IRL With Clients

Crowd DNA’s Andy Crysell on how we get out on-the-road with stakeholder teams, immersing them in the lives and culture of people…

We’ve been on an impressive roll running client immersion sessions recently. In the last month alone this work has taken us to South Korea, China, Argentina, India, South Africa and Indonesia; as well as out and about on Crowd DNA home turf in New York, Amsterdam and London.

When set up carefully, there’s something incredibly powerful about this type of work (sometimes we call them immersions, other times safaris, consumer meet-ups, road trips or similar; we should probably fix that). Rather than listening to, reading about, or watching what we have to say, or peering from behind the glass in a viewing facility, the client is truly getting in there with people and with culture.

The benefits of this might sound obvious, but it’s incredible how often the potential for these sessions is overlooked. You can’t really sleepwalk through them, and that’s key. It requires client teams to lean in. There’s sometimes even a sense of friction to begin with, of people being out of their comfort zone, but that’s a useful ingredient. Played right, this leads to true alertness and receptivity to what’s going on around you.

There’s not really a one-size-fits-all method for this type of work. Sometimes we might just be connecting with ‘regular’ consumers; at others we will include influencers and experts; or base it more around visiting stand-out locations than interacting with pre-recruited participants. They can be all wrapped up in a few hours, or take place over a number of days. So yes, we’re big believers in custom design over off-the-shelf solutions. But nonetheless we thought it worth trying to get down a few notes on what we think are the important factors:

Planning

Planning does make perfect in this field. All participants – the public and client stakeholders alike – need to be given the right level of detail on what will happen and what’s expected of them. Sometimes we’ll produce a project intro video, talking through the plan. We also create profile packs so clients have good background info on the people they’ll be meeting – the more context and anecdotes they have, the easier it will be to start conversations.

We work hard to get the mix of locations just right. You want to be going to the places that the target audience in question really does go to and/or to the cultural hotspots that will change thinking and present powerful new stimulus. This takes meticulous upfront research and attention to detail.

You’ve got to be realistic, too. While there might be ten good spots to head to, if time doesn’t allow for it, don’t do it. There’s no point turning the whole exercise into a needlessly frantic dash about town – and people need reasonable time to share learnings and talk between each interaction. Oh yes, and it’s worth knowing exactly where you’re going – getting lost in Kyoto, Mexico City or Helsinki isn’t a crowd pleaser.

Not too much planning!

So all of this planning is essential, but you also have to leave some gaps in the process. The serendipitous moments along the way are often where the magic happens. If the client wants to check out a different store than the one planned, or has struck up a particularly good conversation that warrants more time, you need to build in scope for such things to happen.

Don’t write a discussion guide – this can hinder the experience of actually meeting people on their own terms. Instead, arm the clients with provocations about the topic of interest as conversation starters. These could be false facts, quotes from previous waves of research etc. This type of stimulus is great if conversation starts to slow down, but, as not too prescriptive in form, also doesn’t limit clients from feeling they have the license to go off-script.

Setting the tone

These projects are about experiencing an environment with all senses truly switched on, not just having a conversation. Tell clients to observe and take note of the spaces they find themselves in, body language, relationships between people, media, music, food, what others in the space are doing.

Encourage clients to be interested, curious, flexible and to have fun. It’s not always going to run perfectly. There will be awkward conversations, silence and even some boredom – but mixed with laughter, fun and great interactions. Let the consumer lead where possible and allow them to be the narrator of their world.

Expertise

If you’re dropping into a distant city with a bunch of clients, looking to immerse them in how people and culture works there, sufficiently deep expertise in the topic matter is vital. This might well come from previous waves of secondary or primary research that you’ve conducted. It can also come from working with on-the-ground contributors – people who can articulate the details of the experience and unlock scenarios that may otherwise be out of reach. For instance, we might work with local lifestyle journalists and bloggers, or even independent tour guides who specialise in showing people an alternative view of a city.

Sharing

Everyone will need a way to gather, disseminate and reach conclusions around the wealth of material they are exposed to. We’ve recently had great success setting up WhatsApp groups in these types of situation. Our client stakeholders get to share images, videos and noted insights as they go in a fluid and low friction fashion. Better still, we can use the channel for logistical purposes, following where everyone is and, for instance, whether it’s time to advise a particular team that they’ve probably downed enough shots in that location and should move on!

We also arm teams with Polaroid cameras in some cases – of course, people can take pics via their phones, but it can be useful to achieve a focus on what’s important by limiting the number of shots available to them. We might give them budgets to buy items as they go – inspiring and surprising material that they can then share and discuss later.

Something ultimately needs capturing out of all of this fine work. Talking over findings, post-day, at dinner, can be the way – though be mindful of burnout. It can often be just as beneficial to share the findings over breakfast, as the start of the next day – people are fresher and it primes everyone for the next set of adventures.

It’s the job of the stakeholders to gather and share ideas. But it’s ours to collate them and author, or co-author, the take-outs. The final record of this type of exercise varies – a blog, film or booklet; a simple Google Docs round-up; a workshop session to feed ideas into the innovation pipeline – but it’s vital that there is an end product.

We’d love to discuss ideas for how to make a project of this kind work for your team. Email hello@crowdDNA.com if you’d like to chat and hopefully we can take you some place exciting.

Meet the CrowdStars

Introducing CrowdStars, our network of thinkers, influencers, creators and culture-shapers...

There are times when the answers to the most pressing questions will not come from consumer research, but from connecting with experts. CrowdStars is our global network, comprising of a diverse spectrum of credible and intelligent minds who bring context, rigour and sparkling new dimensions to our strategic thinking.

Our CrowdStars network consists of over 200 experts, based in 35 markets and embraces fields as varied as academia, psychology, anthropology, design, health, beauty, retail, media, tech, food, celebrity, sport, family, music, fashion and relationships.

We work closely with the CrowdStars network to shake up conventional thinking within businesses; to get to deeper levels of understanding and the breakthrough ideas that offer strong, commercial advantage.

CrowdStars Amanda Rijff & Suzanne Noble
CrowdStars Amanda Rijff & Suzanne Noble

Applications for CrowdStars are diverse, but include:

- Immersive workshops and co-creation sessions, bringing experts and client stakeholders together

- Transferable learnings from out-of-category experts to spark new ideas and innovations

- Expert interviews and roundtables to dig deeper into key themes

- Future forecasting reports

- Use of blogging, mobile and online community platforms to connect with experts remotely

We’ve worked successfully with CrowdStars experts for clients in the tech, alcohol, FMCG, beauty and entertainment categories. Please do get in contact to hear more about how CrowdStars can work for you.

Here’s a short film we made about CrowdStars:

Rise: Agelessness

Crowd DNA’s brand and communications expert Eleanor Sankey tackled the delicate subject of agelessness at our latest Rise breakfast session in London...

At Crowd, we’re well known for our work researching Millennials and increasingly Gen Z, so it seems a little odd to debunk traditional demographics. But as an insights and innovation agency, we know that as the world changes, so do our beloved cohorts. And in fact, understanding consumers by age traits can be a little limiting at times.

Today over a quarter of the people on the planet are over 50. In the UK, the Office For National Statistics (ONS) has reported that there are now more over 60s than there are under 18s. From the Nike ad of 86-year-old Sister Madonna Buder taking part in IRONMAN, to her mum’s Fitbit obsession, Eleanor demonstrated that age appropriate behaviour is becoming a thing of the past. Moreover, Millennials aren’t achieving the traditional markers of adulthood by 30 and Gen Z are favouring coffee over booze. So, a rethink is in order.

But how do brands reach out to this ageless demographic? Eleanor reassured us that we’re not becoming one homogenous lump. Increasingly, we’re finding that people share cross-generational interests – around music and fashion for example.

While we’re increasingly seeing grey-haired models in fashion magazines and marvel at the physique of yogis that don’t look their age, Eleanor warned brands against older person tokenism. When marketing to consumers, she proposes that we look at age-agnostic design, brand partnerships and micro-influencers to speak and engage with consumers in a more nuanced way.

Thanks to everyone who attended, engaged in the debate and ate the croissants. We even gave them all our just-launched bag and notebook to take home. An editorialised Crowd DNA report on agelessness will follow shortly!

Our next Rise breakfast event in Amsterdam sees Crowd DNA's Joey Zeelen set about reframing masculinity...

Date: September 27

Time: 8.15am-9am

Location: Crowd DNA, Sarphatistraat 49, Amsterdam

Brands are increasingly taking political, environmental and social stands. Many are addressing female aspirations and feminism with great effect.

But what are we doing about men?

This session explores changing attitudes to masculinity and, in particular, what being a man means among millennials. Looking at the tensions that have evolved around male identity, we’ll help brands harness opportunities – and speak better to men AND women.

Join us for delicious pastries and even more delicious insights. Contact Judith Lieftink if you and/or colleagues would like to attend.

Watch the trailer below:

Rise: Agelessness

Crowd DNA’s popular Rise breakfast events are back after a summer break. This time brand and communications expert Eleanor Sankey discusses how we can understand consumers in a world where age is just a number...

Date: September 14

Time: 8.15am-9am

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

Consumer trends show that Gen Z is growing up faster than previous generations, millennials are delaying adulthood and Gen X and Boomers are living more ‘youthfully’ than ever before. On top of this, we’re living longer, working past retirement age and achieving major milestones later. As a result, brands are increasingly looking beyond age-based definitions.

In this session, we’ll help marketers understand consumers without age restrictions, moving beyond demographics to explore new ways of segmenting, targeting and making recommendations about how to communicate agelessness.

If you’d like to join us for coffee and croissants while discussing the secret of eternal youth marketing, please contact Jason Wolfe. And feel free to pass the invite onto colleagues of all ages.

Watch the trailer below:

We're looking for a culturally switched on qual and trends-focused executive to join our New York team...

As a member of our newest office, based at Cooper Square in New York’s East Village, you’ll get to work on exciting and challenging projects for brands such as Spotify, Axe, IKEA, MTV and NFL. You’ll be an important part of a super smart, highly creative global team, keen to forge new ways of working in the insight and innovation field.

The role will suit a self-starter, someone with an enthusiasm for mapping and understanding trends, a curiosity to learn more about people across the US and the world beyond, and an awareness of how to ensure commercial relevancy in their work.

What we’re looking for:

- Experience in insight, strategy or similar (at a minimum, in a work placement capacity; certainly to a greater capacity if applying at consultant level)

- Enthusiasm for presenting work, the confidence to contribute to workshops; and for reaching bold conclusions that combine creativity and good commercial sense

- First rate writing skills and a strong editorial style (we expect you to be contributing to our blog, producing reports and writing for trade media)

- An aptitude for project management

- Spanish language, a huge plus

We can promise a competitive salary (there’s scope here to bring someone on at either exec or, with more experience, consultant level) and the opportunity to travel, working on future-facing projects that will allow you to learn loads, collaborate with an extremely gifted team and gain good opportunities to advance in this fast-growing business.

To discuss further, please contact Andy Crysell with a CV and an example of your writing.

We're winning great work and growing fast. Here's some nice opportunities to join just about the smartest and most creative insight and innovation team you'll ever find...

INSIGHT & INNOVATION DIRECTOR (LONDON)

Reporting to our head of insight and innovation, and also working closely alongside our core management team, this is a newly established senior role at Crowd DNA for an experienced insight and innovation expert who can point to a great track record with high calibre clients.

We’re seeking someone who’s looking to take on significant management responsibilities, operating alongside our head of insight and innovation to ensure our project teams deliver first rate work. You won’t be stepping away from fieldwork completely, but the demands of this role do require a candidate who’s willing to concentrate more on providing directorial level input across a broad spectrum of our work rather than zoning in on just one project. You will line manage and won’t be afraid to demand more of our team (they’re a great team who want to be challenged – they really won’t mind!). Your role will also involve significant collaboration with our business and strategy team, sometimes taking the lead on writing proposals and on project design.

Here’s what we’re looking for -

- Titles vary from agency to agency but we envisage someone joining us who’s currently at associate director level; we’re open to client-side candidates too of a similar degree of seniority

- A strong insight industry background, with the ability to be able to point to work on a range of demanding and future-facing multi-market projects (ideally incorporating qual and quant; and at all points from general project management to methods best practice, razor sharp thinking in the analysis phase and keeping a tight control on budgets)

- A demonstrable record in line and/or team management, including handling resource issues

- Experience of, and an aptitude for, take business development responsibilities, including writing proposals, project design and costing

- We want someone who’s confident and comes armed with strong points of view; but – crucially – someone who absolutely values the opinions and expertise of others as well

