Tegan Morris on what it means to be a project producer at Crowd DNA - and why they’re crucial to making the magic happen...

Project producers are a vital part of the team here at Crowd DNA, and no, we’re not the same thing as a project manager! While there are parallels with a traditional PM, the producer part of our title (sounds fancy, doesn’t it?) reflects the intellectual investment we have in each and every project that we’re a part of; and our genuine interest in the work we do for our clients. Not just the fixers and organisers, we have as much of a role to play as everyone else to make the work first-rate, collaborating with each member of the team – from executives to creatives – to get the job done. More than just managing projects, we help to craft and cast them, so that we can tell meaningful stories through culture.

Getting recruitment right

One of the most important parts of a producer’s role is recruiting for research. But this is very much about moving things on from more conventional definitions of recruitment. You’ll notice that, at Crowd, we work with participants, not respondents. This is to reflect the purposeful collaboration we strive for in all of our work – not just with our clients and internal team, but with the people that help shape the research.

Instead of combing CVs and chasing people with phone calls, we want to really understand what makes each person tick, and exactly why they’d be right for the brief – which often means thinking outside the box for ways to get them involved. The producer is in charge of sourcing participants and experts, using innovative recruitment techniques and nurturing relationships with our partners who help us find the best people. It’s important to remember that choosing well means they’ll bring just as much value to the research as our in-house team, so recruitment is crucial to the project’s ultimate success. Managing and developing this globally on behalf of the wider team is one of the reasons the role is fundamental and exciting. You never know who you could be talking to on any given day – for one project it might be a behavioural scientist or wellness guru, while for another it could be Gen Z food influencers (here’s how we recruit for leading-edge work, for instance)

Keeping all the ducks in a row

We’re known for our planning abilities – you’re likely find us wielding post-its and colour coordinated schedules at every stage of the work. We’re overseeing multiple story narratives (from different projects), characters and set pieces all at once. You’ll find us putting our multitasking into action in these key areas:

Time – Producers construct and keep track of timelines, key dates and deadlines throughout the whole project, making sure the team are delivering on schedule.

Logistics – All the hows, whens and wheres are handled by the producers, problem-solving and adapting to any changes along the way to figure out how best the methodology behind the project can be realised on a practical level. Whether it’s figuring out how to keep children focused for an hour of research, how a team is going to fit in a tiny car for ethnographies or just working around national holidays – it’s the producer’s job to turn ideas into reality.

Budget Producers manage the budget and keep an eye on the costs of individual projects. Staying on top of this is one of the essential parts of the role – it is only the project lead and producers that oversee this side of the project; so being the point of contact for all project expense is a key responsibility.

A beginning, middle and end

One of the best bits about being a project producer is that, along with the project lead, we’re with projects from start to finish. This is a real privilege and means we get to dive into all aspects of the business, making our role incredibly varied. From shaping how client’s objectives will turn into a reality, speaking to people from all walks of life, to seeing final creative outputs taking form, we get to be a part of the story all the way through.

Project Producer Awesome-ness:

Seeing a project from inception to successful conclusion and knowing you helped to shape it

Collaborating with all teams in the business and the variety this brings

Ownership – having real responsibility throughout

Building relationships with the team, clients and partners

Simultaneously solving problems and thinking creatively

Take a look at the exciting roles we’re currently recruiting for at Crowd DNA here, or email us on hello@crowdDNA.com

When Gen Z become parents

As Gen Z start to reach parenthood, Crowd DNA New York’s Eden Lauffer forecasts what brands should expect from the next wave of parents...

Pew Research Center recently defined Gen Z as those born between 1997 and 2012 (so, today’s seven to 22 year-olds). From what we know so far, they’re a diverse and open-minded generation who’ve grown up enjoying the benefits of social media at their fingertips. Yet, equally, they’re also a group associated with high levels of anxiety and an overwhelming pressure to project success, both online and off.

