We recently ran a London breakfast event exploring themes around agelessness, and what the implications are for brands and marketers. We’ve a PDF to share on the topic also, covering ground such as leveraging cross-generational interests, influencer strategy and age-agnostic design. Oh yes, and a playlist of related tracks, too.
Crowd DNA’s Andy Crysell on how we get out on-the-road with stakeholder teams, immersing them in the lives and culture of people…
We’ve been on an impressive roll running client immersion sessions recently. In the last month alone this work has taken us to South Korea, China, Argentina, India, South Africa and Indonesia; as well as out and about on Crowd DNA home turf in New York, Amsterdam and London.
When set up carefully, there’s something incredibly powerful about this type of work (sometimes we call them immersions, other times safaris, consumer meet-ups, road trips or similar; we should probably fix that). Rather than listening to, reading about, or watching what we have to say, or peering from behind the glass in a viewing facility, the client is truly getting in there with people and with culture.
The benefits of this might sound obvious, but it’s incredible how often the potential for these sessions is overlooked. You can’t really sleepwalk through them, and that’s key. It requires client teams to lean in. There’s sometimes even a sense of friction to begin with, of people being out of their comfort zone, but that’s a useful ingredient. Played right, this leads to true alertness and receptivity to what’s going on around you.
There’s not really a one-size-fits-all method for this type of work. Sometimes we might just be connecting with ‘regular’ consumers; at others we will include influencers and experts; or base it more around visiting stand-out locations than interacting with pre-recruited participants. They can be all wrapped up in a few hours, or take place over a number of days. So yes, we’re big believers in custom design over off-the-shelf solutions. But nonetheless we thought it worth trying to get down a few notes on what we think are the important factors:
Planning does make perfect in this field. All participants – the public and client stakeholders alike – need to be given the right level of detail on what will happen and what’s expected of them. Sometimes we’ll produce a project intro video, talking through the plan. We also create profile packs so clients have good background info on the people they’ll be meeting – the more context and anecdotes they have, the easier it will be to start conversations.
We work hard to get the mix of locations just right. You want to be going to the places that the target audience in question really does go to and/or to the cultural hotspots that will change thinking and present powerful new stimulus. This takes meticulous upfront research and attention to detail.
You’ve got to be realistic, too. While there might be ten good spots to head to, if time doesn’t allow for it, don’t do it. There’s no point turning the whole exercise into a needlessly frantic dash about town – and people need reasonable time to share learnings and talk between each interaction. Oh yes, and it’s worth knowing exactly where you’re going – getting lost in Kyoto, Mexico City or Helsinki isn’t a crowd pleaser.
Not too much planning!
So all of this planning is essential, but you also have to leave some gaps in the process. The serendipitous moments along the way are often where the magic happens. If the client wants to check out a different store than the one planned, or has struck up a particularly good conversation that warrants more time, you need to build in scope for such things to happen.
Don’t write a discussion guide – this can hinder the experience of actually meeting people on their own terms. Instead, arm the clients with provocations about the topic of interest as conversation starters. These could be false facts, quotes from previous waves of research etc. This type of stimulus is great if conversation starts to slow down, but, as not too prescriptive in form, also doesn’t limit clients from feeling they have the license to go off-script.
Setting the tone
These projects are about experiencing an environment with all senses truly switched on, not just having a conversation. Tell clients to observe and take note of the spaces they find themselves in, body language, relationships between people, media, music, food, what others in the space are doing.
Encourage clients to be interested, curious, flexible and to have fun. It’s not always going to run perfectly. There will be awkward conversations, silence and even some boredom – but mixed with laughter, fun and great interactions. Let the consumer lead where possible and allow them to be the narrator of their world.
If you’re dropping into a distant city with a bunch of clients, looking to immerse them in how people and culture works there, sufficiently deep expertise in the topic matter is vital. This might well come from previous waves of secondary or primary research that you’ve conducted. It can also come from working with on-the-ground contributors – people who can articulate the details of the experience and unlock scenarios that may otherwise be out of reach. For instance, we might work with local lifestyle journalists and bloggers, or even independent tour guides who specialise in showing people an alternative view of a city.
