We get to work on lots of interesting and highly engaging projects at Crowd DNA, but collaborating with IKEA on the Clean Air brief was a particularly rewarding one...

With 80% of people who live in urban areas being exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organisation limit, this is a major topic. Unless action is taken now, the number of deaths will double by 2050 and will account for 12 every minute.

IKEA’s commitment to sustainability is widely recognised, with their ‘Better Everyday Life For The Many People’ maxim a major global talking point – which is where the clean air work fits in.

IKEA came to Crowd DNA requesting a comprehensive understanding of clean air (from awareness levels and misconceptions, to how it changes behaviour) in society around the world.

The first phase of the project looked to develop context and saw us producing a clean air report from extensive desk research and expert interviews – from leading toxicologists and start-ups CEOs on the front-line of air pollution innovation, to artists who are looking to creatively highlight the topic.

Stage two explored current consumer behaviours and attitudes related to clean air. We conducted mobile self-ethnography across the US, UK, China, Germany, Italy, Poland and India, using our understanding of behavioural science to better understanding true consumer behaviour in two key ways:

1. Mapping consumer behaviour/awareness over time to see if air pollution currently impacts how people live their lives

2. Providing our participants with air monitors to gauge personal air quality across their day to day lives, thus allowing us to see how increased awareness potentially disrupts behaviour.

Next, we visited each market to interview and film consumers in context, including reviewing their experiences with the air monitor devices and how much impact the data had on their actual lives. The filmed ethnography produced rich, narrative-led accounts of individual everyday experiences and how people really relate to the notion of clean air.

Embedding the findings in the IKEA business was a priority, too. We held collaborative innovation workshops to generate practical ideas for future product and service designs. IKEA have since used this insight and the ideas that came from these sessions to inform short and long term projects to tackle air pollution.

Alongside the workshops came an artworked and editorialised clean air survey, and a series of broadcast quality documentary films.

You can find out more about the Clean Air project here

Check out one of the films from the project below

We’ve packaged up our recent thinking around social media and agelessness into a new Crowd DNA culture report...

Following a talk earlier this year at the MRS Social Media Summit, we thought it worth extending some of our initial ideas around social media and its impact on a growing culture of agelessness.  

As traditional markers of adulthood are delayed; as people continue working way beyond retirement, and as the whole notion of ‘being a teenager’ continues to change, our distinct generational cohorts become blurred. It seems we can no longer pin particular behaviours to age, or even life stage.

In our latest Crowd DNA report, we explore this culture of agelessness and the impact that social media is having on its growth. We look at how and why it’s happening and the four biggest contributing factors from the online world.

To download a copy of ‘The Ageless World Of Social Media’ please click here.

 

A Guide To Crowd Workshops

Bringing together a room of people around cultural insight is great, but it's no easy job. Here’s a run-through on how we do it at Crowd...

It’s safe to say we’ve banked our fair share of workshop experience. Effective at any stage during a research project, we use them to lay cultural foundations and align teams around trends; to aid innovation processes and fuel product development; or to define strategic direction and land insight within a business. Whatever the workshop, it’s important that everyone, and everything, is rooted in cultural understanding from the start.

Clearly, there’s not one-size-fits-all. Different objectives will dictate the workshop structure and design, but we thought it worth getting down the most useful pointers nonetheless. When prepared carefully, there’s huge potential to be found within a room engaged in focussed, intensive discussion. Our job is to make sure everyone is engaged in the correct way, and that everyone leaves the room with solutions, a sense of ownership, and a clear path forward. Here’s some of the ways that we do that:

Aims and objectives

First up, it’s really important to understand the objectives. Sounds obvious, sure, but we start by asking exactly what it is we want to achieve. Aligning teams around cultural thinking requires a very different workshop to, say, coming up with a string of product innovations. Setting clear objectives also means that there’s something to measure success by at the end of the day (getting the room involved in this makes sure everyone leaves with a sense of satisfaction).

Equally important is understanding the audience. While it’s hard to get to know the entire attendee list, working out everyone’s relationship to the project, and to each other, helps identify goals and obstacles. Ideally, we try meet clients beforehand to gain an understanding of the group’s knowledge – there’s nothing worse than trying to educate experts or overestimating the inexperienced. We also like to put out an invitation letter, or a teaser video, or even a pre-task to get attendees thinking about the topic beforehand.  

Tasks and materials

Next, picking the right exercises is crucial. Simplicity is key, and every task – whether it’s sharing stories and identifying needs, or getting rid of negativity and barriers – must ladder up to the overall objective. We’re also big fans of workshop stimulus and find it really useful to ignite discussion and focus thinking. Innovation sessions might need materials that people can rip up and rebuild, while an audience immersion may require something more polished and complete. We’ve made all-sorts here at Crowd: magazines, stackable postcards, life-size portraits, prototyping materials to get people thinking with their hands – even an immersive installation of a teenage boy’s bedroom (complete with old pizza boxes and dirty socks).

Depending on the objective, we might bring some fresh perspectives into the conversation, too. Experts can aid with academic understanding, influencers can help steer topics, and we often call upon our CrowdStars network to join the party as well. If it makes sense within the workshop; the more brains around a topic, the better.

Structure and design

A successful session also has a lot to do with the flow. It’s good to mix between passive and active activities, broken up with plenty of breathing space. Speaking of which, we’ve been known to incorporate yoga and mindfulness training into our workshops – it really helps with concentration and keeping the energy levels up. Breaks are definitely not to be underestimated. We take care not to bombard people with information by mixing in a lot of brainstorming and discussion, and debate whether the conversation should be facilitator-led (good for working toward a specific outcome), or more natural and moved along by a moderator. Advance planning goes without saying (don’t forget the catering!), but we also create a checklist to correct any issues nearer the time. Are all the materials ready? Are the agendas printed? What about name-tags, camera-equipment, are there enough snacks?!

Then, it’s action time. At Crowd, we like to experiment with creative ways to capture the day. We film important sections and take photographs throughout, but we also work with live illustrators and creative writers to sketch out ideas and record details in inventive ways. This not only documents the workshop, but also provides great content that we can use within our project deliverables too. Win win.

If you’d like to find out more about Crowd workshops, please email hello@crowdDNA.com to have a chat and hopefully we’ll be workshopping with you in no time.

Crowd DNA’s Dr Matilda Andersson talked social media and the delicate subject of age at the MRS Social Media Summit 2018...

Age will never disappear (sadly), but as our interests and characters continue to blur, we’re no longer as defined by our DOB. Traditional milestones are happening later; people are working beyond retirement, even the distinct experience of being a teen is coming to an end. We’re moving into a culture of agelessness, where the number of years we’ve notched up really is just a number.

This is the subject that Crowd’s Matilda Andersson tackled at yesterday’s MRS Social Media Summit. Focussing on the huge impact that social media has on this shift, she presented the following contributors:

Bringing families closer together

It’s far from true that only young people are addicted to social media – we see plenty of older generations getting on board too. Matilda used an example from her own mum’s Instagram – a snap of a recent cycling holiday – to show how tech is creating a cross-generational space that allows them to joke, learn and venture outside their usual mother-daughter role. She also explained how platforms like Whatsapp and Messenger For Kids help pair young and old family members, making sure no one is left out.

Matilda's mum on Instagram
Matilda's mum on Instagram
Uniting around shared passions

Social media is a level playing-field when it comes to age. While previously confined to local geographies to find like-minded people, now curation platforms like Pinterest help those with similar passions to unite irrespective of age. Matilda used other examples, including TasteBud and the increase in hyperlocal Facebook groups, to show a rising connection across generational boundaries. Young, old, new; everyone can take part in online discussion.

Building icons for all ages

In perhaps the area where most age barriers can be broken, Matilda highlighted how an influencer’s field of impact isn’t limited to their own age bracket. Referencing Lyn Slater (who, at 63, is making waves in the fashion blogging world) and Coco Princess Pink (a six-year-old Japanese style icon), she celebrated the fact that social media builds icons from, and for, all ages.

Online dating for everyone

It’s definitely not only young people who meet online. The number of 45+-year-olds on dating sites keeps on growing; in fact, between 2013 and 2015, the number doubled (according to Pew research), but it doesn’t all have to be romance related. Matilda also presented MeetMe – a friendship-based platform offering people of different ages the chance to chat – to show how social media can be used to be, well, genuinely social.

MeetMe
MeetMe
Answering the golden question: how do we help brands stay culturally relevant to an ageless audience? Matilda offered some ideas around behavioural data, social listening, and cross-generational interviews, before ending with the assertion that cultural codes need to be redefined way beyond age.

We’ll be sending out a download of Matilda’s report soon. In the meantime, please get in touch if you’d like to discuss further.

TAKE-OUTS FROM THE TAKEAWAY

An overview of our work for Just Eat. Carefully designed ethnographic methods to build customer empathy in hard-to-reach environments…

Operating in the increasingly competitive place where tech meets home delivery, Just Eat reached out to Crowd DNA to help optimise the brand’s relationship with takeaway outlets – specifically in the UK and Spain – and their owners. It’s a tough space to research. Takeaway owners are busy people, not particularly inclined to divulge the inner workings of their businesses.

We embarked on extensive research with 16 takeaway businesses in the UK and Spain, first working hard to build relationships through phone interviews. With an important level of trust gained, this was followed by an ethnographic phase, in which our teams spent time in the restaurants and outlets, witnessing how each operated, the main challenges they face and where digital services can provide advantage. It was a challenging process, but less in-situ research techniques wouldn’t have got remotely close to the detailed understanding that we arrived at here.

Capturing very rich and real narratives to share in our workshop sessions with Just Eat stakeholders helped this data-driven brand to craft striking new ways to connect with takeaway providers.

Brighten up your week with the latest download from Crowd DNA, this one offering pointers on how to bring more value and innovation to online communities...

At our recent Rise event in London, Crowd DNA director of communities Sabrina Qureshi rebooted the topic of online communities and gave it a good refresh. Debunking common assumptions of what online communities are, and what they look like, Sabrina provided new ideas around themes like innovation, leveraging different audience types, ensuring impact – and, of course, the importance of culture and insights.

For those who missed the event or would like to find out more about Crowd Communities, check out our downloadable pdf here.

IRL With Clients

We've packaged up our Crowd IRL thinking in a nice new report format. Email if you'd like a copy...

Crowd IRL is how we get out on-the-road with stakeholder teams, immersing them in the lives and culture of people; helping clients escape the confines of simply attending the debrief presentation or the viewing facility.

In this report, we’ve gathered learnings from across the Crowd DNA team, exploring and celebrating our Crowd IRL method. Send an email to crowdIRL@crowdDNA.com if you’d like to receive a copy and/or discuss ideas for how to make a project of this kind work for your team.

Insightful Design

What role does visual design play in a cultural insights and innovation agency? Crowd designers Elizabeth Holdsworth and Salem Khazali share tips on how they help to make our work impactful...

Designing for a cultural insights and innovation agency throws up many creative challenges and, over the years, we’ve learnt some lessons. Of course, each project is different, and every narrative requires us to flex our creative muscles in new ways – from decks to zines to adult colouring books. But there are some common ways of thinking that we’d like to share with you below. Adopt these and we believe that the insights you deliver will benefit.

Who, what, where?

As creatives, we always start with the same basic questions – ‘who, what and where?’ This set of questions unpacks like an enchanted toolbox, as in fact there are many more questions inside these questions. Who is the client and who are the stakeholders? What form will the research take and what are the hypotheses? Where will the work go once it’s delivered? Where’s it likely to be seen?

These magic questions get us immediately thinking about who the work is for. Because the point is really about the audience, and where we’re aiming. It’s like the hole at the end of the golfing green – it’s a long way away at the moment, but we need to know where the insights will eventually land.

Salem and Elizabeth
Salem and Elizabeth

Design is purpose

Being purposeful is key to good design.

We’re not just making things look pretty, stylish and trendy, or even tidying things up, so they are clear, legible and structured. Designers do all of those things, sure, but these are just by-products of what we are really doing – which is something far more fundamental. We’re visually communicating meaning and intention.

In its broadest definition; design’s really about purpose. One dictionary we looked at says: ‘Purpose or planning that exists behind an action, fact, or object.’ The example cited is of a search for ‘the appearance of design in the universe,’ showing that design can be interchangeable with intentionality – meaning amid chaos. This world we’ve constructed is our design. It’s our design to act this way. Tell us, dear reader, did you come here by design?

Cultural relevance

Working for a brand means understanding their voice and visual language, so that we can present the insights in a relevant way. Beyond this we need to think about culture and ask about how the brand positions itself in the world, and how the deliverables reflect this intention.

Aim to be flexible

As much as having a clear overview of what we need to communicate, we need to build fail-safes into the design process. The phrase ‘kill your darlings’ comes to mind. Client needs can change rapidly, so another habit to get into is to learn not to see your design choices as precious. This is relevant to most fields of design; however, brands are often keen to adopt the latest trends, when they can do so authentically, and so must you be.

Keep it minimal

The best work is brave enough to say a lot with very little and if you look at great pieces of design, it’s nearly invisible. Working in insight, we often feel we need to show clients that we’ve earned our fee. Often this means we write a lot, and in design terms, it means cramming many things onto one page. Don’t be afraid to strip things back. Once you do this, the message you’re trying to communicate will be much clearer and, importantly, will connect more profoundly.

To talk more about the role of design in insight and innovation, get in touch