New Roles @ Crowd DNA

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

Director – strategic insights 

We’re looking for someone with the confidence and leadership skills to take the helm of one of our work streams at Crowd DNA. In particular, we’re seeking someone with experience in finance and fintech, with a good grasp of the more future-facing ambitions driving this category. We’ll expect you to have worked on briefs in several of the following areas: thought leadership studies, product/platform/content development, new market entries, comms and positioning, audience understanding. You will report in to Crowd DNA’s London managing director, with incentivised targets to aim for and the scope to develop new innovations and growth opportunities.

Senior Consultant – quant & analytics

We’re seeking 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.

Executive – quant & analytics

This is potentially an entry level role for someone who can point to relevant internship experience, or made for someone who has some work experience under their belt in a similar agency environment. Either way, it’s for a candidate who’s dedicated to shaping a career in quant and analytics-oriented insight, and keen to develop quickly in areas such as survey design, analysis and story-shaping. Reporting in to one of our directors, you’ll get to support our project leads on fascinating work at the intersection of data and culture for clients across categories such as media, finance, fashion and alcohol.

Associate Director/Senior Consultant – socialise content team

Socialise is the name of our in-house team of writers, designers, videographers and photographers, dedicated to creating content to bring new dimensions to our cultural insight and strategy work. We’re seeking a senior consultant or associate director-level hire (think 4-10 years experience), who comes with a strong track record in editorial/copy work, but who’s also confident providing direction and shaping ideas more broadly across design and video work. You’ll get to take the lead on content work for major brands, to line manage team members, be a key contributor to Crowd DNA’s own thought leadership work and generally ensure we’re an agency at the top of our creative game.

 


All 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.

Engaging The Leading Edge

Crowd DNA Singapore's Emma Gage recently presented at the Qual 360 conference on how we leverage the ‘leading edge’. It’s a powerful way to see categories, consumers, brands and products from different perspectives, she explains...

We often receive briefs that aspire to transformation; communications that will kill the competition, reinvention of flagging categories, the re-writing of brand stories to carve out potent spaces, or the development of new product and service ideas that will change the game. Everyone wants something new and fresh. But, generally, insight strategies are focused on the core: the mainstream consumers that are likely buying the product day-to-day.

Yes, Crowd DNA also spends a lot of time understanding core consumers; purchase journeys and decision-making; existing rituals, routines and behaviours. But we also know that ‘consumers’ (in the purist sense) can be limited in what they can provide us with. We know from behavioural economics that action mostly precedes attitude and certainly any changes in deeper values.

This is true the world over, but especially in Asia where contextual change happens rapidly and where there can be significant differences in lives lived even between siblings.  Consumers will struggle to articulate ‘why?’, no matter how deep you dig, and imagining ‘what could be?’, rather than just ‘what is’, is an even bigger ask.

The role of cultural understanding

This is where cultural understanding comes in; having the ability to look at what’s happening on-the-street, working back to the bigger trends and then the more fundamental macro changes being represented. For this we read, we keep up to date with various academic and cultural texts, we speak to our CrowdStars network of academic and cultural experts and we formulate a perspective on what’s happening with femininity, masculinity, the modern family, youth and so on. But what brings ‘cultural intelligence’ and ‘consumer reality’ together in the most powerful way is the ‘leading edge’. 

We engage them as consumers in their own right, finding out how they’re living their lives in different ways and the factors that are motivating them. We use them as on-the-ground scouts or citizen journalists, to observe and chart change; we use them for their perspective and their ideas, as ‘fresh brains’, sparks or controversial voices that will inject something different to the mix and will help to shake us all out of old ways of thinking. Or we use them as cultural gatekeepers; they may have a following, or create content that influences others and we’re interested in them engaging the people they know on our behalf.

Insight as disruptor

To see the value in these kinds of approaches requires a bit of a re-set of the role of insight. It moves it from directional intelligence, to disruptor and provocateur. For clients with a sense of adventure it can, if wielded in the right way, lead to very exciting new spaces.

The common fears are…  ‘aren’t these people a bit random, they have no relationship with my consumer and how will that help me sell shampoo?’  ‘Isn’t this just about the cool kids hanging out at skateparks, it’s probably only relevant for youth brands.’

While, yes, we do a lot of this work for the more typical ‘cool categories’ and for brands interested in youth and staying on-trend, we contend it’s just as relevant for biscuits, for shampoo and for laundry. Every brand should be aspiring to cultural relevance and if there’s a job of transformation to be done, doing the same thing you’ve always done won’t cut it. Seeing your category, your consumer, your brand and your product via a different perspective is powerful.

Leading Edgers take many forms, but they’re always relative to a market, to a category or to a brand. They are real people who also do their grocery shopping, but we’re engaging them because they have a different way of seeing things, or behave differently to the mainstream, or are just more in touch with fast cultural change.

Context and purpose

It has to happen in context, with a clearly defined role and reason for being. We use cultural understanding and trends work to inform who is needed and how we’ll do it. And once that is clear, we cast them. There’s more info on how we go about it here, but, in short, they aren’t a sample; they are a curated set of people representing a way of thinking, a lifestyle, a personality, maybe a category relationship (sometimes core, sometimes a different category) and a level of interest in what we’re trying to do.

