360 & VR For Better Insights

We’re increasingly adding 360 and VR to our toolkit - here’s some best practice advice from Crowd DNA director Anna Chapman...

Many of our projects at Crowd DNA involve helping our clients to understand consumer needs and behaviour. And as consumer culture adopts new ways of doing things, we bring these trends into our work. That’s why last year we started to explore virtual reality and 360 cameras for insights work; after all, 89 million VR headsets were sold in 2016 (many of them in time for Christmas).

Consumers have an appetite for VR because it allows them to learn and experience the unusual in the comfort of their own home. From self-development to gaming to shopping, they’re keen to explore these opportunities. Who wouldn’t want to be on stage with their favourite band or fly around the moon without having to spend $150mil? Clients are keen to step into this virtual world too, exploring consumer lives through 360 footage and immersive experiences.

We’re using VR in two ways – as a tool for gathering insights (eg. using 360 cameras) and as a content format for immersing clients in the consumer world and socialising insight. Below are some thoughts around best practice for both.

– Google Cardboard is the go-to device for consumers – it’s inexpensive, easy to use and compatible with most smartphones.

– 360 footage is great for exploring spaces eg. if a client wants to look at the layout or products in a participant’s home.

– Keep VR experiences short (definitely under 15 minutes) – some people suffer side effects like tired eyes and dizziness. Not something you want a client to feel.

– Wearing a VR headset is more fun – and engaging – than looking at a powerpoint deck. Make this an activity at a client debrief or a workshop if you can.

– Think about how the content will be consumed – a 360 photo shot on a smartphone is much cheaper to produce and can be hosted on YouTube (see the Crowd office example above). At the moment this is more impactful and easier to send to a client than creating a bespoke headset experience.

– VR isn’t going to replace real life, it just adds another layer. Similarly, use VR to add an extra dimension alongside other methods and outputs.

Of course, the world of VR is changing rapidly and as it does, so will our methods for gathering and socialising insight. Microsoft’s HoloLens is calling out to developers to get involved in Mixed Reality or MR, which will merge the best bits of VR with Augmented Reality. Once this becomes more affordable, we’ll be able to offer headset-wearing clients even better experiences for exploring insights.


Voice activation is set to become a dominant interface between ourselves and brands and experiences. Crowd DNA’s Andy Crysell gathers up notes from our recent work in the field, exploring the barriers to overcome and the opportunities ahead…

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It isn’t so much a new thing, but voice activation – or voice computing – is certainly a fast gaining momentum thing. We know this because of the sales and media coverage of devices like Amazon Echo. But, as a business, we also know this as it’s a topic we’ve been asked to explore in several client briefs recently (that’s not something that would have happened much over a year ago).

Clearly there’s a huge opportunity here to create more frictionless and empathetic experiences – particularly in-home, at-work and in-(smart)car. Many of the experts we’ve been speaking to see it as a paradigm shift, something as revolutionary to our relationship with digital utility and entertainment as the rapid advancement of our mobiles was five to ten years ago.

As with most innovations of this kind, there’s a certain clunky-ness to it in its formative stages. Barriers stand in the way of true adoption. Recent data suggests 69% of Alexa’s 7,000 skills either have no reviews or just one review – this implies very low levels of adoption. Of those who enable a voice app on Google Assistant or Alexa, only three-per-cent are still active the week after. Moreover, we’re still to ascertain what kind of relationship we really want with a voice assistant – should it have a name; a gender; where does voice activation intersect with mood recognition and a deeper understanding of what’s on our mind?

Google Home
Google Home

Plenty of challenges, then. But the experts we’ve met believe that, once good use cases become popularised and eulogised, once the recognition process takes the necessary and inevitable steps forward, voice activation will gather pace quickly. They’ve spoken to us about how crazy it will soon look to be swiping away at a mobile. How we need to start comprehending the notion of invisible apps and invisible actions – the invisible interface, ultimately. That we should be ‘viewing’ voice computing as the next great platform.

What’s in it for media and for brands? A lot of our interviewees have spoken about untapping latent intent – all of the new things we will do, or things we currently do but will now do more abundantly – if we don’t have to reach for our phones, and if the cognitive load is reduced. The opportunity is there, they enthuse, for media and brands to be with us more often and more relevantly; to work towards seamless narratives that flow across devices and day parts.

So Nike tell us to ‘Just Do It’, and McDonald’s affirm ‘I’m Lovin’ It’, but how will they deliver against these messages on this emergent interface? Also fascinating is how a lot of the heavily used marketing maxims of recent times – the requisite for brands to have an authentic voice of their own; the need for brands to have a two-way conversation with consumers – will suddenly take on new and more direct meaning in the age of voice activation. Lots to think about – even more to talk about.

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



Power Of Audio

Introducing the Power Of Audio - a thought leadership study for Spotify...

We’re super excited to have worked with Spotify on their trailblazing thought leadership study, the Power Of Audio.

The project – which soft launched at CES – 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.

We worked with 46 consumers in the US, UK, Brazil and Japan, conducting audio diary tasks (including deprivation phases), Skype interviews to dig deeper and filmed ethnographic sessions to truly build empathy around use cases and need states. We discovered a huge amount about people’s audio moments (singing in the shower among them!), how audio is used for mood control and the powerful recognition of brand sounds.

Our expert interviews ranged from artists and producers, to academics, marketing heads, innovators, advertising consultants and content producers. Each of them provided a fresh perspective on why audio matters so much. Themes explored included audio and memory, audio’s role in next generation marketing and the power of the podcast.

Check out our first film below – and you can find more content about the project at Spotify For Brands here. Watch this space for further video releases.

We’re really pleased to see our work for Viacom out in the public domain – with a first showing at the recent ESOMAR event in New Orleans...

We were given the very exciting mission of capturing new stories and insights from the sometimes-overlooked Generation X in eight cities – London, Rio, Budapest, Bangkok, Cape Town, Berlin, Mexico City and Bogota.

Building on a survey of over 12,000 adults carried out by research agency Tapestry Research, we used some great methodologies, including image gathering tasks on social, dinner party discussion sessions and ethnographic work, wrapping this up in our cultural analysis techniques and storytelling abilities.  All of which got us to powerful findings that challenge the tired, unimaginative messages generally used by media and advertising to connect with this cohort.

Our Socialise team got to experiment with some wonderful outputs, too. An installation that featured in Viacom’s New York and London offices, notepads and a 15-minute documentary.

For more information on the study check out internationalinsights.viacom.com

As the concept of luxury becomes increasingly intangible in the networked age, brands are experimenting with digital to attract Generation Z says creative delivery exec, Elizabeth Holdsworth...

In the post-recession age of discreet anti-bling (think Kinfolk: rustic, white-filtered and highly Instagram-able lifestyle scenes), the idea of luxury is becoming ever more abstracted, and brands are experimenting with ways to position themselves as aspirational within the digital realm. How do you engage with a generation that has grown up online, visually fluent teens who are skilful digital strategists on Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr? Add to the equation that, until recently, this generation neither expected – or have ever had to pay for – online content.

Burberry’s Snapchat campaigns were an early stride in conquering the ethereal world of teen luxury. Since then Snapchat has morphed into the new catwalk. Meanwhile on Instagram, Calvin Klein’s #MyCalvins campaign rolls around in bed with a flawless Kendall Jenner and takes to the skate park with an open-shirted Justin Bieber. Because Facebook’s biggest growing demographic is 55+, teens are seeking refuge away from older generations on platforms that are exclusive to them. Snapchat has over 100 million daily active users, 71% of which are under the age of 25.[1]

Originally released only on Tidal, Kanye West’s seventh studio album, ‘The Life Of Pablo’, is a haphazard attempt to bring luxury consumerism to the digital world of teens, the Gen Z demographic who are less interested in glitzy material possessions than the allure of new technology and services. Fans could only listen to’The Life Of Pablo’ by signing up to the premium streaming service.

Launched in October 2014, Perez Hilton labeled Tidal as ‘the streaming service for millionaires’, where the music itself takes on the flavour of a luxury status symbol. This sense of exclusivity comes from the subscription fee itself and also from the service’s options and respective price points — differences in audio quality that will only be perceptible to those already owning high-end sound systems. Any difference between Tidal’s so-called Premium and HiFi services will go unnoticed by consumers who are most likely to be streaming on smartphones and listening though headphones.

Tidal’s subscriber numbers reportedly doubled in the two weeks following the release of ‘The Life Of Pablo’, but it seems the tide of exclusive streaming is yet to turn. The platform is still dwarfed by services like Spotify, and has also failed to keep pace with Apple Music, which emerged around the same time. Retracting the original plan of Tidal-only exclusivity, ‘The Life Of Pablo’ has since emerged on other music services, achieving much greater impact. However Tidal’s subscriptions look set to explode following the release of Beyoncé’s video album Lemonade, available to view by subscription only.

This isn’t about luxury sound. Teens don’t care about lossless, hi-fi audio. They care about what’s trending, being part of the peer conversation, keeping up with the world’s biggest artists. This is about aspiration, of belonging, selling a more abstract idea of luxury than ever before — a dreamy Instagram still of the Kardashian Klan reclining in white Calvins. If luxury brands want to connect with Generation Z, they need to learn a life lesson from Pablo and continue to communicate these moments digitally, while constantly being aware of the limitations – though growing potential – of the paywall.

[1] DMR, By the Numbers: 60 Amazing Snapchat Statistics.

The rise of family cinema-going looks to be about more than just the 'Frozen effect', says Crowd DNA director, Euan Mackay, as he explores the latest FAME data (while trying to get a certain song out of his head)...

We have been fortunate enough to work alongside Digital Cinema Media for the last three years on the cinema industry currency research project (FAME). This week, I went along to speak at the launch of this year’s findings, talking through some of the more interesting themes to have emerged.

The survey covers a multitude of topics, so provides a mountain of data on cinema-goers, particularly when the option to multibase/fuse to TGI is taken into account. Here are some key takeouts for you:

– Cinema remains an important leisure pursuit in the UK with 48% of the population having been to the movies in the last month

– Cinema admissions seem to be somewhat Netflix-proof as admissions remain as strong as the last two years; though the impact is being felt in terms of movie rentals – both physical and digital are down from last year

– Cinema instills positive energising emotions compared to other media. It’s more likely to make people feel excited, happy and stimulated

– Cinema creates buzz and talkability. 67% say that watching a film in the cinema gives them something to chat about

– It’s still a great advertising vehicle. 87% having seen advertising before the main film

One interesting dynamic in the data relates to the rise and rise of family viewing at the cinema. As someone who is still laden with a Bear Necessities earworm after taking my five-year-old daughter to see the Jungle Book (Bill Murray and Christopher Walken are excellent), this struck a chord with me.

We see that family viewing has increased again for the third year running, suggesting more of an on-going trend than simply a ‘Frozen-effect’. Going to the movies is a real considered activity for families, who are more likely to plan their trip in advance. They are also more likely to consider a trip to the movies as a great way to spend quality time with others. And talking of spending, families go beyond the bare necessities when it comes to splashing out in the foyer – with an average spend of £17.30 compared to £12.90 for the average cinema-goer.

Now, altogether… Look for the Bear Necessities…

As the smartphoned world continues to go crazy for messaging apps, Anna Chapman, associate director in our business and strategy team, looks at how WhatsApp can power research...

At Crowd we’re always keen to work with new methodologies – and have a particular fascination with trying to appropriate the myriad, UX-lovely platforms and services that exist outside of the insight industry. Recently we’ve found ourselves using WhatsApp on a number of projects. So what’s so great about using a messaging app for qual?

Since we’re in the business of capturing natural responses, it’s a no-brainer to meet people in an environment where they feel at home. And people feel very comfortable using WhatsApp, because many of us are on it a lot of the time. The usage stats show that globally it’s trumping more conventional social platforms, with one third of WhatsApp’s 990 million users chatting on it daily and the average user sending 1,000 messages per month (42 billion per day, apparently). What’s more, WhatsApp is growing faster than its prodigious parent company Facebook did, even in its heyday.

WhatsApp is rather large...
WhatsApp is rather large...

Cost, or lack of it, is one of the reasons that WhatsApp is so popular. What’s not to love about an app that allows you to chat with your friends for free, wherever they are in the world, in a private space? And, the good news is that it’s also a free platform for research – at least for now.

WhatsApp beats using a community for a number of reasons, primarily because it’s far less hassle for everyone involved. Members don’t have to make an effort to register and recall a password, meaning dropout rates are much lower. Moderators can easily nudge people into action when they’re hanging out right there in the space (rather than having to prompt them with an email and redirect them to an unfamiliar community). One of our team admits to having a ‘chat’ from the gym on his phone. This accessibility is definitely a benefit for the client, if not for the time-poor researcher…

WhatsApp is highly adaptable and has worked for us across diverse projects, from celebrity futureproofing with 35-55 year-olds in the UK to a hefty global piece on childhood. Across the board, we’ve been impressed by the quality of responses. Communities can sometimes feel impersonal, causing nervous participants to hold back, wary of the strangers in the room. But people are used to sharing information with their friends on WhatsApp so they tend to be chattier and give bolder answers, smattered with emojis.

Increasingly we’re using images and video to communicate with our audience and it’s second nature for people to share short form media and links on WhatsApp. What’s more, screenshot conversations look great in presentations. Of course, much of the above can be applied to using social media in general for research and we’ve also had great results with Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest. Suitability is uppermost – it’s important to use a platform that resonates with your target audience in each case.

When you’re planning a global project, you need to consider market and audience variations. In the US, for example, Facebook messenger dominates for adults and teens use Viber. But in Latin America and the Middle East, two thirds of internet users are WhatsApping. Of course, it makes sense to use native platforms wherever possible, so in China choose WeChat, or Kakao Talk in South Korea. It’s also easy to use different messaging apps in one project.

Naturally, there are downsides (and we’re not about to completely ditch the more research industry-specific online tools we also often use just yet) – it can be overwhelming trying to maintain conversations with numerous people across the world at once, so we recommend using WhatsApp as part of the project; in a smallish diary task, for example. We tend to use it as one element in our overall approach, supporting it with more in-depth interviews, expert opinion or workshops afterwards.

As messaging apps continue to flourish, WhatsApp – plus no doubt future offerings that will emerge – will become an important methodology, offering us an alternative to more conventional communities and other mobile research tools, and a fluid, credible way into the conversations that get us to the heart of contemporary culture.