We're ten years old, so we're taking a journey back to where it all started...

We’re all about culture here at Crowd DNA, so we wanted to celebrate our ten years by flashing back on the good, the bad and the random (we’re looking at you mannequin challengers).

We’ve created ten videos, each covering a year of the last decade, highlighting key moments – from the news stories that shook the world to the fads that became viral. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe and then you’ll remember that in 2008 Katy Perry kissed a girl and Barak Obama became president…

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

Crowd DNA project producer Gabriel Noble shares tips for authentic and credible ways to recruit research participants...

At Crowd DNA, we’re often tasked with recruiting very specific audiences; be that leading edge consumers in Tokyo and Mumbai, or 17-year-old female skateboarders in the banlieues of Paris. In order to reach these types of individuals, sometimes traditional recruitment techniques just won’t cut it.

Instead, we take inspiration from other industries and use bespoke and on-the-ground methods (such as fashion street casting) to find people that really live and breathe their city. We often support this with digital recruitment methods, like hashtag analysis and social listening, to reach the perfect mix of individuals. Here are a few of our favourite alternative recruitment techniques.

On-the-ground methods

Street casting: instead of relying on our own industry, we regularly look to other sectors, bringing people onboard with skills from different backgrounds. This is where fashion street casters come in. They are confident and experienced in finding interesting and unusual individuals to help us reach client objectives.

Cultural gatekeepers: when researching subcultures around the world, cultural gatekeepers are often the key. We use the term gatekeepers to mean ‘insiders’ who can unlock access to groups who are usually hard to reach. They can be hired using our CrowdStars network or through platforms like Instagram, where we’re able to see how individuals are immersed in subcultures. Cultural gatekeepers are most relevant when we want to speak to leading edge individuals. 

Remote methods

Facebook advertising: Facebook has been getting a bad rap recently, but when running projects where we need to find individuals based on certain interests, its psychographic targeting is really useful to hone in on specific segments, areas or passions.

Hashtag analysis: hashtags have proven handy when we’ve needed to speak to niche groups. For instance, when tasked with finding cricket fans in New York (yes, that’s right, we found cricket fans in the US!), we investigated the hashtags that people were using around the subject to find a fantastic group of friends who told us about their passion for the game and, crucially, how they watch and consume it in the US.

Brandwatch: Brandwatch’s ability to scour multiple social media platforms for mentions – along with its precise geographic targeting – makes it a perfect tool for recruitment. Once we’ve identified relevant hashtags and keywords, this information can be uploaded and, bingo, Brandwatch shows us all the people from a specific research location that have mentioned what we’re looking for. This is also a good way to build upon preliminary hashtag analysis; putting it into practice to ensure we find those individuals we’re looking for, wherever they may be.

These alternative recruitment methods allow us to cast the net wider for greater range, less-jaded participants and more realistic representation; all to find the right mix of individuals to help our clients stay ahead of the game.

Luxury codes are shifting. Senior consultant Berny McManus explores emerging expressions of luxury and what they mean for brands of any calibre...

Last year saw Crowd DNA report on the evolution of luxury, with our LuxDisrupt work exploring the changing concept of premium. Keen to discover the latest industry views and how some of the world’s leading brands are defining luxury, we headed to ‘The Flipside’, a recent exhibition in London’s Old Selfridges Hotel.

After an evening analysing codes of luxury, five dominant themes were still clear. Personalisation (the idea of individually curated experiences) was explored in The Libationary by My Lyan via tailor-made cocktails. The luxury of time (as a break from the daily rat race) was welcomed by Selfridges’ Shadow Dial installation, while luxury as an experience (as opposed to an object) was explored in Louis Vuitton’s travel concept. The luxury of simplicity (as a stripped back display of wealth) was tapped into by Loewe via nature, craft and tradition, while scarcity (and with it, uniqueness) was evoked in Byredo’s dystopian vision of water as a luxury.

What connects these emerging codes is their transient nature; they can’t be quantified. Luxury is experienced, ephemeral and related to ‘needs’ that span multiple elements of a consumer’s everyday life.

So why has luxury changed? In the wake of value shifts, such as the trust deficit, the perception of luxury brands has been reframed. Brands are waking up to consumer expectation around accountability and transparency. We’re seeing a democratisation of the commercial world where luxury brands are measured by the same yardstick as everyone else. They’ve taken on a new meaning, which speaks to the many vs the few.

The experience economy has also helped this gain traction. The reality is the majority of consumers can’t cruise around in Bugattis or go head to toe in Hermes. Instead, a consumer-centric flavour of luxury is emerging where people push back against pre-defined definitions. Consumers are no longer looking to brands as the leaders; brands should be looking for ways to enable their luxuries to be a part of consumers’ lives.

Here are a few thought starters on how to speak luxury in 2018:

The quick win

Leverage social media to offer micro-moments of luxury. Tap into the dialogue by inviting consumers to share their ‘luxury of the day’ or ‘my luxe moment’ via posts or stories – but keep it playful to avoid ostentatious shows of luxury.

Mid-term plans

Create events that delight consumers’ senses, imaginations and intellect. Dial up multi-sensory elements and seamlessly integrate tech to provide an experience that will add unique value to their day and beyond.

And in the future

Optimise tech to elevate your brand beyond category noise and business challenges. For example, in the face of major concerns around the source of diamonds, De Beers (who mine and market 30 percent of the world’s diamonds) have started using blockchain technology to offer total transparency to their consumers.

Confident Youth

Levels of confidence in teenagers are at an all-time low. Phoebe Trimingham explores the potential role of the media in unlocking self-confidence in young people...

We spend a lot of time at Crowd DNA hearing the hopes and fears of teenagers all over the world. We’re rooting for them, so we were particularly struck by the latest Youth Index from the Prince’s Trust, which states that 54 percent of young people in the UK believe a lack of self-confidence holds them back and 33 percent think it’s the biggest challenge to them pursuing a career.

While this is clearly a problem – levels of confidence are at their lowest since the index began in 2009 – there’s plenty that the media, brands and society can do to tackle reported low-confidence in young people. What’s more, the picture may not be as bleak as it seems. We’ve gathered together some of our recent global insights to explore a different side to the confidence issue and provide starters on how brands might help solve this challenge. 

Permission To Fail

With self-comparison constantly available at their fingertips, it’s no surprise that teens often feel pressure to succeed. Most we speak to are worried about not achieving their full potential or living their ‘best life’. Yet, young people also tell us that they don’t see failure as the end of the road. In fact, most teens think it’s better to try and make mistakes than not to try at all. 67 percent consider themselves to be entrepreneurial and 82 percent describe themselves as adaptable and flexible (Viacom 2017, My Teen Life). Is there a way of tapping into this spirit by promoting alternative, bumpy-road success stories? Or highlighting failures and the small steps that allow for adjustments along life’s journey?

Mosaic Identities

Last year saw us travel around the world talking to young men about attraction, relationships, and everything in between, on behalf of Lynx/Axe. Obviously, confidence has a huge role to play in the tricky game of teenage love. The majority we spoke to felt that confidence was gained by assembling their own mosaic of attractive features. For them, everyone has their own unique ‘offer’  to discover, which develops alongside their sense of identity. There is definitely an opportunity to help teens figure this all out. Not only by helping them develop skills and their own sense of self, but assuring them that being different is okay by celebrating diversity and the widening mosaic of modern masculinity.

Empowered Storytellers

The vast majority of teens we speak to think that everyone should have the right to stand up for their beliefs. They think that everyone has a story, everyone has a right to tell their story, and that everyone can learn from others’ stories. Young people are adept at seeing the world through different eyes and speaking out about what’s important to them. There is clearly an empowerment opportunity here to help more young people feel able to voice their beliefs; the key being to reassure them that there’s space and appetite for a whole range of stories to be valued, heard and shared.

The relationship between young people and confidence is definitely something to keep an eye on. But, by digging into the attitudes of teens around the world, the media can play a clear role in youth empowerment, promoting alternative success stories, and showing that being different is not just celebrated – it’s often the key to unlocking confidence.

We’re shaking things up at our next Rise breakfast event, with a panel discussion exploring what cultural relevancy means for brands...

Date: June 28

Time: 8.15am-9:30am

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

We’re running what’s set to be a lively and inspiring panel session on June 28, exploring what cultural relevancy means for brands.

Our view? That cultural relevancy is a stand-out marker of brand health and of future potential, but will our panellists agree? And, if so, how exactly do you achieve the oft-debated, but ever elusive, A word: authenticity? What’s the difference between cultural relevancy and brand purpose? Assuming not all brands can become as culturally iconic as, say, Nike, what should they be aiming for instead? And how do you explain the importance of cultural relevancy to those who might consider it all just a bit too fluffy?

Join us for cultural conversation, plus the all-important coffee and croissants. To come along, please contact Pauline Rault and feel free to pass this invite on to colleagues too.

Our panellists:

Dr Matilda Andersson - managing director of Crowd DNA London, Matilda guides our team of trends specialists, researchers, strategists, designers, writers and film-makers in creating culturally charged commercial advantage for the world’s most exciting brands. Prior to Crowd DNA, she worked in senior strategy roles at the BBC and BBC Worldwide.

Marisa Brickman – commercial director at NTS Radio, Marisa is at the sharp end of forging links between brands and damn fine music culture. Before NTS, her roles included director of cultural insights at Saatchi & Saatchi, global head of brand communications at Diageo and festival director at Moogfest.

Stephen Greene – founder of convention-breaking volunteering movement RockCorps, which he describes as a pro-social marketing and entertainment company, and chairman of the National Citizen Service, Stephen is sure to bring a social cause and brand purpose angle to the debate.

Nina Manandhar – photographer, curator and author of the highly regarded ‘What We Wore’ visual record of UK street culture, Nina will offer us the creative’s perspective. Next to editorial work for the likes of i-D and Vogue, she collaborates with brands and organisations such as Nike, adidas, Tate and the British Council.

Phil Teer – former CSO at both St Luke’s and Brothers & Sisters, Phil is a strategy consultant and author. He’s masterminded culturally on-point campaigns for the likes of IKEA, Emirate Airlines and Coke. In his upcoming book, The Coming Age Of Imagination, he explores if automation and a universal basic income will lead to an explosion in creativity.

Chaired by: Andy Crysell (Crowd DNA group managing director).

Watch the video trailer below:

 

How to tackle trends

Tips and tricks from our Rise masterclass all about how to spot, track and work with trends...

At our latest Rise session in London, strategic insights director Laura Warby and senior consultant Berny McManus unravelled the tricky world of working with trends. While, for many, trends are still a bit of mystery (and sometimes difficult to justify the ROI), mapping and tracking cultural shifts is central to the work we do at Crowd.

Trends not only help us understand more about the brands and consumers we work with, but also where everything fits into the bigger picture – and, therefore, where opportunity and potential advantage may lie. Laura and Berny used the example of whether a premium beer could survive in its category, if the ever-changing concept of ‘premium’ wasn’t paid attention to? Chances are, it wouldn’t.

Similarly, in our culture of constant change, differentiating between a fad and actual societal progression has never been so important. Our presenters offered a stream of useful definitions and categorisation tips on how to spot meaningful shifts in consumer behaviour. Asserting that trends are far from ‘fluffy’, they also distinguished between residual, dominant and emerging expressions to refine things even further.

Three key macro trends were then highlighted and explored, taking into account their drivers and how they currently manifest within culture and brands, namely: digital decentralisation, radical benevolence and intense-inclusivity. The session then wrapped up with a set of tricks for working with trends; including a useful analytical framework and, once you’ve spotted a meaningful trend, tips on how best to track it and apply it within a business.

Thanks to all that attended and joined the conversation. We’ve wrapped up the key takeouts into a digital magazine, available to download here

 

Sensorial Design

We were joined by Kate Nightingale, consumer psychologist, lecturer, founder of Style Psychology and part of CrowdStars, our own network of thinkers, influencers, creators and culture-shapers...

Kate Nightingale works with fashion retailers, property developers, luxury brands and restaurant owners to develop engaging and meaningful brand experiences. Last week she popped into Crowd HQ in London to help us gain a deeper understanding of our subconscious minds and challenged our thinking on sensorial design one sense at the time.

What is an experience anyway? Experiences aren’t just things we do because brands want us to act in certain ways. Experiences are the sum of our actions and the feelings that they trigger. Experiences can last for years or be over in a second, leave long lasting emotions, or just be a fleeting feeling of pleasure, like the sun touching your skin. An experience is all the moments in between the times we interact with brands, everything that evokes and leaves an impression in our daily lives.

We’re humans not consumers. By focusing on people as holistic beings, brands can create more meaningful interactions, which take into account people’s actual behaviours. As humans, we rely on our subconscious mind to process data and make millions of micro decisions every single minute. We are influenced by: evolutionary factors, cultural, social and individualistic influences. Brands often pay a lot of attention to people’s individualistic preferences, but forget the evolutionary influences determined by the subconscious mind.

There’s a sixth sense. Key to tapping into human decision making is harnessing the senses. We have an innate preference for round shapes since when we were infants. And we make more impulse purchases (like ordering another Negroni at the bar) in dim lighting. A sense that we often forget is bodily sensation. Soft seating gives an impression of a friendly and approachable brand and rough surfaces makes us feel more empathetic towards others.   

Safety first and then appeal to pleasure. You can create a feeling of safety by inviting consumers to give a big teddy bear a hug. That’s what the owners of Loaf Sofa did to encourage their customers to make the big decision to pay for a high ticket item in their store. Once the basic needs of safety have been met, brands can focus on creating a pleasurable atmosphere. A simple trick: research shows that single aroma smells in stores increases sales by 32% and shorten people’s decision making by 40 seconds.  

Kate finished off her talk by encouraging us, as cultural insights specialists and strategists, to encourage the brands we work with to pay closer attention to the subconscious and sensorial aspects of their spaces both on and offline.

At our next Rise session in London, Crowd DNA’s resident parents, managing director Dr Matilda Andersson and associate director Lucy Crotty, set about reframing modern families...

Date: April 26

Time: 8.15am-9am

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

Parental burnout, gender neutral toys, screen-time wars, feminist dads, LGBTQ+ families, postpartum body positivity – it seems we’re all too aware of the joys and perils of modern parenthood. And, as the next generation of millennial parents arrive and shake things up, the whole status quo of parenting is dramatically changing, too.

But are we speaking to and about families in the right way?

This session explores changing attitudes to parenthood and, in particular, how modern families are portrayed. Looking at some of the tensions and backlashes against ‘perfect parenting’, we’ll help brands identify new opportunities – and to speak better to families of all shapes and sizes.

If you’d like to join us for coffee, croissants and a very real, up-close journey into modern parenthood, please contact Pauline Rault. And feel free to pass the invite on to colleagues and estranged family members alike.

Watch the trailer below: