From launching an NYC office to unveiling our thought leadership study for Spotify, we’ve had an amazing year at Crowd…

At this time of year, everyone’s waistbands expand a little. At Crowd, we’ve been happily growing all year. Of course we can’t talk about all the incredible projects that have seen our team travel from South Korea to Argentina and back again (several times). What we can say is that we’re happy to welcome several weighty global clients to the roster.

January kicked off with the release of the Power of Audio project on Spotify for Brands. The study, which saw us travel to US, Brazil, Japan and Manchester, investigates and celebrates the role of sound in our lives, as well as looking at what the future of audio holds for brands and consumers. It’s a great example of the power of socialising insights: the trailer has been viewed 326,000 times on Twitter and counting.

At Crowd we believe that understanding visual culture is essential for getting to grips with consumer culture. In February, Matilda Andersson, head of insight and innovation, shared our thinking when she presented ‘A picture paints: understanding visual culture’ at Atlantic Monday, a Festival Of NewMR webinar.

March saw us proudly open an office in New York, headed by former Flamingo Kiosk NYC lead Hollie Jones. The move to Cooper Square consolidates existing US client relationships and has already resulted in building several new ones. We’re off to a great start, with Hollie joined by Isabelle Kage of the Insight Strategy Group and senior consultant Tom Eccles from London’s Socialise team joining them both in January.

Our first Rise breakfast event in London took place in March. ‘Superfans’ saw Anna Chapman, Socialise director, map the journey of fandom, drawing on our work around influencers and passions.

Gender empowerment has been a huge theme this year both within Crowd and in wider culture. In May, associate director Jake Goretzki discussed the changing face of masculinity in ‘How to speak man’. His session explored changing attitudes to masculinity and, in particular, what being a man means among millennials.

In June, products and services expert, Tom Morgan teamed up with our service designer Essi Mikkola to discuss how we tackle consumer journeys at Crowd, combining a cultural, behavioural science and visual approach.

At Crowd, we’re well known for our work researching millennials and increasingly Gen Z, so it might seem a little odd to debunk traditional demographics with an event called ‘Agelessness’. But as an insights and innovation agency, we know that as the world changes, so do our beloved cohorts. In September, our brand and communications expert, Eleanor Sankey tackled this delicate subject by exploring the idea that understanding consumers by age traits can be a little limiting at times.

Over the year we hosted a number of Rise events in London and Amsterdam. Each one, supported by Crowd content, including downloadable PDFs. Please email hello@crowddna.com if you’d like to be sent these.

What better time than the summer to make a short film about what we do? Edited by our head of film, Tom Eccles, it’s definitely worth just over one minute of your time.

September saw the launch of CrowdStars our global network of thinkers, influencers, creators and culture-shapers. We work with them to shake up conventional thinking within businesses in areas including immersive workshops and co-creation sessions, expert interviews and forecasting.

Huge congratulations to our head of insight and innovation Matilda Andersson who became a doctor this year. In September she appeared on a panel at the Jaguar Land Rover TechFest where she spoke about millennials and mobility. Have we reached the end of car ownership? Not yet it seems.

In October Sabrina Qureshi joined us as online communities director. We’re not actually new to online communities. We’ve been running them for years for the likes of IKEA, Booking.com, Sony Music and Channel 4. But now we’re giving the offer an even stronger position within our business – recognising the value of online communities in developing deep and continuous relationships with target audiences for our clients.

And as the year draws to a close, we can unveil another great piece of insights work for Facebook, which this time saw our team travelling across Canada on an icy road trip.

Thanks to all of you who made 2017 our best year yet. If you want the opportunity to join our journey into 2018, we’re recruiting for this and various roles so please do get in touch.

Facebook asked us to find out what makes Canadian millennials tick. This is what we learnt...

We’re delighted to post some recent insights work for Facebook about Canadian millennials.

The research involved a road trip across Canada where we conducted in-depth interviews with generational experts and Canadians aged 18-34, as well as a quant survey.

We learned that millennials rely on mobile, find strength in online communities and take pride in their country’s multicultural identity. We also found that when it comes to defining success and spending money, they hold surprisingly different views than older generations.

Read more here.

Catch us at the MRS day devoted to discussing and debating social media behaviours and trends on February 8, 2018...

Our head of insights and innovation, Dr Matilda Andersson, will be presenting at the event; furthering our recent agelessness work and looking at the role of social media in forging cross-generational communication.

Social media is often described as the new bus stop or park bench: a space for teenagers to hang out with each other, away from their parents. However, Matilda will be proposing that social media can also be important for bridging gaps between generations, bringing them closer together. Her insight is grounded in demographic trends, which show the gap between young and old decrease as Gen Z grows up faster, millennials delay adulthood and Gen X and Boomers live in very different ways to their parents.

More info here

Millennials & Mobility

Crowd DNA’s head of insight and innovation, Dr Matilda Andersson, talked millennials and mobility at Jaguar Land Rover TechFest...

When I was first asked to speak at Jaguar Land Rover Tech Fest, I was pretty sure they’d got the wrong person. The truth is I don’t own a car: I can’t even drive. But when I realised the panel was going to discuss millennials and mobility I felt more confident I could contribute to the debate.

As we know, owning a car isn’t the traditional marker of the transition to adulthood that it once was. The same can be said for getting married and having kids. They’re all still happening, just later or in non-traditional ways. Even if cars still play a significant role in the life of today’s millennials, the difference lies in what car ownership means: the values assigned to it, the expectations surrounding it and how it elevates the life of its driver.

But have we reached the end of the road for car ownership? This was the pressing question we were asked to talk about. Beside me on stage were some pretty impressive millennials: online star Daniel Howell, YouTube vlogger Jim Chapman, broadcaster and writer Alice Levine, Neil Sharpe (director of mobility solutions at Bosch), Yihyun Lim (associate director MIT Design Lab) – and Sebastian Peck (managing director Jaguar Land Rover InMotion), who hosted the panel.

While preparing for the debate I summarised mobility into three major shifts which formed my point of view on the day:

SPACE FLEX

Millennials want flexible spaces where they can live, work and relax.

Many millennials live in smaller spaces with fewer rooms than their parents. Most live alone or with flatmates instead of their family. Others save money by living in multi-generational households. They travel more, work more and spend more time outside their homes than previous generations. As a result, millennials crave places to relax, socialise and provide privacy on the move.

As our living spaces continue to shrink and commutes get longer, the car can play its own role in creating a ‘home away from home’ for the millennial cohort.

SEAMLESS

Millennials want products and services that enhance their life experiences more fully by saving them time and reducing hassle through simple design. Technology plays a crucial role in facilitating the idea that every moment counts and that they can accomplish more in less time. Brands that enable drivers to move seamlessly from one space to the next without interruptions to their connected lifestyles are those that will succeed.

LUXURY EVOLVED

It’s not only the concept of time and space that millennials have redefined, but the idea of luxury and symbols of status. In the eyes of millennials, luxury is no longer just about expense or scarcity. A fatigue from too much luxury is driving consumers towards more casual brands and more conscientious purchases that nurture the health of themselves and the planet.

What if as the luxury market shifts, ownership of exclusive goods will increasingly compete against a demand for experiences and digital bragging rights? What if one ride in a luxury supercar posted on social media was preferable for aspirant millennials than owning vehicle themselves?

At the end of the debate, the audience at TechFest voted and – surprise, surprise – 77% of those in attendance didn’t think we’ve reached the end of the road for car ownership. I managed to get the final word: ‘Ownership might still be relevant but it’s going to change. Shared ownership is the future.’

Here’s a short film we made about these trends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you need to do?

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

What’s in it for you?

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

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

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

Thanks.

Oculus Nights Out

Crowd DNA associate director Eleanor Sankey didn't think she was a gamer until she played with Oculus. Now she wants to use it in her day job...

Last week we attended an event hosted by Oculus to showcase the new content landing soon on their Rift and Gear VR. Rubbing shoulders with premier league footballers, tech and gaming bloggers, and Jonathan Ross, I wasn’t convinced it was going to be my thing.

I swore off computer games in the 90s, when SimCity 2000 saw it fitting to destroy Eltown with a hurricane, and it was going to take a lot to make me reconsider.

