Norwegian youth drama SKAM’s fourth series just finished, but its fan base keeps on growing. Head of insight & innovation Dr Matilda Andersson explores the role audience insights played in its success...

Those of you who thought TV is dead, think again. The fourth series of SKAM, a teen drama made by NRK (Norway’s BBC) has just ended, leaving its global following wanting more. From Stavanger to San Francisco, SKAM’s success has been fuelled by fans sharing images on Tumblr, distributing translated transcripts via Google Drive and making subtitled videos available on YouTube. With unprecedented high ratings and a cult following that’s seen fans invading the set, stalking characters and learning Norwegian, what’s the secret of its success?

SKAM, or SHAME in English, captures the everyday lives of teens in an average Norwegian high school, giving a raw and up-close view of love and friendship today (date rape, coming out and cyberbullying are just some of the topics covered). The series is digital first, with episodes released online (at NRK.NO) scene by scene throughout the week, to create the impression that events are happening live. The stars of the show come to life through their social media presence, each character has an Instagram account, updated when something interesting happens in the series. Even though the digital storytelling contributes to the show’s success, it’s the extraordinary realism capturing young people’s lives and relationships that has created waves reaching far beyond its suburban Oslo setting.

At the 2017 YLE Media Digital Summit, SKAM producer Marianne Furevold-Boland talks about using the NABC Method to get under the skin of Gen Zs. NABC originates from Stanford and stands for Need, Approach, Benefit and Competition. A familiar approach to us here at Crowd DNA, this audience-centric model focuses on needs first and then helps build value propositions to fulfill them. The team at NRK conducted surveys, content analysis of Instagram and Snapchat stories and visited schools to make sure they really listened to their audience. The producers of SKAM realized that if the consumers are willing to tell you their stories, there’s no point making things up.

A British broadcaster has yet to pick up the series, though Simon Fuller has bought the rights to produce an English language version for US and Canada. In the meantime, you can watch a subtitled trailer here.

At Crowd DNA we’re very proud to have contributed a young audience needs model to help future proof broadcasting, presented at the MRS Impact conference earlier this year. As their path to adulthood becomes less predictable, it’s even more important to take time to listen to young people today. Youth brands can learn a lot from SKAM’s strong audience needs proposition, innovative execution and digital first distribution.

First published in the MRS' Impact magazine, Crowd DNA associate director Jake Goretzki explores the fast-shifting attitudes to masculinity and male identity...

In May I presented ‘Gendershift: How To Speak Man’ at Crowd DNA’s regular breakfast event, Rise. This piece looks at shifts in attitudes to masculinity among Millennial men in the West and the opportunities this presents for brands.

Male identity is ‘hot right now’, in and beyond our sector. From Stormzy’s musings on male mental health to comedian Robert Webb’s forthcoming book ‘How Not To Be A Boy’. At Crowd DNA, we’ve developed a close interest in masculinity working with clients seeking to remain relevant to a young male audience – in an age where men aren’t the ‘lads’ they were a decade ago. The debate about ‘what makes a man’ isn’t, of course, new (remember the ‘New Man’ and the ‘Metrosexual’?), but is especially visible today.

For Gen Xers like me, raised by feminists and moisturising since their teens, opining on male dilemmas still feels, frankly, uncomfortable. Look: we still live in a patriarchy. Power is male. Wealth is male and the UK pay gaps grants men a 9.4% bonus over women. Outmoded ideas of men as promiscuous risk-takers and women as meek and emotional remain ubiquitous. ‘My heart bleeds for you’, my mum would tell me.

Male identity has been changing among Millennials. The drivers range from the (slow) advance of women in society to the mainstreaming of gay male identity. Male and female space has converged (from pubs to stag dos). Health and body are greater male preoccupations than ever before.

Today we see a more fluid, ‘individual masculinity’ that’s less binary and less ‘one size fits all’. Only 2% of men aged 18-24 said they were ‘completely masculine’ in a YouGov survey in 2015. Closer in, men have become more intimate and emotional (‘bromance’ is a word and US Presidents can cry now). When they do have children, men are more ‘Involved’, embracing fatherhood and not trying to escape the fact.

Yet for all this heartwarming progress at the leading edge, we’re seeing new tensions around masculinity. Most prominent is what’s called ‘toxic masculinity’, embodied by the (paradoxically make-up-wearing) Leader of the Free World (we did the crying when he was voted in). And behind him is a parade of back-to-the-kitchen growlers, ‘pick up artists’ and alt-right misogynists.

Worse still, Millennial men are living with a ‘misery epidemic’. As the charity ‘CALM’ reminds us, suicide is the biggest killer of young men (a subject touchingly covered by Professor Green). Being told that ‘boys don’t cry’ and appeals to ‘just be a man’ aren’t helping.