- You’ll use this confidence to gain the respect of the internal team; also of clients (including in workshops environments)

- If you can point to particular experience in areas such as product innovation, brand strategy projects and working with major FMCG conglomerates (or similar), that’s good

- You might not have covered off every research method under the sun, but you’ll have ticked off plenty and will be highly receptive to bringing new methods into play

- Experience of socialising insight through films, print, events and other means (all important factors at Crowd DNA) will be helpful

This is a fantastic opportunity to join, in a senior capacity, an agency 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 continue to push the boundaries of what we’re about as a business. To apply, please get in touch with Crowd DNA’s head of insight and innovation, Dr Matilda Andersson, attaching a CV and covering letter.


EXEC/CONSULTANT (NEW YORK)

As a member of our newest office, based at Cooper Square in the East Village, you’ll get to work on exciting and challenging projects for brands such as Spotify, Axe, IKEA, MTV and NFL. You’ll be an important part of a super smart, highly creative global team, keen to forge new ways of working in the insight and innovation field.

The role will suit a self-starter, someone with an enthusiasm for mapping and understanding trends, a curiosity to learn more about people across the US and the world beyond, and an awareness of how to ensure commercial relevancy in their work.

What we’re looking for:

- Experience in insight, strategy or similar (at a minimum, in a work placement capacity)

- First rate writing skills and a strong editorial style (we expect you to be contributing to our blog, producing reports and writing for trade media)

- An aptitude for project management

- Enthusiasm for presenting work, the confidence to contribute to workshops; and for reaching bold conclusions that combine creativity and good commercial sense

- Spanish language, a huge plus

We can promise a competitive salary (there’s scope here to bring someone on at either exec or, with more experience, consultant level) and the opportunity to travel, working on future-facing projects that will allow you to learn loads, collaborate with an extremely gifted team and gain good opportunities to advance in this fast-growing business.


CONSULTANT/EXEC (BUSINESS & STRATEGY – LONDON)

We’re looking for a consultant or exec level recruit to join our business and strategy team at Crowd DNA London. The focus in this team is on external communication of the agency, business development, responding to briefs, project design, developing future strategy alongside our directors, briefing in new commissions to the project teams and having a strategic overview on live work.

As a consultant/exec in the business and strategy team, we envisage your initial focus to be working on smaller pitches, playing a contributory role on larger pitches, developing relations with new clients and providing general support for the wider business and strategy team.
 
What we’re looking for:
 
- You might come to the role with experience working in insight or planning (one year to two years), and with some exposure to proposal writing and fieldwork. Alternatively, this is potentially an entry level position but if you can point to previous experience (internships and similar) in comparable working environments (insight, creative, strategy agencies etc) this will put you in good stead. 
 
- 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 any previous experience in something business development-related, that’s a plus
 
- 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/in presentations) is absolutely key
 
We can offer a competitive salary/benefits for the role (and commensurate to if you join as an executive or consultant). As importantly, we’re firmly convinced there’s few other openings out there that will give you exposure to such an amazing array of clients and fascinating people/culture-oriented business challenges. 

CONSULTANT/EXEC (QUANT & ANALYTICS – LONDON)

This is a role for an enthusiastic and confident individual who’s looking to step up from exec level to join us as a consultant (think senior research exec). The successful candidate will be responsible for drafting questionnaires, project managing quantitative fieldwork, collaborating with our clients and analysing data to draw out compelling findings. You’ll be supported by senior team members to develop your research skills, as you assist on a range of key accounts across categories such as media, tech, retail, alcohol and entertainment. The ideal candidate is likely to exhibit the following:

- Relevant experience in an agency environment

- A tangible enthusiasm for working with data and for doing so in new and novel ways

- An inquisitive and analytical mind, but also the creativity to think about new and compelling ways to present work and tell stories

- Highly organised, with excellent attention to detail and the ability to work under pressure

- Someone who’s positive, keen to develop, and who can operate with equal ease as part of a team or working autonomously

- Having either experience with, or an enthusiasm to learn about, qual methods and how to blend them with quant work a big plus point


All roles come with competitive salaries and benefits package, plus clear paths to promotion. 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 insight and innovation is coded into the culture, please get in touch with Crowd DNA managing director Andy Crysell, attaching a CV and covering letter.