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.

How to tackle trends

Tips and tricks from our Rise masterclass all about how to spot, track and work with trends...

At our latest Rise session in London, strategic insights director Laura Warby and senior consultant Berny McManus unravelled the tricky world of working with trends. While, for many, trends are still a bit of mystery (and sometimes difficult to justify the ROI), mapping and tracking cultural shifts is central to the work we do at Crowd.

Trends not only help us understand more about the brands and consumers we work with, but also where everything fits into the bigger picture – and, therefore, where opportunity and potential advantage may lie. Laura and Berny used the example of whether a premium beer could survive in its category, if the ever-changing concept of ‘premium’ wasn’t paid attention to? Chances are, it wouldn’t.

Similarly, in our culture of constant change, differentiating between a fad and actual societal progression has never been so important. Our presenters offered a stream of useful definitions and categorisation tips on how to spot meaningful shifts in consumer behaviour. Asserting that trends are far from ‘fluffy’, they also distinguished between residual, dominant and emerging expressions to refine things even further.

Three key macro trends were then highlighted and explored, taking into account their drivers and how they currently manifest within culture and brands, namely: digital decentralisation, radical benevolence and intense-inclusivity. The session then wrapped up with a set of tricks for working with trends; including a useful analytical framework and, once you’ve spotted a meaningful trend, tips on how best to track it and apply it within a business.

Thanks to all that attended and joined the conversation. We’ve wrapped up the key takeouts into a digital magazine, available to download here

 

City Limits

Introducing City Limits, a series of pieces from Crowd DNA exploring the global urban experience...

At Crowd DNA, cities are central to our work. Projects take us to many of them worldwide; briefs often seek to understand how people experience these complex spaces, or where the global commonalities of urban living give way to local nuance and unique challenges. It’s through cities that we find meaning. And, in a time where the global urban population is growing at around one million people each week, cities matter now more than ever.

Which takes us to Crowd DNA’s City Limits: a series of pieces in which we’ll explore these ever-growing hubs of humanity.

Join us as we take a view on the growing loneliness epidemic, how brands represent the urban experience, trends that are shaping the city of today and what our cities will look like by 2060.

From our city to yours, welcome to City Limits. Volume One is available to download here.

Watch the video trailer below:

Roll up to our next Rise session in London, where Crowd DNA's Laura Warby and Berny McManus will give a masterclass in how to work with trends…

Date: May 31

Time: 8.15am-9am

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

We all know that spotting and understanding trends is the key to staying ahead of the curve. But in this world of constant innovation, differentiating between a fleeting fad and meaningful cultural progression is actually pretty difficult. Knowing your micro from your macro, or your emergent from your dominant, has never been so important.

So what exactly is a trend, and at what point should brands take notice? 

In this session, we’ll unravel what trends are all about and explore some recent cultural shifts that brands need to pay attention to in 2018 and beyond. We’ll provide a guide on working with trends; including tips on how to future-proof strategies and build lasting connections with consumers.

If you’d like to join us for coffee, croissants and a ‘how to’ guide to working with trends, please contact Pauline Rault. And feel free to pass this invite on to colleagues too.

Watch the trailer below: