As legislation relaxes, perceptions of marijuana are changing. Crowd DNA’s Eden Lauffer explores how women are leading the cannabis rebrand...

We all know the pothead stereotype: it’s the Dazed And Confused crew or films of Seth Rogen. However, with cannabis now legal in Canada and nine US states, that image is shifting. In fact, a recent poll found that 61 per cent of Americans feel cannabis should be legalized, a number that’s grown 49 per cent since 1969. So what does the future of cannabis look like and who’s driving the rebrand?

Female celebrities push for normalcy

A recent survey found that 56 per cent of Americans find that ‘smoking weed is socially acceptable’. In efforts to push this further, some celebrities have stepped up. However, widespread acceptance won’t come from brands led by the likes of Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson; celebrities who don’t fit the stoner stereotype also need to get involved. Coming out with Whoopi & Maya and advocating for cannabis relief during menstrual cramps, Whoopi Goldberg has helped bring normalcy to the market and destigmatize usage. Similarly, Melissa Etheridge is working on Etheridge Farms in hopes of offering products such as arthritis balm to a wider audience.

Women and moms enter the market

It’s not just celebrities starting brands. Take Miss Grass, a shop and blog for women, which has a cannabis focus but also provides typical women’s magazine topics, like fitness tips. In an interview with W, Miss Grass co-creator, Anna Duckworth, spoke of their mission to dissolve the stoner stereotype, which lacks a female narrative. Duckworth’s counterpart, Kate Miller told W, “There’s a lot of ways of using cannabis, and many don’t even get you high,” in reference to their products like CBD lube and lotion. Women report using cannabis for menopause and menstruation, but also to relax and enhance sex.

According to a BDS Analytics study, of the 49 per cent of women who use cannabis as medicine, 54 per cent report they are mothers with children under 18 in the home. Publications like Splimm and The Cannavist Mom stand with moms, serving as a newsletter for parents who indulge in cannabis, offering articles as well as a safe space. Mom-friendly products have landed in the market too. Mother & Clone, a CBD spray that lasts only 60 seconds, was created by a mother dealing with postpartum depression. Similarly, TONIC was started by a female personal trainer who struggled with anxiety and found benefits in CBD (as it lacks THC, the psychoactive ingredients of cannabis).

Beyond female friendly products and publications, women are taking the business side of cannabis by storm, too. Already recognizing the buying power and influence women have had, organizations like Women Grow, the largest network of cannabis professionals, are empowering female leaders to strive in the cannabis market in hopes of starting more women-led companies.

This is clearly a space to watch. According to Forbes, by 2021 the cannabis industry is set to grow 150 per cent. That, paired with the 70 to 80 per cent spending power women hold in the US, means that female cannabis users are a group to focus on. As legalization sweeps the US and cannabis continues to enter the beauty and wellness space, brands preparing to tap into the market shouldn’t neglect the huge share of voice women hold.

Our Rise breakfast events return to London this autumn. Next up, Crowd DNA’s Roberta Graham and Laura Boerboom offer a guide to semiotics and how we use it to ignite our culturally-charged superpowers...

Date: September 20

Time: 8.15am-9am

Location: Crowd DNA, 5 Lux Building, 2-4 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NU

There’s important meaning to be found in all aspects of culture. But what about in the smaller interactions and behaviours – or the actual words, textures and sounds – that shape our world? Significant meaning, it turns out, often gets overlooked within the layers.

Our new set of consultative services – Futures, Semiotics & Listening – helps ensure that nothing of cultural significance is missed. Each approach kits us out with different ways to decode culture and unlock the meaning inside, well, everything.

But what exactly is semiotics? And how does it connect back to real business challenges?

In our next Rise event, we’ll demystify the methodology, before exploring how we use it to identify white spaces, pinpoint cultural futures and prepare brands for new markets. We’ll talk through how we’ve deployed semiotics to execute fresh positionings; help update packaging and products; inspire and provide toolkits for creative strategies; and, ultimately, how we use it to reach new levels of culturally-charged advantage for our clients.  

If you’d like to ‘decode’ semiotics, please join us for coffee, croissants and a guide to this exciting methodology. Contact Pauline Rault to come along – and feel free to pass this invite on to colleagues too.

Watch the trailer below:

Let’s Dance

Brands such as Nike, H&M and Apple are tapping into interpretive dance styles to reflect joy in the moment rather than striving for goals. Crowd DNA semiotics expert Roberta Graham explores...

Interpretive dance is nothing new. But what was once seen as an elitist art form and joked about in popular culture is now strongly resonating with people and brands. Sure, we all like to dance, but we’re talking about more than a drunken flail on a Saturday night. Recent portrayals of dance feel much more empowering, liberating and revolutionary than ever before.

The influence of artists and choreographers such as New Noveta, Holly Blakey and Wayne McGregor have been widely reflected in the mainstream. Over recent years a number of high-profile and successful campaigns have leveraged this trend to create engaging and energised communications. But why is everyone suddenly dancing? What’s driving our interest and connection to dance?

Transformation through dance

Spike Jonze’s creation of Kenzo World shows a young woman on the brink of tears escaping a desperately boring ceremony. Stumbling into the deserted halls of a hotel, she springs into an instinctual and joyfully disruptive dance – as if against her own will. The feeling of release is tangible as this lone woman in a ball gown breaks free and becomes her true self, crushing stereotypes of demure femininity with her powerful gestures. More recently, Apple’s Homepod advert shares a similar theme. An almost unrecognisably drab FKA Twigs dances off the drudgery of city life in the solitude of her apartment.

Not only does dance draw these examples together, they also share context. Visibly exhausted faces make way for performative expressions. Dance takes on a transformative role, for both the character and the space around them as they escape and transform  – and, ultimately, offer the audience the opportunity to do the same.

Mindful movement

Culture is shifting away from a goal-oriented mindset towards self-fulfilment and joy in the moment. For example, the popularity of dance classes as a form of exercise offer people physical release without the pressure to lose weight or beat a pb. In a culture of mindfulness, dance meets our emotional and physical needs as an active meditation. Lotte Anderson’s installation ‘Dance Therapy’ explores this therapeutic quality of movement. Similarly, influencers such as Naomi Shimada – who has collaborated with ASOS and Nike on the subject –  also advocate dance in line with self-care. Shimada incidentally stars in H&M’s spring 2018 campaign, a diverse feminist tango, choreographed by Holly Blakey.

Breaking free

The women mentioned in these examples all show a refreshing carelessness and confidence. Whether alone or in public they exist in their own worlds, free to express themselves. But the need to be authentically oneself isn’t exclusively female. The rejection of gender roles through movement is not limited. For example, Nike’s ‘Never Ask’ campaign shows Russia’s first male synchronised swimmer, Aleksandr Maltsev, overcoming strict gender roles to achieve his dreams through dance. New Zealand beer manufacturers Speight have also used dance to confront toxic-masculinity within the category, blurring the boundaries of male friendship. This makes dance an extremely effective form of unspoken communication.

In our jaded and marketing-savvy world, movement offers a visceral connection that all consumers can feel a genuine longing for. Dance has the ability to traverse boundaries between the internal and external self, offering a physical escape from the societal confines of gender, hierarchy and responsibility, or even just from our own thoughts and anxieties. This sense of liberty is a truly powerful tool for both brands and consumers to harness.

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:

As the self-care trend casts FOMO aside, Crowd DNA's Eden Lauffer explores how brands are encouraging people to miss out - plus how media portrays this cultural shift...

Over the years, social media has created an environment in which people feel the need to always be ‘on’ – and, even if they’re not, they’ve learned to create the illusion that they are. The fear of missing out (or FOMO) is now a commonplace term, used to describe that sinking feeling you might get when you scroll your feed and see you’ve missed an event, a friend’s party or the latest pop-up. The pressure to be socially active and ‘on’ is huge.

However, in contrast, 2018 has been the year of self-care. A trend often guided by influencers like Lee Tilghman of @leefromamerica and Catherine of @theblissfulmind who now list self-care in their bios. Self-care is going to bed early, rather than grabbing one last drink; it’s clean eating and staying in on a Friday night; it’s practicing yoga, reading books, and generally just treating yourself better. JOMO (or the joy of missing out) is the antidote to FOMO and sits neatly alongside this ever-growing self-care trend. So what does JOMO mean for the way we view our social life, the media and brand interactions?

Embracing JOMO doesn’t mean you have to be alone. A recent study by Mintel found that 28 percent of younger millennials (aged 24-31) prefer to drink at home because going out ‘takes too much effort’, and that half of Americans (55 percent) prefer to drink at home in the first place. Instead of constantly checking new bars off the list, millennials are enjoying ‘missing out’ with or without the company of others.

JOMO in the media

Mainstream publications like Huffington Post, Forbes, and Inc. now offer advice on how to take care of yourself. They regularly endorse taking time to prep healthy meals, miss an episode of a new TV show, or skip plans to go to the gym. Musicians take the stage on self-care too. In an interview with W, when asked about her song ‘Borderline (An Ode To Self Care)’, Solange expressed what self-care means to her. She explained how the safety of one’s home is a comfort in an otherwise turbulent world. Similarly, Mac Miller released a song called ‘Self Care’ in which he speaks to self-reflection and the power of looking within.

As for TV programs, it’s no longer Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte constantly going out for cosmopolitans. Now, popular shows like Broad City and Insecure portray real and relatable lives on screen, with scenes of characters FaceTiming each other from the toilet. TV is finally celebrating the joy of sitting on the couch doing nothing with your best friend.

Brands jumping on JOMO

No matter how personal self-care may be, brands have found a way to profit. Being part of the city that never sleeps, it may be hard to imagine New Yorkers practicing such things. Enter the rent-a-nap business. Mattress brand Casper has opened The Dreamery, a venue devoted solely to 45-minute nap sessions for $25 a pop. This concept is not new, though. It follows in the footsteps of Nap York, another rent-a-nap brand that provides even more self-care amenities like meditation classes, clean juices, and mindfulness events. Similarly, Hyatt hotels recently launched Hyatt FIND, a program that connects travellers with experiences that focus on self-care. Not only can participants do yoga with goats, make their own herbal beauty products and take private bonsai classes – they can also earn points with Hyatt while doing so.

FOMO helped brands encourage us to get out there and experience, post and buy. JOMO, however, presents an interesting tension. Self-care is all about unplugging and unwinding, but brands inviting us to Instagram photos of ourselves in branded pyjamas seems to contradict this practice altogether.

How are brands relating to the way women view the world? Crowd DNA semiotics expert Roberta Graham explores…

Recent feminist movements have fostered a cultural pressure for work created for women by women. As more female narratives appear, this challenge to the established representation of women has been labelled as the ‘female gaze’.

You’d be forgiven for assuming this was, as the name suggests, the antithesis of the well established ‘male gaze’ (a phrase coined in 1975 to describe the position of women in cinema as objects of heterosexual masculine desire). While the male gaze focuses on how the patriarchal world looks at women, the female gaze is not only about broadening representation, but how women look at the world themselves. Here we explore examples of culture and branding through female eyes.

Femininity on film

With a host of Oscar-nominated films about the female experience directed and produced by women, surface-level representation is being taken over by real control. The multifaceted women in Three Billboards, Ladybird, and I, Tonya all signal progress made in front of, as well as behind, the camera. Not limited to traditional female narratives, the gaze is also expanding representations of race, gender and sexuality. For example, Ava DuVernay has been broadening the African American narrative in mainstream cinema with Selma and, most notably, 13th, for which she became the first black women to be nominated for an Oscar in a feature category.

Still life and sensuality

With emphasis on texture, composition and light, photographers such as Harley Weir, Petra Collins and Eloise Parry create dreamlike realities where softness is often their strength. Weir, in particular, gained attention by disrupting the still life tropes of fruit and flowers as symbols of sexuality, by transforming them into portrayals of the female form. By making the inanimate animate she subverts the familiar objectification of women’s bodies, taking ownership of a lazy and stereotypical shortcut to femininity. This has been echoed in Weir’s commercial work, most recently for Calvin Klein.

Freedom of movement

As women take ownership of their bodies, value is shifting from physical appearance to expression through movement and dance. Spike Jonze for Kenzo, FKA Twigs for Apple, and Misty Copeland for Under Armour all show women using movement as a means of breaking free from the confines of social ideals. These abstractions show the female form as strong, capable, dynamic and unique.

More recently, H&M’S female tango by Holly Blakey depicts a diverse crowd of women united by dance. After rejecting a male lead, they become a collective of individuals passing on their infectious confidence from one to the next.

Strength in numbers

In the push for equality, healthy tensions have arisen within females bonds. Contrast can be seen between soft, easy sisterhood (think Solange’s ‘Cranes In The Sky’) and the power of female group resistance (Beyonce’s ‘Formation’). In 2017, Barbie also re-evaluated Girlness in a gently rebellious collaboration for iD magazine; while Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ celebrated the strength of diversity within female collectives using the words of Maya Angelou to encourage women to come together by enforcing their individuality: “I’m a woman, phenomenally, phenomenal woman. That’s me.”

The experience of being a woman is clearly multifaceted but, while we celebrate the women breaking boundaries and the diversity of narratives, there’s a hope that the female gaze will one day become so commonplace we won’t even need to discuss it.

We're ten years old, so we're taking a journey back to where it all started...

We’re all about culture here at Crowd DNA, so we wanted to celebrate our ten years by flashing back on the good, the bad and the random (we’re looking at you mannequin challengers).

We’ve created ten videos, each covering a year of the last decade, highlighting key moments – from the news stories that shook the world to the fads that became viral. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe and then you’ll remember that in 2008 Katy Perry kissed a girl and Barak Obama became president…

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

Luxury codes are shifting. Senior consultant Berny McManus explores emerging expressions of luxury and what they mean for brands of any calibre...

Last year saw Crowd DNA report on the evolution of luxury, with our LuxDisrupt work exploring the changing concept of premium. Keen to discover the latest industry views and how some of the world’s leading brands are defining luxury, we headed to ‘The Flipside’, a recent exhibition in London’s Old Selfridges Hotel.

After an evening analysing codes of luxury, five dominant themes were still clear. Personalisation (the idea of individually curated experiences) was explored in The Libationary by My Lyan via tailor-made cocktails. The luxury of time (as a break from the daily rat race) was welcomed by Selfridges’ Shadow Dial installation, while luxury as an experience (as opposed to an object) was explored in Louis Vuitton’s travel concept. The luxury of simplicity (as a stripped back display of wealth) was tapped into by Loewe via nature, craft and tradition, while scarcity (and with it, uniqueness) was evoked in Byredo’s dystopian vision of water as a luxury.

What connects these emerging codes is their transient nature; they can’t be quantified. Luxury is experienced, ephemeral and related to ‘needs’ that span multiple elements of a consumer’s everyday life.

So why has luxury changed? In the wake of value shifts, such as the trust deficit, the perception of luxury brands has been reframed. Brands are waking up to consumer expectation around accountability and transparency. We’re seeing a democratisation of the commercial world where luxury brands are measured by the same yardstick as everyone else. They’ve taken on a new meaning, which speaks to the many vs the few.

The experience economy has also helped this gain traction. The reality is the majority of consumers can’t cruise around in Bugattis or go head to toe in Hermes. Instead, a consumer-centric flavour of luxury is emerging where people push back against pre-defined definitions. Consumers are no longer looking to brands as the leaders; brands should be looking for ways to enable their luxuries to be a part of consumers’ lives.

Here are a few thought starters on how to speak luxury in 2018:

The quick win

Leverage social media to offer micro-moments of luxury. Tap into the dialogue by inviting consumers to share their ‘luxury of the day’ or ‘my luxe moment’ via posts or stories – but keep it playful to avoid ostentatious shows of luxury.

Mid-term plans

Create events that delight consumers’ senses, imaginations and intellect. Dial up multi-sensory elements and seamlessly integrate tech to provide an experience that will add unique value to their day and beyond.

And in the future

Optimise tech to elevate your brand beyond category noise and business challenges. For example, in the face of major concerns around the source of diamonds, De Beers (who mine and market 30 percent of the world’s diamonds) have started using blockchain technology to offer total transparency to their consumers.