Now that older Gen Zers have started to enter the workforce and, generally speaking, more of them will begin having children a few milestones down the road, it’s interesting to think how this group will approach and redefine parenthood. Furthermore, with a personal shopping power of $143 billion (according to Forbes), brands should be prepared for this generation to soon take family household shopping by storm. They may still be young, but we thought we’d wish away their years with a few key ways to start thinking about this next generation of parents.

Breaking The Mold

According to NPR, 48 percent of Gen Zers in the US are non-white and, according to Ipsos Mori, only 66 percent identify as ‘exclusively heterosexual,’ making them the most diverse cohort in history. This has already built a generation of outspoken individuals, taking a stand on issues like LGBTQ rights, racial bias and inequality, and plenty of other issues. As parents, Gen Zers are likely to value empathy and teach their children tolerance and acceptance of others.

Naturally, brands that embrace diversity will continue to thrive. Many parents have already strayed from typical gender norms when it comes to baby toys and names – and this will no doubt extend further. In the realm of fashion, for example, brands that were born genderless, like Phluid Project, will continue to prosper, with genderless clothing something more children’s fashion brands should definitely consider (Gap are already paving the way with their neutral baby clothes).

The Power Of Social

Gen Zers are also stereotyped for spending hours curating their lives on social media. While this may have negative associations with mental health, it could also have positive use cases for parenting.

In a study done by Collage Group, over 70 percent of Gen Z females without children felt FOMO regularly, but only 36 percent with children felt the same. It seems the presence of kids may actually reduce some of the negative impacts of social media. For example, Gen Zer Kylie Jenner has spoken about her desire to keep her role as a mom private from her (very) public life. This change has bled into her overall social media use: cutting back on what she posts and the amount that she does so.

Furthermore, being a generation known to trust recommendations from social media feeds when it comes to brands and products, this may also bleed into their shopping choices for children. They currently respond well to the recommendations of peer influencers, which may later translate into parenting purchase decisions and kid-friendly brand advice.

Everyday Coping Mechanisms

In recent years, the teen suicide rate has increased drastically – over 70 percent among 10-17 year-olds from 2006-2016, according to USA Today. However, 37 percent of Gen Zers also reported seeking help from mental health professionals (CNN), which is significantly higher than millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers.

As parents, Gen Zers are likely to emphasize the importance of mental health. They’re expected to help their children deal with life stressors in a different way than their parents did for them. Digital-native brands that help promote good mental health, such as Headspace and Talkspace, will likely thrive and give way to like-minded services designed for kids. Mindfulness apps aren’t just to benefit adults – Gen Z parents will likely get their children in the practice of using tools of their own. Apps like Calm, which tells stories to soothe users to sleep, have been recommended for kids, as have other apps that help kids with anxiety through journaling, body awareness and meditation.

Gen Zers are already firmly taking the reins on social issues, such as mental health, as well as paving the way for new types of family units, via genderless purchases. Brands will need to pay close attention to Gen Z’s values in order to keep up with this high spending, change-igniting generation on the brink of parenthood.

Crowd DNA New York's Eden Lauffer takes aim and explores which of this year's Super Bowl ads soared - and which ones flopped...

This year’s Super Bowl can be described in one word, ‘meh’. By halftime, the score was a whopping 3-0 Patriots-Rams. The game was the lowest scoring of all time and fans were less than impressed with the halftime show. While the much-hyped ads were mostly well-received, not many stood out particularly strongly. We’ve looked into a few ads that worked well – and some that didn’t work as well.

Amazon Alexa – “Not Everything Makes The Cut”

In the 2018 Super Bowl, Alexa lost her voice, allowing celebrities to step in to help answer user questions. This year, Amazon Alexa took a similar approach, leaning on celebrities to poke fun at the voice assistant device, reminiscing on fictitious failed Alexa products such as an electric toothbrush and a dog collar.

Both playing on a theme from last year and poking fun at itself, Amazon hit the mark with this ad. The celebrities chosen for this year’s spot appealed to a wider audience, with the likes of Harrison Ford and Forest Whitaker, but also Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson of Broad City. With the final season of Broad City now airing – plus a pairing with Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now,’ tapping into the Golden Globe wins for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ – this makes this ad deftly pop culture relevant.

Verizon – “Team That Wouldn’t Be Here”

Like in 2018, Verizon used the Super Bowl to comment on their link to first responders. This year, they tied in NFL players who had been rescued by first responders after near fatal accidents.

An improvement from last year’s ad, this year Verizon worked off of the link to the NFL rather than just reporting how they helped first responders do their jobs. However, as with last year’s spot, claiming to be responsible for part of the work first responders do feels to be a bit of a stretch for a telecom brand.

T-Mobile – “We’ll Keep This Brief,” “What’s For Dinner?,” “We’re Here For You,” and “Dad?!”

This year, T-Mobile ran a spot in every quarter of the game, playing off the same concept – text conversations. Each spot in the series showed a common text scenario most people have experienced, paired with a brand partnership for T-Mobile users at the end. For example, in “What’s For Dinner?,” a texter struggles with how to respond to a text from their friend about what to get for dinner. The offer at the end features free Taco Bell on Tuesdays for T-Mobile users. In the fourth quarter spot, “Dad?!,” a user deals with her not-so-tech-savvy father; the end card reading, “you can’t change your dad, but you can change your carrier,” offering non T-Mobile users a chance to switch.

With a recognisably similar spot in each quarter, viewers had a reason to pay attention to each ad, staying engaged. Further, each ad built up desire to be a T-Mobile user, so when the final spot played, non-users may have been curious as to how they could benefit from T-Mobile too. In past Super Bowls, T-Mobile has run several spots, but usually poke fun at competitors. This series was far less uptight and kept viewers engaged to see what came next.

Toyota RAV4 – “Toni”

Toyota used this 2019 spot to introduce its new hybrid RAV4. The spot features Toni Harris, the first woman to be offered a football scholarship with hopes of being in the NFL. The music and tone of the spot convey female empowerment. The ad finishes with Toni driving a RAV4 hybrid, the narrator stating that assumptions have been made about her, but Toyota doesn’t stand for assumptions.

While the bulk of the spot is empowering and relevant to the Super Bowl, the brand and product it’s pushing don’t match. The closing statement of the ad speaks to those who assume SUVs can’t be hybrids. It also compares Toni Harris to a car and further, to a hybrid, causing the ad to feel confusing, off base, and a little insulting.

Pepsi – “More Than OK”

No stranger to star-studded Super Bowl ads, Pepsi’s 2019 spot featured Steve Carell, Cardi B and Lil Jon. The ad plays on the common scenario of ordering a Coke in a restaurant and being asked if a Pepsi is okay instead. Using the humor of all three celebrities, Pepsi builds up that their brand is more than okay, poking fun at itself.

While previous Pepsi Super Bowl ads flaunted their heritage, this ad acknowledged that they have a strong and unforgettable competitor. Seeing an iconic brand poke fun at its downfalls makes Pepsi feel more human. This ad also plays directly into each celebrities’ own character, taking advantage of their catchphrases rather than just dropping them into the ad.

In total, this year’s ads felt a little tired, with several borrowing tactics from last year’s, such as brand partnerships (Bud Light and Game Of Thrones) and reoccurring series (T-Mobile). Let’s hope for better, on and off the field, next Super Bowl.

Rise: The Leading Edge

Our Rise breakfast series is back for 2019. First up: how we use leading edge behaviour to predict what’s next for our clients and for mainstream consumers…

Date: February 28

Time: 8.15am-9am

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

Staying ahead of upcoming trends is vital for brands. But if you keep doing the same insight work, digging deeper into the same audiences, in the same geographies, probably in the same way as your competitors, you’ll inevitably get to the same outputs. Ideas become incremental and generic. You keep the spaces that your brand operates in small, safe and contained.

In this session, Dr Matilda Andersson, our London managing director, and senior consultant Roberta Graham explain how we get beyond those small spaces by using leading edge behaviour to predict what’s next for our clients – and, crucially, how we apply the learnings to strategies that target more mainstream consumers.

We’ll bust the common misunderstandings associated with working with leading edgers – like, why use an unrepresentative sample? Isn’t it just cool hunting? Isn’t this only relevant to niche brands?  – before moving on to the exciting ways that we collaborate with these audiences.

We’ll share ideas on how to use hashtag analysis and cast cultural gatekeepers; how to shift from working with ‘respondents’ to ‘collaborators’; how leading edge typologies are by no means limited to those of the ‘cool kid’ variety; how, through analysis of our conversations with early adopters, experts and influencers, we reach truly fresh perspectives on engaging everyday consumers.   

If you’d like to join us for leading edge conversation and croissants, please fill out this form or contact rise@crowdDNA.com. And feel free to pass this invite on to colleagues (leading edge or otherwise).

With urban environments changing rapidly, our third issue of City Limits dives into youth culture's past, present and future…

Having first delved into the urban experience in Volume One, then taken a ride into mobility in Volume TwoVolume Three of City Limits has us exploring urban living from the perspective of young people.  

It’s impossible to think of youth culture without thinking of cities. Traditionally, they’ve gone hand in hand; it’s within our urban hubs that young people have ignited new trends, with creativity delivered direct from the streets. But cities are changing – free spaces are being squeezed out, gentrification is altering their complexion – and youth culture is changing along with it. 

In this issue, we explore the history of youth culture claiming its space in the city; we pinpoint the urban tribes of today; the challenge the online world presents to the city; and highlight best-in-class examples of brands connecting with young urban trends

City Limits Volume Three is available to download here.

And you can watch the video trailer below: 

Decoding The Ads Of 18

Last post of the year from us: Crowd DNA semiotician Roberta Graham decodes some of the year’s most successful campaigns, identifying the key stylistic themes connecting them to wider culture...

2018 has been an interesting year in cultural insight. With global discussions around such huge themes as gender, sexuality, racial equality, political polarisation and the death of truth driving major shifts, there’s been no end of contradictions to get our heads around.

These factors have made a great impact on the world of advertising (Adweek ads of the year) and how brands are communicating with their consumers.

To round off the year, we’ve honed in on a few key themes, to give you a run-down of some of our favourite adverts. We’ve decoded their hidden meanings to understand why they have resonated so strongly with consumers around the world. Let’s go.

Polarisation – Black and white and everything in between

In their striking campaign featuring NFL star turned activist Colin Kaepernick, Nike used the traditional simplicity of black and white photography to communicate strength, honesty and authenticity. The exclusion of colour strips the star bare, as does the frame of the image, which focuses keenly on his facial expression, as he gazes directly back at the viewer, determined and unshaken. The caption, ‘Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,’ refers directly to Kaepernick’s forced departure from the NFL, due to his political beliefs on racial equality. This is also reflected by the pointed use of black and white imagery, which makes clear reference to issues of racial inequality, as well as the stark contrast between right and wrong. However, the greyscale of Kaepernick’s face, central to the images also represents connection between the two and offers potential for soft, empathetic and human centred change.

Truth Seeking – Comedic conspiracies

Taco Bell created an irreverent response to our post-truth society’s obsession with anti-establishment, truth-seeking documentaries in their comedic ‘Web Of Fries’ campaign. Set in the format of a movie trailer, the campaign uses classic motifs and tropes of conspiracy movies to paint the picture of an establishment cover-up of their product – Nacho Fries. This perfectly pitches Taco Bell within the zeitgeist, while maintaining their brand positioning as a playful indulgence and antidote to reality.

Liberation – Autonomy of automation

Apple, of course, made two of the most striking adverts of the year. Their Homepod advert, featuring FKA Twigs, and ‘Unlock’ for the iPhone X were both widely praised. They both leverage the themes of female autonomy and independence which have been making waves throughout culture. But the way in which this has been communicated is particularly interesting. ‘Unlock’ sees a central female character throw open her entire world using only her eyes, linking the functionality of the product directly to physical empowerment and freedom of expression. The bright block colours of the advert, primarily orange and blue, echo this by communicating ideas of democracy and simplicity. This is also reflected by the setting of a school, representing future potential and broadened horizons.

Visibility – Highlighting greatness

Visibility has been another key theme for discussion this year. Increased awareness of intersectionality drives calls for diversity in the media, beyond physical appearance alone. Brands are going out of their way to highlight the achievements of people from marginalised groups within society. One brand is doing this in the most literal sense possible: Stabilo Boss’s campaign ‘Highlight The Remarkable’ used its own product to flag up forgotten heroines across history, from mathematicians to first ladies. The iconic fluorescent yellow of the highlighter disrupts the simplicity of black and white photographs, drawing attention to those who would be forgotten among the crowd. This bestows these historic moments with a renewed vibrancy and significance. Placing the highlighter pen itself as the silent hero, this allows these stories of greatness to be retold many years later.

Gender and sexuality – Reimagining romance

Among much global discussion of gender and LGBTQ+ visibility, these themes have been reflected in advertising, as we reimagine what romance can mean. Japanese cosmetics company Shisheido created a surreal romance in their short Halloween themed film, ‘The Party Bus’. The lead character, a young girl, moves between the physical space of the bus and surreal imaginary landscapes, as she tries to choose between three romantic suitors. Each are dressed in unique costumes made up of traditional Japanese dress, classic Halloween costumes and contemporary streetwear. This communicates strong themes of self-curation and individuality among hyper-traditional tropes of ‘romance’. The film ends with the protagonist unmasking and kissing her androgynous choice of partner. This coupling drives home a message of inclusion within individuality.

With such richness across comms this year, particularly at a time when so many brands are going above and beyond to engage with wider cultural meanings, it was tricky to narrow our list down. We can’t wait to see what 2019 might bring…

The Firestarters series of events took a sharp turn in our direction this week, with insight, and its role in the planning process, under investigation. Crowd DNA’s Andy Crysell took notes.

Three great speakers, and a mix of both singular and overlapping perspectives were on show at Google’s London HQ for the Firestarters’ Brilliance & Brutalism Of Insight event. It was wonderful to hear ‘the insight’ held in such high esteem, but also a firm reminder of how often that term is used wrongly, or there in name but not in reality.

First on stage was…

Rob Campbell, head of strategy EMEA, R/GA

Rob enjoys swearing and, now that he’s back in the UK, after lengthy stints in China and the US, he’s hoping he’ll get away with way more of it than ever before.

For him, the question of whether insight is important or not is pretty absurd. Of course it’s important. To do good work, he says, you need to understand wider culture; not just zoom in on your category.

Helpfully, he also came up with fives ways not to be as boring as fuck.

1. Don’t State The Obvious

A recurring theme through the evening really, and where research work can really lose its way. Stop asking the same people the same questions. Get out in the real world and get to the ‘dirty little secrets.’

He recalled the time that, for a car brand who mistakenly thought they were held in similar esteem to Mercedes Benz, Audi and Lexus, he interviewed sex workers, who make a call on the financial status of a potential client based on the motor they’re driving. Said car brand was in no way seen in a similar light to the prestige marques mentioned. This changed the conversation.

2. Play In The Jungle, Not The Zoo

Great work needs to come from inside of culture – so get inside of culture. Get to the nuance and the texture. There’s meaning everywhere. Get stuck in.

Don’t try and appease people with insight – provoke them, create conflict. This was certainly one of the louder messages of the evening; just as it should be. There really is no excuse for tame and timid work.

3. The Work is The Sun

…Meaning insight doesn’t have to overpower all other parts of the process. Insight is never meant to be a literal dictation – it should inspire.

Slight tangent perhaps, but he commented that the folks behind the boat that was almost called Boaty McBoatface missed a trick – if they’d have gone with that name, the scope to build a narrative around the topic (cartoons, toys etc) that kids would connect with would’ve been massive.

