New Narratives In Sydney

Thanks to all who made it along to our event with 72andSunny and Lion in Sydney yesterday, exploring how women are portrayed in culture and how brands can engage with modern Australian women through gender literacy...

You can read more about it in this Campaign piece, and we’ll have a follow-up report to share soon. But, meantime, here are some of the key themes in how to integrate new narratives of womanhood in comms work.

1. Interrogate your narrative

Avoid ‘woke washing’ by taking a hard look at your brand narrative, making sure your internal and external stories align, and committing to real change.

2. Learn to read gender meta-narratives

Gender expectations shape our identity and have a pervasive influence on society. Look beneath the hood and understand what is shaping your audiences’ cultural context, rather than just analysing surface behaviour.

3. Question your assumptions

Do women really want to be ‘smaller’? Is beer still a ‘man’s drink’? Recognise and challenge your own biases and assumptions that exist within your brand and/or category.

4. Train your female gaze

If the male gaze turns women into objects to be seen, the female gaze sees them as people – complex, multifaceted beings.

5. Consider your male narrative

As the narratives around women evolve, the way we depict masculinity needs to become more individual and fluid, too.

6. Consider if you need gender at all

In the new age of identity, is gender really relevant? Does your brand and/or category need to speak to an audience’s biology, or are their values and identity more important?

Semiotics At Crowd: Dipsea

How do you get your kicks? In the first in a regular series of culture decodes, Crowd DNA's Bridget Dalton examines changing representations of women’s pleasure, through the perspective of one brand in particular: audio streaming service Dipsea...

Pleasure is a universal aspiration, but how it’s represented is often culturally determined. For a long time brands have been signalling pleasure through formulaic cues (oozing chocolate cake, anyone?), so we thought we’d get past the repetition and use semiotics to decode the emergent ways that brands are communicating pleasure – through the perspective of one brand in particular: Dipsea.

In the West, a very brief history of pleasure reveals how it was traditionally defined by Christian ideas of good and evil. Bodily indulgence was framed as sinful, and therefore shameful. Following these morality lines, pleasure is still often viewed as overly sexual, secretive and naughty – ice cream is bad; perfume is mysterious; and sex is either a fuzzy, saccharine affair or the deep, dark functionality of Pornhub. 

Dipsea – an audio streaming service specialising in erotic short stories to empower women – looks beyond these traditional signifiers of sexual desire. The brand is working hard to renegotiate the cues of pleasure by emphasising self love and removing the all too frequent suggestion of female transgression. 

As we’ll see, the app actually shares its visual identity with much less kinky sources of pleasure – such as beauty apps, FMCG brands and liberal politics. This close semiotic relationship between an intimate brand and seemingly unrelated categories can tell us a lot about the new narratives of pleasure resonating with millennial generations. We explore three of these new codes of pleasure below.

Pleasure as tasteful and safe

Dipsea’s gender neutral block colours provide tastefully modern, carefully curated contrasts. In the context of pleasure in the #MeToo era, it’s interesting to observe how the uniform tone and lack of depth work to limit any sense of mystery or unknown; this is a very safe type of sensuality. The absence of shadow suggests the absence of menace and again codes pleasure as a secure space, not a risky romp to the dark side. This sense of safety represents an important shift away from the dark colours and hints of violence (fluffy handcuffs, Fifty Shades Of Grey) often associated with sex and sex products. 

Millennial pleasure – proud pinks and curated contrasts
Millennial pleasure – proud pinks and curated contrasts

Pleasure as important and trustworthy

Historically, serif typefaces and capital letters were to be found in sombre, authoritarian spaces such as banks and museums. Today, they’re commonly used by liberal institutions such as London’s Southbank Centre and The Guardian. More recently still, these font styles are also found in more indulgent spaces, such as personal care and television (eg Treatwell and Netflix’s The Politician). Dipsea’s use of the font follows this lineage and codes pleasure as deserving of respect and trust. It’s serious business and, rather than hidden and private, pleasure deserves a platform and can even be a source of pride.

Pleasure as fluid and complex

Finally, Dipsea’s use of secondary and tertiary colours arranged in amorphous shapes code pleasure as complex and natural. The way the organic shapes in the Dipsea app and comms flow over the edge of the images reinforces that desire is fluid and unbound. Here, discovery and exploration are possible beyond the standard perimeters of pleasure. This helps Dispea communicate another important shift: that pleasure can be found in experimentation and beyond the traditional binaries of gender and monogamy. 

Altogether, these three codes demonstrate how modern pleasure is coming out of the guilt-ridden, shadows of darkness into the light of empowered nuance. By decoding brands like Dispea at the forefront of cultural change, we can learn to speak the new language of intimacy, sex, and human connection. Pleasure is a human right for all of us, and semiotics helps us understand how to effectively communicate it in an ever-changing cultural context. 

Need help talking pleasure? Get in touch at: hello@crowdDNA.com 

Exciting New Work Alert!

As so much of our work can’t be shared, it’s great when we do get the chance to. Here’s some exciting projects for Twitter and HSBC

We’ve been working with Twitter in the US, merging machine learning, cultural exploration, semiotics and quant surveying, making sense of billions of tweets to identify trends (18 of them, within six core themes) that have a consistent upward trajectory. Check the work out (with downloadable PDFs aplenty) here.

And we’ve been working with HSBC on the Enrich List – aimed at their high net worth Jade customers – combining cultural analysis and interviews with our Kin network to understand motivational trends for those who have achieved a certain level of wealth; then finding 50 rewarding experiences for personal growth. You can find out more about the approach here. And you can check out the full Enrich List here.

Crowd Tracks: Alcohol

Thirsty? The first in a series of Crowd DNA social listening reports, Crowd Tracks serves up the frothiest alcohol trends from the last four months...

Crowd Tracks is our regular social listening dispatch, examining trends taking place at the intersection of brands and culture. First up, we get the drinks in, focusing on alcohol and uncovering some of the viral stories and category shifts that have encouraged the most engagement over the last four months.

Using social data, we’ve dug deep into global conversations to track trends and measure their impact over time, including pinpointing the brands that are making the most noise. 

Inside the first Crowd Tracks you’ll find: 

Viral stories from around the world, including the state sponsored Qingdao Beer Festival in China; the rise of craft beer in the Philippines; and a new vodka made with ingredients from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

– A brand leaderboard charting the organic conversation around Guinness, Heineken and Bud (who successfully tapped into the viral Area 51 story)

– We dive into the American summer phenomenon that was White Claw and the growth in hard seltzers (even for fraternity bros) 

– We also track the worldwide growth in alcohol-free living through the newly dubbed ‘sober curious’ trend, as well as the shift towards sustainable drinking, in which the environment takes centre stage for both consumers and brands 

Exploring Hard Claw in Crowd Tracks
Exploring Hard Claw in Crowd Tracks

You can download a full copy of the report here.

Social media at Crowd DNA

We deploy social media data in various ways at Crowd DNA; either as a stand-alone method (including producing one-off and periodical reports for our clients) or integrated alongside, for instance, semiotic, ethnographic and quantitative approaches). If you’d like to find out more about how we can use social media data to meet your business challenges, get in touch.

 

Come join Crowd DNA and 72andSunny in Sydney for New Narratives: Engaging With Modern Women, as we look at changing articulations of feminity...

Date: November 27

Time: 5.30pm

Location: Lion, Level 7, 68 York Street, Sydney, 2000

We’re very excited to confirm our debut event in Sydney – a partnership with the good folk at 72andSunny, in which, using an archetypes model, we’ll be getting into how to engage with modern women.

With 70% of Australian Gen Z women identifying as feminist and 33% feeling the #MeToo movement hasn’t gone far enough, there’s plenty to discuss. This session will explore the past, present and future of the female story  – from how certain brand archetypes have been used to reinforce gender codes; to then examining how these codes are being disrupted and reimagined.

Part presentation, part panel discussion, this will be an informal session looking at how brands can engage with modern Australian women through gender literacy.

You’ll get to hear from Crowd DNA’s Sydney director, Elyse Pigram and 72andSunny strategist Sarah Tan.

And we’re excited to confirm a wonderful line-up of panellists who’ll dig into the themes: Dr Kate Adams (Bondi Vet), Amy Darvill (brand director, craft beers, Lion), Taryn Williams (founder of theright.fit and WINK Models), Tara McKenty (creative director, Google); plus a few more in the pipeline.

Thanks also to our hosts, Lion (hint: there’ll be some beers at the wrap-up).

If you’d like to come along, please get in touch with Elyse Pigram.

Our last London breakfast event of the year explores how we use social listening to get closer to culture, category and consumers...

Date: November 21

Time: 8.15-9am

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

Social media has changed the way we communicate. In fact, social media has changed almost everything. Our feeds are places for influence, inspiration, staying in touch and endless memes. For consumers, these ever-evolving platforms are increasingly – for good or bad – an extension of identity. For brands, the raw data they host presents a near-endless source of insights. But how do we make sense of it all?

In this session, our in-house social listening experts – associate director, Anna Stuart and consultant, Benji Long – will present the case for how social data can lead to powerful strategic learnings across culture, consumers and category, using (drumroll, please…) The Seven Deadly Skills Of Social Listening. 

This killer toolkit puts multi-tentacled social data into action, highlighting the techniques used to dive into passionate communities; pinpoint the concepts which drive brand, trend and product perception; and recruit the perfect creator-collaborator from social users driving the highest engagement.