Everyone will need a way to gather, disseminate and reach conclusions around the wealth of material they are exposed to. We’ve recently had great success setting up WhatsApp groups in these types of situation. Our client stakeholders get to share images, videos and noted insights as they go in a fluid and low friction fashion. Better still, we can use the channel for logistical purposes, following where everyone is and, for instance, whether it’s time to advise a particular team that they’ve probably downed enough shots in that location and should move on!
We also arm teams with Polaroid cameras in some cases – of course, people can take pics via their phones, but it can be useful to achieve a focus on what’s important by limiting the number of shots available to them. We might give them budgets to buy items as they go – inspiring and surprising material that they can then share and discuss later.
Something ultimately needs capturing out of all of this fine work. Talking over findings, post-day, at dinner, can be the way – though be mindful of burnout. It can often be just as beneficial to share the findings over breakfast, as the start of the next day – people are fresher and it primes everyone for the next set of adventures.
It’s the job of the stakeholders to gather and share ideas. But it’s ours to collate them and author, or co-author, the take-outs. The final record of this type of exercise varies – a blog, film or booklet; a simple Google Docs round-up; a workshop session to feed ideas into the innovation pipeline – but it’s vital that there is an end product.
We’d love to discuss ideas for how to make a project of this kind work for your team. Email hello@crowdDNA.com if you’d like to chat and hopefully we can take you some place exciting.
Introducing CrowdStars, our network of thinkers, influencers, creators and culture-shapers...
There are times when the answers to the most pressing questions will not come from consumer research, but from connecting with experts. CrowdStars is our global network, comprising of a diverse spectrum of credible and intelligent minds who bring context, rigour and sparkling new dimensions to our strategic thinking.
Our CrowdStars network consists of over 200 experts, based in 35 markets and embraces fields as varied as academia, psychology, anthropology, design, health, beauty, retail, media, tech, food, celebrity, sport, family, music, fashion and relationships.
We work closely with the CrowdStars network to shake up conventional thinking within businesses; to get to deeper levels of understanding and the breakthrough ideas that offer strong, commercial advantage.
Applications for CrowdStars are diverse, but include:
- Immersive workshops and co-creation sessions, bringing experts and client stakeholders together
- Transferable learnings from out-of-category experts to spark new ideas and innovations
- Expert interviews and roundtables to dig deeper into key themes
- Future forecasting reports
- Use of blogging, mobile and online community platforms to connect with experts remotely
We’ve worked successfully with CrowdStars experts for clients in the tech, alcohol, FMCG, beauty and entertainment categories. Please do get in contact to hear more about how CrowdStars can work for you.
Our next Rise breakfast event in Amsterdam sees Crowd DNA's Joey Zeelen set about reframing masculinity...
Date: September 27
Location: Crowd DNA, Sarphatistraat 49, Amsterdam
Brands are increasingly taking political, environmental and social stands. Many are addressing female aspirations and feminism with great effect.
But what are we doing about men?
This session explores changing attitudes to masculinity and, in particular, what being a man means among millennials. Looking at the tensions that have evolved around male identity, we’ll help brands harness opportunities – and speak better to men AND women.
Join us for delicious pastries and even more delicious insights. Contact Judith Lieftink if you and/or colleagues would like to attend.
Crowd DNA’s popular Rise breakfast events are back after a summer break. This time brand and communications expert Eleanor Sankey discusses how we can understand consumers in a world where age is just a number...
Consumer trends show that Gen Z is growing up faster than previous generations, millennials are delaying adulthood and Gen X and Boomers are living more ‘youthfully’ than ever before. On top of this, we’re living longer, working past retirement age and achieving major milestones later. As a result, brands are increasingly looking beyond age-based definitions.
In this session, we’ll help marketers understand consumers without age restrictions, moving beyond demographics to explore new ways of segmenting, targeting and making recommendations about how to communicate agelessness.
If you’d like to join us for coffee and croissants while discussing the secret of eternal youth marketing, please contact Jason Wolfe. And feel free to pass the invite onto colleagues of all ages.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you a lovely pdf on the subject.
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.