Words In The Workshop

Even the best workshop ideas can get lost in the action. Phoebe Trimingham from Crowd DNA’s Socialise team shares thoughts on how ‘live copywriting’ can be used to spot, enhance and lift them to the surface...

Workshops are a fundamental part of our work at Crowd DNA. They get people talking, thinking and really engaging with cultural insights. We use them at various stages of a project: from aligning teams around trends and topics, to ideating and developing new products and concepts. Whatever the purpose, we root everything (and everyone) in culture from the offset.

But workshops can be challenging. There’s a lot going on, a lot to take in, and a lot of structure required to make them a success. All to often, great ideas get lost within the action. At Crowd, we deploy various methods to make sure our workshops are always impactful.

Integrating live copywriting skills is one such exciting addition to a workshop design – and it can really help lift the day’s creativity and ideas, as well as enhance the clarity and quality of the final outputs.

Live copywriting has multiple benefits depending on the business challenge – but we think it’s most effective within concept development workshops. While there’s not really a one-size-fits-all approach to live copywriting, nonetheless here’s a few general best-practice tips that we’ve picked up.

Know what you’re walking into

It sounds obvious, but the more research of the workshop’s wider context – and the discourse surrounding it – the more prepared you’ll be to tackle the language challenges on the day. I make sure I’m briefed in by the wider project team at Crowd, understanding the category, competitors and cultural landscape; and getting familiar with any associated acronyms and industry-specific phrases. We always write a vocab sheet of useful words and thought-starters beforehand, and prepare a few ‘wish-list’ options of how we’d like to push the language further in the actual workshop.

Who, what and where?

Next, zoom in on the day itself. What are the aims and objectives of the session? We treat our role within it as we would any writing brief: who will read the final output? What is the purpose, what’s the story? Where will the final copy appear? Is it a summary report to present to stakeholders, for example, or a series of polished concepts to test with real life consumers? Once you know the intended audience and purpose, the tone and overall focus of what you’re writing will also become clear.

Listen and edit-as-you-go

Live copywriting is tricky, especially when trying to digest lots of people’s complex ideas into accessible language. The key to any good edit is knowing what to leave out. So listen carefully to what is being said and use your knowledge of the wider context and overall workshop objective to decide what’s important, and what’s worth getting rid of. Similarly, as you write, spot if any ideas are being repeated. Can anything be clubbed into themes? Does anything contradict, or disconnect from the overall purpose? Be prepared for one-off word challenges: ‘what’s a better way of saying X?’, as well as delivering polished rewrites of ideas as they’re being presented.

Remember: clarity is king

Lastly, if it feels like the language is complicated, it probably is. It’s the writer’s job to cut through the noise, so a good tip for dealing with complexity is to quickly sketch the idea out as a graphic, along with a collection of direct quotes underneath. Mark it up and return to it during a break to rethink and rewrite when you have more space. If you can, sit away from the group when they’re feeding back ideas, to allow you to focus on objectively writing up in the clearest way. Finding the right words is crucial when translating big ideas but, for even further clarity, we often pair our live-writers with live-illustrators to make the ideas as instantly understandable (and visually exciting) as possible.

If you’d like to hear more about how we use live copywriting in workshops, please email hello@crowdDNA.com for a chat.

 

Semiotics: Decoded

Our recent Rise event in London was dedicated to demystifying semiotics and cracking its many commercial applications. Read on for the full decode...

Crowd DNA resident semioticians Roberta Graham and Laura Boerboom took us on a journey through semiotics at our latest Rise breakfast. While it can sometimes be an intimidating methodology to embrace – especially when considering how it applies to real business challenges – the focus of this session was on demystifying semiotics and explaining how we use it to fuel culturally-charged commercial advantage for our clients.

To kick things off, Roberta and Laura discussed how every detail communicates; whether it’s linguistic or visual, audible or tactile. Semiotics is the process of unpacking this meaning found within brand comms, media, art, community activity and, well, every area of culture. It’s about understanding the specific socio-cultural context and zooming in on the words, gestures, colours, shapes and textures that are present too.

To demonstrate this, Gucci’s SS18 campaign was used to show how quickly different meanings are created and commercialised – here, Gucci places their high fashion, tailored aesthetic against a backdrop of quintessentially British signifiers of working class culture, such as the Fish & Chip shop and terraced houses. Tapping into the trend of high/low cultural contrast, Gucci re-enforces its ability to elevate and stand apart, while maintaining a grounding within nuanced heritage. They’re choice of Harry Styles is also particularly relevant as a symbol of this trajectory from ‘ordinary’ to ‘icon’.

After more decoding examples and frameworks, the morning then moved onto how we use semiotics to join the dots between culture and commercial objectives. In other words: the real-world application of semiotics. Roberta and Laura talked through how we use the methodology to help brands in two distinct, but interlinked ways: exploration and execution.

The first route – exploration – allows us delve into the cultural fabric surrounding a category, brand or product to help shape brand futures, identify white spaces, optimise innovation pipelines and future-proof cultural relevancy. The second – execution – is focused on using semiotics to draw meaning from culture’s codes in order to define strategy, shape new brand positions, comms, packaging, products and more besides.

The session concluded on those all-important, key takeouts for ‘How-To’ semiotics, which we’ve wrapped up into a digital guide for working with this exciting methodology – available to download here.

Thanks to all that attended and joined the conversation. Keep an eye out for more culturally-awakening breakfast events soon.  

Catch Crowd DNA’s London managing director Dr Matilda Andersson and senior consultant Roberta Graham discussing how leading edge behaviour can predict what’s next for mainstream consumers...

MRS hosts Methodology In Context on November 22 in London  – a chance for insight professionals to explore new, creative and dynamic methodologies and how best to apply them within research. We’re excited to announce that Crowd DNA’s Matilda Andersson and Roberta Graham will be presenting Leading The Pack: a session focussing on how leading edge behaviour can predict what’s next for mainstream consumers, and the methods and tools we use to do so.

Predicting the future is at the top of any insight and innovation wish list. All too often, however, brands fail to spot what’s coming next by sticking too close to their already existing consumers. Using leading edge participants as predictors of mainstream behaviour is obviously nothing new, but doing so accurately – and in a way that’s relevant for specific categories or brands – remains one of the greatest enigmas within our industry.

With that in mind they’ll ask: what tools and frameworks do we need to turn this art into science? And is observing ‘leading-edgers’ the future of brand health and cultural relevancy?

For those keen to learn more about how we use leading edge behaviour to keep an eye on the future, you can find out more info here.

Continuing our journey through the challenges and rewards of urban living, City Limits Volume Two explores mobility…

We’re back with another packed issue of City Limits – our view on urban living (the good and the bad), and how brands can reach for culturally-charged commercial advantage in these high-drama mega-spaces.

While Volume One took a deep dive into the urban experience, this time we’re focusing on mobility.

Mobility means much more than getting from A to B. It’s how we navigate and move around urban environments. It’s how we flock, migrate and end up living in cities all around the world. It’s how people succeed and progress in them. It’s also how we interact with one another while moving around them. 

In this issue, we explore transport innovations, the role of data, emergent trends and the visual language of movement, exploring how mobility is changing the very shape and size of cities across the globe.

Volume Two is available to download here. Enjoy the ride.

Watch the video trailer below:

Crowd IRL, IRL at AURA

Crowd DNA’s Andy Crysell and Joey Zeelen spoke (IRL) about getting IRL with clients at the latest AURA seminar in London…

Innovation in research usually conjures up images of eye-tracking, neuroscience and facial-coding. Perhaps even automation and AI, or using virtual reality as a research tool. But it’s not always about machines and tech. Often, stepping back into reality and immersing ‘in real life’ can trigger the alertness and receptivity needed to uncover new insights. Combine this immersion with actual, real-life clients and you get a whole new innovative approach: Crowd IRL. This is the subject that Crowd’s Andy Crysell and Joey Zeelen spoke about at AURA’s latest insight seminar in London.

Crowd IRL is what we call getting out on-the-road with stakeholder teams, immersing them in the lives and culture of people. Andy and Joey explained how it’s used to disrupt the confines of reporting back – going beyond simply inviting clients to attend the debrief or viewing facility, for example – before bringing Crowd IRL, to life, with our recent work for Axe.

Exploring the modern game of attraction around the world, the Axe work was an opportunity to flex Crowd’s methodology muscles. Briefly recapping the project (which covered eight markets using mobile missions, cultural reports, ethnographic sessions and, of course, Crowd IRL), Andy and Joey then presented the following ‘how tos’ for successful client immersions.

