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

IRL With Clients

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

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.

Expertise

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.

Sharing

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.

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:

Everything We Touch

What does an image showing all the objects a person touches in one day say about them? Crowd DNA's Essi Mikkola investigates this visual methodology...

As an insight agency, we’re always looking for new and innovative research methodologies. We came across a book called Everything We Touch: A 24-hour inventory of our lives a while ago. With this project the artist and industrial designer Paula Zuccotti seeks to answer a question: can your physical footprint tell your story?

Sharing narratives with brands who want to better understand their audiences is our job. We’re particularly interested in understanding the true behaviour and how to bridge the attitude-behaviour gap – what consumers sometimes say they do vs. what they actually do.

Inspired by Zuccotti’s revealing photos, we decided to test the methodology to see how it could be used in our future projects. For this experiment, I asked a friend (Jack, 32, east London) to photograph one by one the objects he touches most on an average day, and we made a collage out of the images.

Jack's day
Jack's day

Below, Jack reflects on how the image is a combination of reality and aspirations that might not be visible to people in his life:

“It feels quite exposing seeing my closest objects laid out like this. I think a lot of them reflect the person I would like to be – or even the person I would like to be seen to be – by the outside world. Health foods, running gear – I’m not sure my closest friends would see me as that healthy vision of ‘wellness’ (puke) that these imply – though I do try.”

Some of the objects are made by brands that I do genuinely love and would advocate – Viz, Elektron Instruments, Sunspel, Patagonia, Surrey CCC. Others are things that I feel every other 30-something middle-class idiot has – Apple products, cycling gear, Kindle, a thoughtful book about the environment that I’m struggling to finish.”

Running a quick round of semiotic and cultural analysis on our Crowd DNA team resulted in the following analysis. Health foods, choice of book and a Patagonia backpack echo an archetype of an east Londoner with a healthy, creative, conscious and liberal attitude to life. Viz and the Surrey Cricket Club booklet provide more subtle hints of a ‘geeky’ character and the type of education, we hear from our native English colleagues.

“Definitely on the edge of cool/geek (in a nice way) Why? There’s a Surrey County Cricket yearbook.”

“County cricket is for the HARDCORE – people who really, really love cricket. Add the FM radio and Viz, I’d definitely say public school.”

“The copy of Viz is the outrider here, Holmes. Very unusual for someone under 35. I’d suggest a) found it on the bus or b) definitely has older brothers.”

In order to avoid any natural bias, we’d have to shoot the task, as it’s easy for the respondent (in this case Jack) to pick objects that project a story of himself he wants others to see vs what actually exists. I also started to think how we all have different identities with our family, friends of different gender, and colleagues, and whether this could be communicated through one image. Yet another topic is what role brands play in consumer’s lives around the world, and how these choices are becoming more and more political. 

In the end, the most interesting outcome of this experiment is actually realising what kind of stimulating conversations an image of one’s personal objects can spark between the person, someone who knows them well, and a researcher. This methodology not only has the potential to reveal various dimensions of a personality, it could also add another interesting layer of analysis when applied to a global project; it would be amazing to see the juxtaposition of identities from around the world. And because the output looks great, it’s a truly engaging way of socialising insight.

The World In Ten Blocks

We love fresh ways of sharing narratives and building empathy with people, and this work from Lost Time Media, an immersive journey through Toronto's multi-cultural Bloorcourt neighbourhood, gets a major thumbs up...

To borrow from the website: The World In Ten Blocks arrives at a time when documentary makers are creating immersive online experiences that explore different territory from traditional narrative films. Situated somewhere between the cutting edge of virtual reality and the old-school elegance of point-and-click adventures, Ten Blocks drops users right onto Bloor Street on a sunny afternoon and allows them to navigate a curated tour of the neighbourhood.

A plethora of videos, photos old and new and text are all woven together by the stop-motion-esque experience of taking your own walk up and down the street, stopping in on shop owners and absorbing the ambience of being there.

Enjoy! The World In Ten Blocks

Twitter Passions Meets LFW

We're excited to see Twitter release the first of our Passions film series to coincide with London Fashion Week...

Keep your eyes peeled for more Passions films – covering music, food, health, news, tech and more – over 2017.

See Crowd DNA\Socialise Director Anna Chapman discuss this and other types of superfandom over croissants on March 2. Book your place now.

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.

Looking Good!

From narrated galleries to 360° cameras, here's six ways to gather and share visual insights...

Visual communication is taking over the world. That goes for the world of insight, too. Our \Socialise team have put together this handy little guide to some of new and exciting ways to gather and share visual insights that we’ve been experimenting with at Crowd DNA. Find out more here

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