4. Stop Thinking You’re Yoda

Don’t think that insight will solve everything. Insight can provide the directional plan but you’ve got to then add the context. The challenge is to show you’re culturally engaged, not – as too many assume – to simply aim for intellectual victory.

5. Anyone Who Says Insights Aren’t Important Is A Giant Cockerel (you get what he means)

Henry Ford was an idiot, says Rob, referencing the Detroit mogul’s famous/apocryphal “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” quote.

Rather than this being an argument for not seeking the view of others, anyone with their insight faculties switched on should be taking from this that people want to get from A to B faster – and therein was the opportunity for the automobile, not a speedier horse.

Culture is texture and nuance
Culture is texture and nuance

Dr Helen Edwards, founding partner, Passionbrand

Helen starts her talk from the angle that not all successes, whether great or small, are necessarily derived from insight, citing a number of examples (from Apple to Emirates).

By this she was largely meaning the ‘killer’ consumer insight, the singular game changer. But while, in part, she was clearly here to be the dissenting voice on the importance of insight, what she was suggesting instead, ‘outsight’, could be argued as simply other forms of insight. Such as drawing from your own team’s understanding of their customers, or from academia, or from broader cultural understanding.

As per Rob, she noted the underwhelming qualities of many so-called insights. Choice examples: “When my hair feels good, I feel good.”/“I prefer my kids to eat healthy snacks between meals.” Shudder…

We clearly need to set the bar higher, and here’s the model she works to:

Revelatory: an insight should, of course, not just be plain obvious – but it should be surprising and a little obvious at the same time. An ‘of course!’ moment, because it feels fresh, but is also in line with what you already understand about human nature.

Directive: everyone across the business knows what to do with the insight; it doesn’t just live in the abstract.

About Them, Not You: as in that too many insights are shaped from the business perspective (either in the sense of taken from stakeholder experiences or based on what the business feels it can solve) rather what’s truly coming from the audience.

Serving People: there’s only real value in an insight if it addresses an issue that’s currently unaddressed, and from the point of view of the customer.

Helen gives the example of the Golden Sleep work from Pampers. Where previously the comms message majored around issues of averting leakage and offering better movement, the insight – which then shaped the campaign – was that what people (parents and baby!) really crave is sleep (wetness being a barrier to it) and that this is where the emotional energy can be found.

Pampers, Golden Sleep
Pampers, Golden Sleep

Mark Pollard, CEO, Mighty Jungle

Mark begins, amusingly, with hip-hip, lounge jazz, Chevy Chase and Andrea Pirlo. A little hard to explain in brief, in a blog, but somehow we get from there to some well-formed views on the role of insight (again, the lens here seems primarily about the role of insight in creative development work).

Insight, he says, works in one of two ways –

1. It gives language and shape to things we kind of have on our minds already (the ‘I wish I’d said it like that’ moment).

2. Or it’s ideas that seem brand new, but that you can immediately relate to (much like Dr Helen Edwards’ point).

Mark also leaned heavily on the role of insights as sources of conflict and friction. It’s okay to tell the client they have a problem to solve. That’s not being negative – not it you are then willing to take on that problem and reach solutions.

An example of a charged, provocative insight was an interviewee telling him: “I don’t feel successful enough to be bald yet.” You don’t need to know much about the brief, or the objectives, to realise that’s the type of thing you can work with; that’s going to change current thinking.

Mark also spoke of the need for craft. To really work at shaping an insight, capturing the tension it packs in a way that others will empathise with (thus, this is most definitely not about plonking fairly random consumer quotes in a PowerPoint and thinking your work is done).

Insights, he concluded, are really important; life and death stuff. But we also take them too seriously. We’ll get more from them with a greater sense of mischief and play.

You can read more about Google Firestarters here

From Now – To Next

Victoria’s Secret’s CMO recently argued against presenting a more diverse representation of women in their shows. Crowd DNA Singapore’s Emma Gage counter-argues that projecting the ‘where next', rather than just the ‘right now’, is exactly what their powerful event platform should be for…

We love a debate about culture and brands, so thank you, Ed Razek, for giving us so much to work with. And in the same week we launch our How To Speak Woman work.  It’s like we planned it…

For those who missed the story, or who have never heard of Ed Razek: he’s the chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret and when asked in an interview with Vogue.com this week if they should be casting a more diverse representation of women in their shows (plus size, transsexual, older models… the list of possible ways they could be celebrating female diversity goes on) his response was a very clear: “No, I don’t think we should, because the show is a fantasy… we market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world.”

Clearly this is a PR error and, of course, Victoria’s Secret have been quick to manage the fallout. But even without uttering those words, it’s evident what Victoria’s Secret’s stance is. Every brand touchpoint – from the show to the in-store experience; from the product to communications – is a celebration of a fairly outdated, and certainly one-dimensional, view of femininity. It’s a ‘fantasy’ told through the male experience. It’s why the brand is falling out of favour with young buyers and has been for a number of years.

But it does bring up an interesting point. The topic of gender is hot right now. Debate is loud and for a number of brands it can feel more minefield than opportunity. Consumers are calling for brands to have a stance on these kinds of issues and to walk the talk in every aspect of how they operate as a company – and when they get it wrong, people are quick to call them out.

At Crowd DNA we talk a lot about the power of cultural relevance. It’s the number one measure of brand health and while not every brand can be culturally iconic, a la Nike, Google or Gap, we believe that every one has the ability to be culturally relevant, whether selling shampoo, toilet cleaner or biscuits. 

So how do brands get this magic ingredient?  And how do they balance it with selling product in the short term?   

We believe it comes from working with a more nuanced understanding of the culture in which you operate and in which your consumer exists. It can be very tempting to play it safe and to generate lots of ever deeper insight around your core (often, mainstream) consumer. You understand how they buy, how they use your product, what they do in the supermarket, why they choose your brand rather than someone else’s. They take on the persona of ‘category buyer’, as though that’s literally all they are.

But how would her broader experiences as a woman inform her role as mother, wife, care-giver? How would understanding her as a three-dimensional woman change things and allow you to represent a world that’s relatable but aspirational, grounded but still progressive. This comes from also understanding her relationships; with her partner, her friends. The things she really cares about; her dreams, her ambitions and what empowerment looks like for her. And the things that limit or constrain her today.

It’s also about a culture tap; what does the trajectory of change look like? What’s influencing it? What are the more progressive narratives that are brewing (even if she’s not currently aware of them) to forecast what her world could look like in the future. The most powerful brands pitch themselves here, in the stretch and the aspiration, not in the quagmire of the reality.

It used to come down to a decision of whether you want to create a longer-term platform for activating your brand, or just sell product today. Now the two are one and the same. It’s not CSR; it’s about aligning your brand and organisation with positive change and having equity in cultural relevance.

We believe that brands have a responsibility to do better. To understand their core consumer, but also to understand this trajectory of change and to help them get there, be that practically or through inspiration. Whether you are Nike showing crowds of bold, empowered young women running through the streets of Mumbai (‘Da Da Ding’) as a celebration of how far women have come; or Ariel challenging men to ‘Share The Load’ in the household. This work captures a zeitgeist and presents a direction for a whole organisation to get behind. This is the kind of exciting work that gets called out for the right reasons.

So back to Ed. Yes Ed, we get it. Many of the everyday consumers buying your lacy undies are thin, ‘girly girls’ or at least they wish they looked like a Victoria’s Secret model. But what are you saying as a brand? How are you representing yourself? How are you part of an evolving conversation around issues affecting women? A brand with global reach, and a high-profile platform like the Victoria’s Secret show, absolutely has the opportunity to be culturally iconic and representative of the most progressive narratives surrounding the female experience today. Otherwise it just becomes an exceptionally expensive way to sell knickers and bras.

Come and talk to us Ed – we’d love to work with you and your brand.