There are lesser tensions too. We see an increasing divergence between generations over what ‘being a man’ is, and a tendency among older men to misconstrue today’s men as ‘victims’ of female success (ask the Boomer icon Jeremy Clarkson how he feels about male identity today). We see a continued grapple to pin down an aspirational male archetype for today (strength and grit still dominate; witness the surge of Weekend Warriors and Tough Mudders).

Brands are increasingly reflecting changes. Unilever’s ‘Find Your Magic’ campaign for Lynx/Axe has long been a gold standard case study for us, celebrating a more nuanced, diverse idea of masculinity – the more so coming from a brand once associated with a laddish posture that irritated women. Fashion brands have been relatively brave too – Diesel’s ‘Make Love Not Walls’ doesn’t hide whose proposed wall it’s talking about.

In drinks, Coors now lets us laugh at Jean-Claude Van Damme’s faded machismo; Southern Comfort liberates with a pot-bellied beach walker. Over in the Deep South, Jim Beam is now fronted by Mila Kunis. (And suddenly, Jack Daniel’s gruff men of Lynchburg Tennessee are looking a little unreconstructed).

There are many opportunities for brands to speak more meaningfully to today’s young men. Brands can take a stand against toxic masculinity by talking to men and women as one, not two camps – tapping into male goodwill for female progress. Nike’s ‘Unlimited You’ is a bracing male and female story. ‘Walking the talk’ as an organisation is essential as well (American Apparel’s seedy casting of young submissive women won it few friends and bordered on the ‘toxic’). As Elina Vives, Senior Director of Marketing at Coors has said “Any brand nowadays has to stop insulting women first and foremost and be much more inclusive”.

Brands can also work on the ‘male happiness project’: stoicism and old masculinity are a straitjacket and, frankly, young men need ‘cheering up’. Friendship is now a kinder, warmer experience than the ‘lad bantz’ and locker room of old. It’s time too to banish the stock ‘doofus dad’, bemused by parenting and shopping. As Axe/Lynx’s shift showed, disrupting conventions of masculinity and bringing greater nuance to the man you portray can invigorate a brand and win over enemies. Today’s man? He’s not the man he was. And a good thing, too.

Our last Rise breakfast session before the summer break was about consumer journeys. Crowd's Tom Morgan and Essi Mikkola discussed three things that often get overlooked when researching the path to purchase...

So, what exactly is a consumer journey? It’s much more than a specific purchase moment or service experience: at Crowd, consumer journeys conceptualise the experience of being a customer over a length of time, from first hearing or thinking of a brand or product, right through to making a purchase and considering buying it again. This insight can also be used to cause the most (positive!) disruption, whether it’s via innovation, communications or offers and promotions.

At our event, Essi and Tom used buying lunch as an example of a journey. Culture inevitably plays a huge part in decision-making across a consumer journey as it progresses from consideration to evaluation, purchase to post-purchase. For example, not only are current trends important when buying lunch (like the rise in probiotic eating or the proliferation of street food markets in the UK), there are also broader socio-cultural factors, such as customs and rituals that contribute to what actually makes a meal ‘lunch’ within any specific market.

Additionally we use behavioural science to help us to understand consumer journeys. Going back to our lunch example, a survey by Covent Garden Soup found that one in six people eat the same lunch every day and have done for the last two years. When analysing consumer journeys, we need to bear in mind that status quo bias comes into play as consumers often resort to purchasing the same thing. Other behavioural factors that help us understand decision-making are: priming (subconscious influences on our behaviour caused by different cues, such as words, sounds, smells and images) and heuristics (mental shortcuts used to make decision-making less cognitively difficult).

Finally, Essi discussed the power of visualising the journey, which allows us to reveal the pain points and opportunities along the purchase experience. Applying behavioural and cultural theory on top of this provides brands with specific touch-points where they can connect with consumers.

Essi and Tom left us with three reasons why consumer journeys are so important. Mapping journeys prioritises insight to ensure the greatest traction. A journey model creates actionable findings that can be used across the business. Finally, they break down siloes by encouraging holistic connections beyond marketing and product/service design, therefore inspiring cross-category change.

If you’d like to read more about consumer journeys, please contact and we’ll send you a lovely pdf on the subject.

We're recruiting people to take part in a global lifestyle community...

Crowd DNA are looking for people to take part in a one-year community about city life for a global lifestyle brand. The community will explore people’s experience of living in a city as well as their behaviour and ideas around areas such as innovation, sustainability and retail.

We’re looking for 20-35 year-olds with good quality written/spoken English skills who live in one the following cities (and have been resident in the country for 10 years or more):

London, Mumbai, San Francisco, Shanghai, Stockholm, Tokyo

What do you need to do?

Over the course of a year, you’re asked to complete fortnightly ‘quick-fire tasks’ (e.g. polls, written responses, taking pictures) and one ‘major task’ every two months (e.g. interviewing friends, diaries). Topics will vary for every task.

What’s in it for you?

We offer remuneration in the form of Amazon vouchers for tasks completed, as well as prize draws for the best response, general engagement and overall contribution.

If you’re interested, please fill in this questionnaire:

Know someone who’s a perfect fit? Then feel free to share this post.


We're seeking someone for a brand spanking new role in our London office...

Crowd DNA has an excellent track record in online communities, for projects both short term and long running, and across a range of categories (media, tech, fashion retail, alcohol, entertainment). We’re recruiting for a director/associate director who can drive this part of the business forwards, building client relations, facilitating innovations, and furthering best practice among our project teams.

You will sit in our business and strategy team, working closely with Crowd DNA’s managing director and taking a lead on winning business in the online communities field and communicating our approaches to the industry. You will also work closely with our head of insight and innovation on the perfect delivery of live projects, ensuring work is executed to amazing standards. What we’re after:

- Detailed experience of online community-based research; from how to communicate their value to clients, how to set them up, how to keep them in good shape and how to illicit first rate insights; including understanding the differing demands of short term versus long term communities, smaller sample versus larger sample ones, operating across markets/languages and how best to engage clients in the work

- Knowledge of different community platforms, an aptitude for building supplier relations and assessing strengths and weaknesses of different offerings

- If you can point to experience of using communities for innovation/development oriented projects, that’s definitely a good thing

- A strong grasp of the wider repertoire of online research methods/platforms, beyond communities, is a good thing, too

- The necessary energy and dexterity to work at a senior level in a range of areas – directorial input across live projects, upskilling the wider Crowd team, devising new innovations, leading pitches and sharing our expertise with clients/prospective clients

- Even if you haven’t been directly involved in business development to date, a tangible enthusiasm for it is important

- We’ll want you to be well aligned with Crowd DNA’s own values also – attuned to cultural trends, to presenting findings in powerful, immersive fashions and receptive to new ideas and fresh thinking

Our preference is to recruit at director level for this position – though if someone with slightly less experience, but who’s a good fit nonetheless comes along, we may switch to offering an associate director role.

The role comes with a competitive salary and benefits package, plus a clear path 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.


We're looking to bring on board a consultant level, quant-focussed researcher to join our London team...

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

The role comes with a competitive salary and benefits package, plus a clear path 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.

Rise: Consumer Paths

At our next Rise breakfast session in London, Crowd DNA’s products and services expert Tom Morgan will explore three things that often get overlooked by brands when they consider the consumer purchase journey...

Date: June 22

Time: 8.15am-9am

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

To understand how consumers make decisions on the path to purchase, brands need help to decipher a complex journey. In this session, we’re focusing on three things that often get overlooked: cultural shifts, behavioural factors and the power of visualising results.

Tom will help you to understand consumer decision-making processes better, learning how to influence them and ultimately to unlock actionable findings for your brand.

If you’d like to join us for coffee, croissants and an insightful journey along the consumer path, please contact Jason Wolfe. And feel free to bring colleagues along for the ride.

Watch the trailer below:

Prototyping is a useful tool for brand innovation. This is what happened when graduate students joined the Crowd DNA team for a hands-on workshop...

Prototyping was the subject of this morning’s team training session at Crowd DNA and we invited some students from the MA Innovation Management course at UAL Central Saint Martins to join in the fun.

We use prototyping in two ways at Crowd DNA: for design thinking and as a research method, but we were also interested to find out how our guests bring prototyping into their work. Jose N, for instance is interested in bringing art thinking to business, which he feels opens up more creative ways to innovate than design thinking. Inga has worked with AI while Nina and Jose C (who built a prototype of an Amazonian community) are interested in design for social impact.

Leading the session was senior consultant Ken Wallraven, who explained that prototyping is a way of “thinking and expressing with the hands”. With that in mind we were split into groups and challenged to reinvent ‘breakfast on the go’. A noisy ideation and building session followed a discussion of needs, where ‘wearables’ were made from colourful string, vending machines were fashioned out of stationery and balloons were turned into drones.

While presenting our prototypes the discussion covered breakfast shaming (the perils of eating messy and smelly food on public transport), how we can learn from other categories and – if we want to think differently – why app ideas should be banned (at least in this session).

Interestingly, the prototype doesn’t always have to be a viable product. Provotypes are designed not to work but to provoke discussion, while pretotypes (derived from pretending) involve channelling your inner actor (something that certain members of the team did this morning) to mock or act out a function of a product or service.

Finally we looked at how prototyping could be useful for specific brands. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch with our Products and Services expert, Tom Morgan.