour/awareness over time to see if air pollution currently impacts how people live their lives

2. Providing our participants with air monitors to gauge personal air quality across their day to day lives, thus allowing us to see how increased awareness potentially disrupts behaviour.

Next, we visited each market to interview and film consumers in context, including reviewing their experiences with the air monitor devices and how much impact the data had on their actual lives. The filmed ethnography produced rich, narrative-led accounts of individual everyday experiences and how people really relate to the notion of clean air.

Embedding the findings in the IKEA business was a priority, too. We held collaborative innovation workshops to generate practical ideas for future product and service designs. IKEA have since used this insight and the ideas that came from these sessions to inform short and long term projects to tackle air pollution.

Alongside the workshops came an artworked and editorialised clean air survey, and a series of broadcast quality documentary films.

You can find out more about the Clean Air project here

Check out one of the films from the project below