Sometimes we work with the leading edge in short and snappy ways (to bring different angles to workshops, for instance) but, when we’re engaging them long-term, we have to keep them energised. We all know a relationship that’s purely transactional is probably going to be fairly empty and short-lived. So we give communities and networks a name and a sense of identity. We explain the bigger purpose and their role within it. We keep them entertained, interested and feeling useful.

We’ve done this kind of work for sneaker companies, manufacturers of contemporary Swedish furniture, for whisky, tech and for the travel industry. We now hope we can inspire a few more categories and brands to see what it can produce for them.

For more info on how we conduct leading edge work, reach out to Emma Gage (Singapore) Hollie Jones (New York) | Dr Matilda Andersson (London).

Words In The Workshop

Even the best workshop ideas can get lost in the action. Phoebe Trimingham from Crowd DNA’s Socialise team shares thoughts on how ‘live copywriting’ can be used to spot, enhance and lift them to the surface...

Workshops are a fundamental part of our work at Crowd DNA. They get people talking, thinking and really engaging with cultural insights. We use them at various stages of a project: from aligning teams around trends and topics, to ideating and developing new products and concepts. Whatever the purpose, we root everything (and everyone) in culture from the offset.

But workshops can be challenging. There’s a lot going on, a lot to take in, and a lot of structure required to make them a success. All to often, great ideas get lost within the action. At Crowd, we deploy various methods to make sure our workshops are always impactful.

Integrating live copywriting skills is one such exciting addition to a workshop design – and it can really help lift the day’s creativity and ideas, as well as enhance the clarity and quality of the final outputs.

Live copywriting has multiple benefits depending on the business challenge – but we think it’s most effective within concept development workshops. While there’s not really a one-size-fits-all approach to live copywriting, nonetheless here’s a few general best-practice tips that we’ve picked up.

Know what you’re walking into

It sounds obvious, but the more research of the workshop’s wider context – and the discourse surrounding it – the more prepared you’ll be to tackle the language challenges on the day. I make sure I’m briefed in by the wider project team at Crowd, understanding the category, competitors and cultural landscape; and getting familiar with any associated acronyms and industry-specific phrases. We always write a vocab sheet of useful words and thought-starters beforehand, and prepare a few ‘wish-list’ options of how we’d like to push the language further in the actual workshop.

Who, what and where?

Next, zoom in on the day itself. What are the aims and objectives of the session? We treat our role within it as we would any writing brief: who will read the final output? What is the purpose, what’s the story? Where will the final copy appear? Is it a summary report to present to stakeholders, for example, or a series of polished concepts to test with real life consumers? Once you know the intended audience and purpose, the tone and overall focus of what you’re writing will also become clear.

Listen and edit-as-you-go

Live copywriting is tricky, especially when trying to digest lots of people’s complex ideas into accessible language. The key to any good edit is knowing what to leave out. So listen carefully to what is being said and use your knowledge of the wider context and overall workshop objective to decide what’s important, and what’s worth getting rid of. Similarly, as you write, spot if any ideas are being repeated. Can anything be clubbed into themes? Does anything contradict, or disconnect from the overall purpose? Be prepared for one-off word challenges: ‘what’s a better way of saying X?’, as well as delivering polished rewrites of ideas as they’re being presented.

Remember: clarity is king

Lastly, if it feels like the language is complicated, it probably is. It’s the writer’s job to cut through the noise, so a good tip for dealing with complexity is to quickly sketch the idea out as a graphic, along with a collection of direct quotes underneath. Mark it up and return to it during a break to rethink and rewrite when you have more space. If you can, sit away from the group when they’re feeding back ideas, to allow you to focus on objectively writing up in the clearest way. Finding the right words is crucial when translating big ideas but, for even further clarity, we often pair our live-writers with live-illustrators to make the ideas as instantly understandable (and visually exciting) as possible.

If you’d like to hear more about how we use live copywriting in workshops, please email hello@crowdDNA.com for a chat.

 

Rise: How To Speak Woman

We need to stop talking about women, and start talking to them. Our next Rise breakfast session in London sees Crowd DNA’s Elyse Pigram and Roberta Graham explain how, as they set about future-proofing the female position...

Date: November 1

Time: 8.15am-9am

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

They say we’re in the era of women. That true, diverse representations of womanhood are finally shining through in brands and culture. This is due, in part, to women taking charge of the conversation – and business – surrounding femininity, gender roles and the female body; as well as huge cultural shifts, such as the #metoo movement and strength of mainstream feminism.

But what’s more: we’re welcoming in a new generation, with new rules. 80 percent of Gen Z women in the UK feel 100 percent female, and 39 percent would consider wearing clothes marketed to the opposite gender. These are the women revolutionising workspaces and sectors; transforming communities and businesses; starting families while inventing new ways of living – all with completely different expectations and priorities.

So as more expressions evolve and scripts of ‘womanhood’ are constantly rewritten, how can we keep up?

This session explores the past, present and future of female representation. Using this trajectory, we’ll ask how the female position can flex to be more open and off-script. In particular, we’ll explore what this means for brands looking to future-proof and remain culturally relevant to their female audience; many brands are still struggling to pitch the conversation right. And should we even be targeting women and men in a binary way at all? By looking at leading categories – such as personal care, sport, inclusive cosmetics and fashion – we’ll help brands harness new opportunities, while avoiding the slippery slope of superficial tokenism.

Join us in the Lux Building for delicious pastries and even more delicious insights. Contact Pauline Rault to come along – and pass this invite on to colleagues of any gender.

Watch the trailer below:

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.