Plan well, but not too much  

It sounds obvious, but planning is key – it’s your fault if a client gets lost in the field! For Axe, a video intro and immersion pack was sent beforehand, alongside a clear budget and details of a WhatsApp group (vital). But Andy and Joey also explained the need to allow for detours or impromptu conversation by not over-planning. They kept the Axe briefing purposefully light and supplied simple thought-starters (instead of weighty discussion guides) to leave enough gaps for the magic to happen.

Set the tone and lean on local expertise

Next, they explained how they set the immersion ‘rules’ by briefing the Axe team to keep their senses switched on; to observe everything; and to let the consumer lead wherever possible. The benefit of local expertise was also highlighted by showing how collaboration with on-the-ground contributors helped unlock certain scenarios and articulate the details of discussion (crucial when clients were speaking to awkward teens about their love life).

Facilitate fluid sharing and wrapping-up

The importance of gathering and disseminating images, videos and notes was also discussed. For Axe, WhatsApp and WeChat were used during the immersions to encourage teams to share content in a fluid, low-friction fashion. When one group came up with something interesting, another group could then pick up on the same theme. This also helped with the all-important wrap-up session. Axe teams were plied with pizza then asked to share stories and contribute to rolling analysis, with the end goal being to ensure co-ownership among the global teams.

The presentation finished with Andy’s point that one-size doesn’t fit all when it comes to Crowd IRL. Projects can range from a few hours to a few days; feature different ages or different subcultures; and switch focus between regular consumers and experts. Among a sea of exciting, new technological innovations discussed at AURA, Crowd IRL stood out as a uniquely human and non-complex way to unearth truly empathetic insights.

Get in touch if you’d like to discuss how a Crowd IRL project could work for your team.

Walking the tightrope of diversity can be scary. Crowd's Roberta Graham shares ideas for authentically diverse branding...

The issue of diversity carries a lot of weight, and rightfully so. But how can brands avoid the usual pitfalls on the path to inclusivity? Many of our clients are scared to tread on such sensitive territory – others question whether they have a place there at all. Yet we believe that it’s possible (and necessary) for brands to engage with diversity. Here’s some thought starters to building inclusive brand futures.

Avoid tokenism

It’s important to focus on nuances rather than race, gender or sexuality as separate issues. These are not mutually exclusive! Ticking boxes in this way can get you into the danger zones of tokenism and be painfully obvious. For example, Johnnie Walker’s Jane Walker rebrand campaign was accused of appropriating women’s rights to increase sales. An unfortunate outcome considering Diageo as a whole have some very interesting stories to tell around their commitment to diversity.  Remember: crow-barring diversity into your brand will not work.

Stick with what you know

Becoming socially progressive doesn’t mean drastically altering your consumer profile. Jumping from targeting white cis men to creating comms centred around non-binary identity clearly isn’t the way to grow. Catering to the audience you already have with diversity in mind maintains your message while inviting others to join the party. But make sure to gain valuable insight before approaching any new demographics to avoid clunky, offensive stereotypes.

There is always room for progress

Examine your current and desired demographics. Focusing on their place within culture can identify opportunities for progression. For example, if you are selling predominantly to white cis women, considering their changing identity and how individuals are adapting to cultural shifts will help create representation in line with emergent trends. Ask yourself: what are early adopters in this category doing? How is femininity changing? Why is white, female identity important to your brand? What does all this look, speak and act like in your chosen markets?

Diversity works for everyone

Current and dominant narratives, such as those around white men, are not excluded from this; and intersectionality is not about erasing them from comms either. It is simply about achieving a fairer and more balanced representation, making space for everyone.

For this reason diversifying is key to broadening your customer base. Involving others in your brand identity allows you to communicate more widely. This can be a simple, subtle progression rather than a grand gesture.

And lastly, keep it simple

One-off, bold statements don’t work and often leave brands open to scrutiny. The kind of genuine progress that consumers want comes from sustained action and awareness. This can be as simple as more diverse casting; multiracial groups, complex female or LGBTQ+ roles and people of varied abilities have a place within every brand. Try to resist the temptation to labour the point. Remember, diversity is not about patting yourself on the back for creating a more accurate representation of the population.

Negotiating the web of diversity can be a challenge for any brand eager for change. Need an expert on your side? Get in touch to find out more.

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.

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: