Our Rise breakfast events return to London this autumn. Next up, Crowd DNA’s Roberta Graham and Laura Boerboom offer a guide to semiotics and how we use it to ignite our culturally-charged superpowers...
There’s important meaning to be found in all aspects of culture. But what about in the smaller interactions and behaviours – or the actual words, textures and sounds – that shape our world? Significant meaning, it turns out, often gets overlooked within the layers.
Our new set of consultative services – Futures, Semiotics & Listening – helps ensure that nothing of cultural significance is missed. Each approach kits us out with different ways to decode culture and unlock the meaning inside, well, everything.
But what exactly is semiotics? And how does it connect back to real business challenges?
In our next Rise event, we’ll demystify the methodology, before exploring how we use it to identify white spaces, pinpoint cultural futures and prepare brands for new markets. We’ll talk through how we’ve deployed semiotics to execute fresh positionings; help update packaging and products; inspire and provide toolkits for creative strategies; and, ultimately, how we use it to reach new levels of culturally-charged advantage for our clients.
If you’d like to ‘decode’ semiotics, please join us for coffee, croissants and a guide to this exciting methodology. Contact Pauline Rault to come along – and feel free to pass this invite on to colleagues too.
Busy times at Crowd DNA - meaning we’re also getting busy on the recruitment front, with these roles to fill in our lovely Hoxton Square office in London...
We openings across specialisms such as strategic insight, quantitative research, project management, creative delivery and social listening. Here’s an overview of each role.
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 alcohol, retail, fashion, FMCG and media. 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 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.
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.
Consultant – strategic insights, German language capabilities (circa £30,000-£32,000)
An opportunity to join our strategic insights team, collaborating on cultural understanding briefs for clients across multiple categories. We’re looking for someone with circa two years experience (most likely in a similar agency environment), good exposure to clients and, in this instance, who comes with high level German language capabilities.
Exec/Consultant – strategic insights, with social listening skills (£23,000-£32,000)
You will get to work across strategic insights projects in a host of ways – desk research, trends analysis, workshops – but you’ll come armed with particular skills in using social media platforms – Brandwatch preferred, with an aptitude for using it to get to both data-led stories and as means to visual analysis. You will therefore get to develop the ‘Crowd DNA way’ of using social listening, with cultural sensibilities to the fore.
Demonstrable project management skills are vital here, as you’ll play a pivotal role in designing and running projects, with touchpoints including liaising with clients, suppliers and, of course, Crowd DNA’s in-house team. You don’t necessarily need experience in insight and strategy environments – more a track record in ensuring projects run smoothly; managing timelines, sourcing costs, allocating resource etc. Any form of recruitment (experts, artists, influencers) or casting experience is a plus.
Exec – Socialise creative team (circa £23,000)
We’re looking for someone who definitely comes with good film experience (bonus points if you’re au fait with Canon film kit and Adobe Creative Suite), but who’s also keen to extend themselves across different creative areas – photography, trends analysis, designing mixed media outputs and generally working in an environment where enabling brands to get to grips with cultural change is key.
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 find out more info about a particular role, or to apply (attaching a CV and covering letter), please get in touch with Dr Matilda Andersson.
We spoke to three of our intern-turned-employees about their journeys at Crowd DNA, and what they got from an initial placement with us...
Internships at Crowd DNA have nothing to do with making tea. We offer hands-on placements to people at all stages in their careers; giving aspiring researchers, creatives and strategists a chance to learn more about cultural insight work. From day one, our interns get to input on real projects for amazing brands. These internships often lead to permanent roles – with that in mind, here’s what three of our former interns had to say about their journeys at Crowd.
Robert Downer, exec (strategic insights)
I discovered Crowd when I was studying for my master’s. I wanted a career change after working in education management and I thought that insight would be ideal for me. I like meeting new people, exploring ideas and being creative. But to get into a new industry, I knew I would need experience (both for my CV and for myself), so I thought an internship was a good way to go.
On my first day at the Hoxton Square office, everyone was friendly, open and super smart. I got stuck in and started working with some huge brands from the get go. In my first month, I worked on an online community, conducted interviews and even went on fieldwork. I was completely trusted, and that’s what I liked about the internship: I wasn’t treated like an intern at all. I was part of the team.
Now that I’m an exec, I take a lead role on projects for major clients, receive regular training and feel supported in all areas of my progression. Interning at Crowd was a great choice for me at a crucial turning point in my career.
Salem Khalazi, exec (Socialise creative team)
I became an intern in quite an unusual way: as a project participant. I was hanging out in Hoxton Square when two of the Crowd team walked towards me with a video camera. They were collecting voxpops and wanted my thoughts on the future of music television.
I didn’t know much about cultural insights at the time – only that I wanted to develop my skills as a designer in a professional setting. So, after my brief stint as a voxpopper, I sent my portfolio to the team and dived into a seemingly random opportunity. It was this curiosity and can-do attitude that shaped my first month as an intern. I threw myself into creative projects, big and small, and was trusted to design infographics about Canadian millennials for a key client. Eventually, I was offered a job in the Socialise team helping to bring insights to life via creative delivery.
Crowd DNA now plays a huge part in shaping a future where I’d like to build visual experiences that explore our ever-changing culture. Crowd’s blend of strategic insights and game-changing creativity is the perfect place to hone my skills.
Marjory Drevet, exec (strategic insights)
Studying people and culture has always been a personal interest, especially during my recent travels across America and Europe. I thought that a cultural insights agency would be a great place for me to turn this knowledge into a profession, so I got in touch with Crowd DNA.
Originally from France, I was put straight to work on a project about Parisian youth culture. It was really illuminating and I was surprised how my generation represented a relevant behavioural shift for brands. The project allowed me to view my background from a different perspective and assess what opportunities there were for brands.
After six weeks of intense learning and involvement, the internship confirmed my interest in connecting brands to people, and explaining people to brands. My ultimate goal is to inspire companies with culture, and being at Crowd DNA finally allows me to settle down and build on this expertise. I couldn’t be more ‘Crowd Proud’ that I’m now officially part of the team.
We regularly post internship openings on our blog, so keep an eye out here – or get in touch if you’d like to find out more: hello@crowdDNA.com
We’re seeking one to join our strategic insights team in Hoxton Square, London...
Cultural insights and strategy consultancy Crowd DNA is seeking a consummately skilled strategic insights expert to join our London team as an associate director. You’ll get to work on fabulously diverse and exciting projects for some of the biggest names around. The briefs we get are amazing – truly at the intersection of culture and brands. We want someone who can bring both provocative thinking and total diligence to this type of work, and who can call on circa six plus years of relevant experience.
Here, in more detail, is what we’re looking for:
– You need to have the confidence and necessary experience to take the controls of large and sometimes complex projects; to be an informed, energised and trusted advisor to our clients
– We’re looking for strong evidence of experience in areas such as brand positioning, proposition development, growth strategies, trends exploration and innovation/transformation projects
– You’ll bring with you skills such as desk and qual research, interacting with experts and influencers, developing frameworks and personas, and using diverse data sources (for instance, social media listening)
– Demonstrating experience of working on multi-market projects is important; as is the ability to lead a team
– Also of working on high quality proposals and project design – plus a demonstrable interest in devising strategies for bringing new clients on board and bolstering existing client relationships
– We’re looking for someone who can bring a real sense of craft to their work – from the outputs they produce and strategic recommendations they devise, to how they run workshops and articulate fresh ideas that have cultural-commercial relevance
– We want someone who’s enthusiastic about the idea of working alongside strategists, writers, film-makers and designers; collaborating both with those in our London team and in our overseas offices
The role comes with a competitive salary and benefits, plus clear paths to promotion and to new opportunities. 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 cultural insights and strategy is coded into the way of working, please do get in touch, providing a covering letter and CV in the first instance.
Brands such as Nike, H&M and Apple are tapping into interpretive dance styles to reflect joy in the moment rather than striving for goals. Crowd DNA semiotics expert Roberta Graham explores...
Interpretive dance is nothing new. But what was once seen as an elitist art form and joked about in popular culture is now strongly resonating with people and brands. Sure, we all like to dance, but we’re talking about more than a drunken flail on a Saturday night. Recent portrayals of dance feel much more empowering, liberating and revolutionary than ever before.
The influence of artists and choreographers such as New Noveta, Holly Blakey and Wayne McGregor have been widely reflected in the mainstream. Over recent years a number of high-profile and successful campaigns have leveraged this trend to create engaging and energised communications. But why is everyone suddenly dancing? What’s driving our interest and connection to dance?
Transformation through dance
Spike Jonze’s creation of Kenzo World shows a young woman on the brink of tears escaping a desperately boring ceremony. Stumbling into the deserted halls of a hotel, she springs into an instinctual and joyfully disruptive dance – as if against her own will. The feeling of release is tangible as this lone woman in a ball gown breaks free and becomes her true self, crushing stereotypes of demure femininity with her powerful gestures. More recently, Apple’s Homepod advert shares a similar theme. An almost unrecognisably drab FKA Twigs dances off the drudgery of city life in the solitude of her apartment.
Not only does dance draw these examples together, they also share context. Visibly exhausted faces make way for performative expressions. Dance takes on a transformative role, for both the character and the space around them as they escape and transform – and, ultimately, offer the audience the opportunity to do the same.
Culture is shifting away from a goal-oriented mindset towards self-fulfilment and joy in the moment. For example, the popularity of dance classes as a form of exercise offer people physical release without the pressure to lose weight or beat a pb. In a culture of mindfulness, dance meets our emotional and physical needs as an active meditation. Lotte Anderson’s installation ‘Dance Therapy’ explores this therapeutic quality of movement. Similarly, influencers such as Naomi Shimada – who has collaborated with ASOS and Nike on the subject – also advocate dance in line with self-care. Shimada incidentally stars in H&M’s spring 2018 campaign, a diverse feminist tango, choreographed by Holly Blakey.
The women mentioned in these examples all show a refreshing carelessness and confidence. Whether alone or in public they exist in their own worlds, free to express themselves. But the need to be authentically oneself isn’t exclusively female. The rejection of gender roles through movement is not limited. For example, Nike’s ‘Never Ask’ campaign shows Russia’s first male synchronised swimmer, Aleksandr Maltsev, overcoming strict gender roles to achieve his dreams through dance. New Zealand beer manufacturers Speight have also used dance to confront toxic-masculinity within the category, blurring the boundaries of male friendship. This makes dance an extremely effective form of unspoken communication.
In our jaded and marketing-savvy world, movement offers a visceral connection that all consumers can feel a genuine longing for. Dance has the ability to traverse boundaries between the internal and external self, offering a physical escape from the societal confines of gender, hierarchy and responsibility, or even just from our own thoughts and anxieties. This sense of liberty is a truly powerful tool for both brands and consumers to harness.
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.
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 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.