We’ll also bust the most common misconceptions around social listening and explore some more detailed case studies. From worldwide trends in beauty, to the functional tensions of car travel and the emotions running high in response to a new campaign, social listening offers a way to decode so much that’s vital to brands, and to their products and comms. 

If you fancy coffee, croissants and smart learnings on social listening, please fill out this form, or contact rise@crowdDNA.com. And feel free to pass this invite on to any colleagues it may interest, data-sceptics and fans alike.

Inside China (Again!)

People keep asking us about our recent China breakfast event - we thought we'd better run it again...

Date: Nov 6

Time: 15.00-16.00

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

It’s tea and biscuits, this time, rather than coffee and croissants, as Crowd DNA’s China expert Chris Illsley leads an afternoon session, in which he’ll guide us through five cultural shifts that are vital to grasp if you want to realise brand potential in this ever-fascinating market.

China is an essential strategic pillar for most international brands. The opportunity is clear; it represents high value, the world’s biggest economy in terms of purchasing power, and a middle class emerging at scale. Everyone is rushing to get involved – but it’s not easy. Quick wins are rare, and the failures far outnumber the success stories.

What’s more, if you always think about China ‘vs the West’ (like many Western audiences tend to), the trends and movements often feel extreme, hard to empathise with and confusingly contradictory. Information isn’t difficult to come by, but it’s tough to piece together and understand the everyday reality.

So what are the new values shaping modern China, and what do they mean for international brands and businesses in search of new opportunities?

Building on work conducted in categories such as apparel, finance and alcohol, we’ll bring a rich and tangible sense of China’s changing values. For afternoon tea, biscuits and a ‘how-to’ guide to China, please fill out this form or contact rise@crowdDNA.com for an invite.

Cuba: In 10 Photographs

Crowd DNA's Hollie Jones took a trip to Cuba, documenting her experiences via photojournalism. Here it is, through her eyes, in ten images...

Politically isolated since the 1950s, Cuba is one of the last bastions of communism and perhaps the least commercialized nation in the Americas. Having bypassed decades of international trade tourism, Cuba has managed to preserve a unique national identity, making it a fascinating country – lost in time. As travel and trade barriers have started to relax, we decided to take a trip to Cuba and use photojournalism as a way to journal the experience (photojournalism is a method we use in many of our projects, though we don’t generally get the chance to share client work, so this is a nice opportunity to present the approach!).

There are few basketball courts in the city of Havana and so street games are popular. Stores selling basketball clothing and merchandise are referred to as ‘basketball museums’, because people visit the stores just to look at products – prices are way beyond local affordability.

The biggest challenges to local businesses are supply and human resources. There is no wholesale system, so restaurants must source food from the same markets and street vendors like these pictured – the same that are open to consumers, and where quantities are very limited.

Tobacco has been grown in Cuba for hundreds of years and farmers have a huge wealth of experience to draw on. Many argue that Cuban cigars are the best in the world. The Communist government of Cuba exercises a firm hold over the cigar industry. While this means that strict quality controls are in place, it also allows officials in Havana to control supply and keep prices high.

Havana’s empty buildings, blank wall spaces, tourism and street traffic provide optimal conditions for street art and graffiti to flourish. Few murals representing Fidel Castro, Che Guevara or communist propaganda remain; instead Cuban street artists explore folk and political narratives through cartoons, graffiti and abstract themes.

Entrepreneurship was forbidden in Cuba until President Raul Castro eased restrictions and, before 2010, barber shops and beauty salons were state-run. With the legalization of self-employment across a number of categories – from home-based snack shops and restaurants, to beauticians and barbers – home businesses have also emerged, such as the porch run hair salon pictured.

Cowboy culture is vivid across Cuba. Agriculture and tourism are the most prominent means of income, with cowboy culture straddling both industries. The Viñales Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to many of Cuba’s tobacco farms. It is one of the last places in the world where traditional methods of tobacco growing have survived, and a hub for the cowboy way of life.

Trade restrictions imposed upon Cuba after the revolution meant a very limited import of cars. Access to the US automotive industry was cut off, and other countries manufacturing cars were just too far away. In spite of new, more lenient trade agreements, the roads of Cuba remain dominated by classic cars (and the people of Cuba have mechanical skills that are second to none). In the spirit of Cuban entrepreneurialism, classic car owners offer tours in their vehicles in a highly lucrative tourist experience.

 

Photojournalism is a powerful tool for building empathy with audiences and understanding the realities of life across the globe. Photojournalism is also part of how Crowd DNA provides culturally charged commercial advantage to the world’s most exciting brands. To find out more, contact us at hello@crowdDNA.com