Rise: Agelessness

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...

Date: September 14

Time: 8.15am-9am

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

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.

Watch the trailer below:

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 hello@crowddna.com 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.


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.

Last week Crowd DNA execs Gabriel Noble, Julie Brethous and Essi Mikkola went to hear Zoe Guiraudon at the General Assembly recap on UX (user experience design) and how it helps brands...

User experience provides a crucial competitive advantage for brands. Ocado, Uber and Airbnb – the biggest innovators of recent years became winners in their categories thanks to their user interface, and the experience these provide.

Even though UX design is often discussed in the context of digital services, it’s actually an umbrella term for human-centered disciplines like service design, information design and graphic design. Everyone can benefit from the principles of UX design that follow the classic ‘Double diamond’ process established by the Design Council.

The Design Council's 'Double diamond'
The Design Council's 'Double diamond'

The practice of UX is essentially about solving problems with design. Creating user flows, wireframing and usability testing are some of the main techniques to make sure the product is good and answers the needs of its users. UX is always subjective since there’s no universal taste, though creating personas can help take into account the needs of a range of people. UX design is rooted in psychology and its main areas of interests are understanding what users think, feel and how their instincts affect these. A well-known tool for marketers, Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of needs’ proves itself handy in the case of user experiences too.

Using Maslow's 'Hierarchy of needs' to create ux
Using Maslow's 'Hierarchy of needs' to create ux

Below are some top tips for designing better user experiences:

  1. 1. User research forms the basis to any design
  2. 2. Asking the right questions is key
  3. 3. Collaboration: incorporating all stakeholders in the design process brings in more ideas and insights
  4. 4. Affinity Mapping helps visualise and come up with themes when thinking of journeys and user insights
  5. 5. Personas help to empathise with different types of users
  6. 6. Prototyping helps thinking as ideas become tangible. All you needs is a pen and paper – if a picture is worth 1,000 words, a prototype is worth 1,000 meetings
  7. 7. Iterative process = design – test – learn: repeat

What differentiates Ocado, Uber and Airbnb from their predecessors – traditional supermarkets, taxi companies and hotels – is that they’re borne out of user needs (I need food, I need someone to drive me from place a to place b, I need a place to stay). Moreover, every little detail has been designed carefully to make the experience more satisfying and to involve the least possible effort for everyone using the service. Whether it’s a visual, audio or touch-based interface, UX should be at the heart of your decisions. They say that the best services are often the ones you don’t even notice.

Part of InterFace, a series exploring – across digital and physical – how our touchpoints with brands are changing…

Crowd DNA’s Julie Bréthous went to the Whitechapel Gallery to see how the Guerrilla Girls used research to challenge European museums and give a louder voice to women and non-western artists...

For their latest show, ‘Guerrilla Girls: Is It Even Worse In Europe?’, the Whitechapel Gallery invited the American activists to share their re-evaluation of diversity in European art institutions, 30 years after their first campaign. I was curious to discover how research could be used as a thought-provoking method within the art world to offer different perspectives on gender and racial diversity.

The Guerrilla Girls were founded in 1985, following MoMA’s ‘International Survey Of Painting And Sculpture’ (1984). Aimed at offering a comprehensive overview of the world’s best artists of the time, the exhibition failed to present a diverse portrait of the art world, only showing white artists – 90% of whom were men. A group of female artists quickly realised that, to expose the issue and shake up opinions, they’d have to find a new and unique approach. Using the language of their time – advertising – the now masked girls developed a strong visual identity, relying on outrageous statements, a dose of dry wit, and cold hard statistics.

“If you can make people laugh, you have a hook in their brain. And once you’re there, you have an opportunity to change their minds” – Guerrilla Girls for The Art Assignment

1985, Guerrilla Girls
1985, Guerrilla Girls

Owning the public space by stamping their findings and complaints all over the city walls, the Girls fought their battles in a true guerrilla style, aiming at the general public, artists, art institutions and investors. Not afraid to call out decision-makers, they fiercely denounced museum curators and their tendency to be dictated to by a handful of art buyers, whose vision of art remained limited to their own tastes.

In 1986, the anonymous group members were invited to speak in Europe. They came back with an implacable statement:

It's Even Worse In Europe, 1986, Guerrilla Girls
It's Even Worse In Europe, 1986, Guerrilla Girls

Twenty years of impromptu activism later, the Guerrilla Girls asked: is it (still) even worse in Europe?

Trying to determine whether museums are today presenting a ‘diverse history of contemporary art or the history of money and power’, the Girls sent out a questionnaire to 383 museums and kunsthalles in Europe.

Researchers know there’s no such thing as a perfect sample, and the Guerrilla Girls were soon to find this out… the hard way. Only one out for four institutions responded – a statement in itself on their reluctance to address the issue. Their answers have been on display at the Whitechapel Gallery since last November and the collection has achieved its objective by showing how the art world continues to be dominated by money, rather than cultural accuracy.

2016, Guerrilla Girls
2016, Guerrilla Girls

Even better, they’ve opened new avenues by showing that some institutions have managed to offer refreshing perspectives on art history, like Rotterdam’s Witte De With. The Uffizi Gallery in Florence now seeks to redress this imbalance by working with the Girls on how to include more female artists within their permanent collections. Uffizi director Eike Schmidt asks: ‘Where did this all start and how did this evolve? I think we are overdue and ready to put great female artists of the past back on view.’

‘Guerrilla Girls: Is It Even Worse In Europe?’ is at the Whitechapel Gallery until March 5

Part of GenderShift, a series exploring how identity is changing in modern times