Kicking off, we coordinated our troops in real-time strategy game Brass Tactics before singing our hearts out in a virtual stadium in SingSpace and finally slashed our way through zombies on Killing Floor.

The experience was exhilarating, if not a little overwhelming at times! With our senses seamlessly transported into these virtual worlds it took no time at all to forget our audience and become unselfconsciously immersed in the physicality of the game. I was hooked.

2017 looks to be a pivotal year for VR with anticipated growth evolving the technology from a curiosity to a tangible tool. Transcending the gaming market, we’re already seeing it used in sports and film with the NBA broadcasting one game a week via VR headsets and Amsterdam establishing the first VR cinema in 2016.

Moving beyond the entertainment space, the technology is being used by the military to replicate conditions of real world combat when training soldiers in bomb disposal and piloting drones. Equally, in the healthcare sector, it’s proving vital for educating staff but also has the potential to revolutionise how we treat pain and physiotherapy.

At Crowd we’ve already been using VR to help immerse our clients in the lives of consumers across the globe in an intimate way that they would otherwise never have the opportunity to experience. And given my experiences last week, I’m very excited to see what we can do next.

 

Crowd DNA filmmaker Tom Eccles explores the latest broadcasting tech at BVE 2017 in London...

BVE is one of the UK’s largest entertainment and media tech events. It’s a metaphorical sweet shop for filmmakers, broadcasters and tech addicts – with over 300 exhibitors showing off the latest film equipment, and a packed programme of seminars exploring the world of entertainment.

We kicked off the day with a talk from none other than national treasure (and personal favourite) Louis Theroux. Known for his irreverent, innocent and playful interview technique, he offered plenty of practical advice for budding documentary makers that can also be applied to research. One of his first tips (made slightly awkwardly at a tech-obsessed event): don’t obsess over the technology. The story is key – and tech should enable you to tell that story, rather than entirely driving it.

Louis spoke about the changing patterns of video consumption – pointing to long-form documentaries like Making A Murderer as evidence that on-demand platforms are creating new opportunities and formats for filmmakers to take advantage of. One interesting audience question asked for the three ideal qualities of a documentary maker. His answer: curiosity, the ability to get on with people without being too imposing, and tenacity – that journalistic edge, allowing you to take the interview to an uncomfortable area. All of which can be as equally important qualities for researchers.

Advice from Louis Theroux
Advice from Louis Theroux

Next up, Peter Collis from Inition, London-based VR and AR specialists, gave valuable insight into editing 360-degree video (something we’re branching into here at Crowd). His first lesson centred around the creation of a VR performance of the Philharmonia Orchestra. Initially, the film was intended to be based solely in the middle of the orchestra – but the team wanted to add more insight and storytelling to the experience.

To achieve this, they went back and filmed other environments building up to the performance – the backstage corridors, the entrance, and the pre-show practice. This builds up to the eventual grand performance and, coupled with an interview with the conductor, gently eases the viewer into the VR space.

Peter’s second example was a 360-degree film produced for Unicef. Without the use of traditional film techniques, such as close-ups or focus shifts, the challenge was to direct the viewer through an experience in which they can look in whatever direction they like. Inition used animation to bring the viewer into the VR world, and having viewers all starting at one specific point (termed the “north point”) helped to provide a clear point of focus from the beginning.

Our next event was a panel asking whether VR is a fad, or here to stay – surprisingly, the latter! Catherine Allen, who has produced a range of VR content for the BBC, believes that VR should only be used when there is a genuine purpose; for example an experience or place you wouldn’t normally have access to – incidentally, one of the reasons we think VR is perfect for research. Some stories, she argued, are simply better told through traditional film.

Matt Graff, co-founder of VR City, wants to see VR escape the confines of the headset. He gave the example of a giant projection dome created for a whisky client, giving a virtual distillery experience. In a similar vein to Louis Theroux, he made the point that technology shouldn’t get in the way – it’s about how you can use that technology to bring people closer to an experience.

Francisco Lima, VFX technology supervisor at Gramercy Park Studios, pointed to studies having shown that people recall VR experiences like real life memories – as if they actually happened. Once headset/projection technology improves, it will be less virtual reality, more teleportation – which then raises ethical considerations.

All valuable insight for exploring further VR and 360-degree film work at Crowd DNA.