Tech Transformations

Introducing our global tech transformations study for Facebook...

We’re delighted to be able to share a first instalment from our major study on how technology is transforming lives in partnership with Facebook IQ. Titled Tech Transformations, this project identifies, explores and ultimately celebrates a host of new forces that are impacting lives globally.

This study had us on the ground in Nigeria (Lagos), South Korea (Seoul), the UK (London) and US (Brooklyn and San Francisco), interviewing experts and early adopters, and conducting ethnographic and remote-ethno methods. We also ran a quantitative survey in all markets, dug deep into secondary trends sources and were informed by internal data analysis from Facebook.

 

 

 

We’ll be able to share much more about the work, including film content, in the coming months, with the trends falling into these five thematic areas:

Personal Sustainability 

In an age where we can monitor, map and predict what’s going on inside of us, technology isn’t just about simplifying our lives. It’s about giving us the ability to engineer the best possible version of ourselves, with the ultimate aim of ensuring our own personal sustainability. 

Mobile Empowerment

As underserved populations in emerging markets gain access to the internet for the first time – notably through mobile devices – they are discovering the benefits of economic, entrepreneurial, educational and other opportunities previously unavailable. 

Playing With Food

As food culture expands online and local cuisine becomes global, there’s a growing consciousness around sustainable food production to combat future shortages and environmental drawbacks. 

Reinventing Rituals

As technology penetrates our everyday lives, it’s altering how we interact with each other, reshaping rituals, transforming old traditions and amplifying celebrations.

Embracing Identity

How people express themselves in terms of age, gender, looks, sexual orientation, relationships, spirituality and more is no longer binary.

Tech Transformations For 2016 And Beyond

Five Trends from CES 2016

With CES over for another year, Crowd DNA creative delivery exec and self-confessed tech addict Tom Eccles takes a look at five key trends coming out of this year's show...

In the world of technology, January means one thing: CES. The Consumer Electronics Show, now in its 48th year, is a showcase of everything up-and-coming in tech, ranging from the regular (televisions, headphones and computers) to the not-so-regular (autonomous vehicles, drones and virtual reality). It is a seemingly endless few days of product launches, demonstrations and conferences. Here’s a look at five key trends coming out of this year’s show.

Virtual reality finally takes off

After being on the horizon for years, it seems like 2016 will be the year that VR finally takes off. Oculus, having launched on Kickstarter back in 2012 before being snapped up by Facebook for $2bn, has finally announced the start of pre-orders for its Oculus Rift VR headset. The goggles go on sale in April, and retail for a hefty $599 – probably out of reach of the mainstream consumer, but an unmistakable step forward for the technology. Along with it comes a raft of competitors: namely the HTC Vive, and the PlayStation VR – both planned to launch this year.

As the technology powering VR moves forward, so too do the applications it is used for. While the most obvious application is gaming, VR is beginning to expand to other realms such as education and retail. Audi, for example, plans to outfit dealerships with VR headsets, allowing potential buyers to virtually customise and explore any Audi model to their liking.

Wearables MK2

Rewind to last year’s CES, and wearables were all the rage. It was the year of the long-awaited Apple Watch, the year wearables would finally grow up and be adopted into the mainstream. Initial releases, however, fell short of expectations. This year, tech innovators have moved towards single-application devices, designed to do just one thing – and do it well.

New products include the Digitsole, a shoe that houses an in-built fitness tracker, and the Samsung Welt – a digital belt designed to detect bloating, and warn of your impending weight gain. Wisewear’s SOS bracelet turns an innocent looking bracelet into a personal attack alarm, with a double tap sending a distress signal and GPS location to a friend via text message.

Game of drones

Drone tech reached new heights at this year’s CES. From the carbon fibre Yuneec Typhoon, equipped with a 4K camera, to the world’s smallest and lightest drone – the Mota JetJat Nano – drones are clearly well on their way towards the mass market. As drones become smaller and more affordable, they also become more advanced – able to automatically follow owners for the ultimate in-action selfie, avoid impending obstacles, and keep out of restricted areas.

Not content with drones only being used for aerial photography and small deliveries, Chinese company EHang became the first to unveil a drone capable of carrying human cargo. Equipped with in-built 4G WiFi and air-conditioning, the EHang 184 can hold one person and fly anywhere within a 23-minute radius. The passenger simply inputs their destination into the onboard tablet, before being whisked away. The EHang 184 could be yours, for only $300,000.

Connected automobiles

Despite only exhibiting at CES since 2007, auto manufacturers have taken the show by storm – demonstrating the continuing convergence between vehicles and technology. With a 200-mile range, and a relatively cheap $30,000 price tag, the Chevy Bolt could be the electric car to finally break through. BMW’s Air Touch allows drivers to control their vehicle’s infotainment system using gestures, while Ford demonstrated integration with Amazon’s Echo voice recognition – allowing drivers to issue voice commands such as “close the garage door”.

The journey towards driverless cars was also centre stage at CES. General Motors announced a $500m investment in ride sharing service Lyft to create a network of driverless cars, while Kia took to the stage to promise a fully-autonomous vehicle by 2030.

Smarter homes

The ‘Internet of Things’ has long promised a home full of connected devices, from fridges that automatically replenish food, to intelligent thermostats that adjust the temperature based on your proximity to the home. Despite an apparent lack of consumer appetite for such products, manufacturers unveiled a raft of new connected devices at CES. With Samsung’s new smart fridge, you can view inside the fridge remotely – allowing users to check the contents while in the supermarket. It can even alert you to food about to pass its expiry date.

Other smart home devices are simply improvements on already existing products. The Netatmo Presence is a connected outdoor security camera. Where it differs from competitors is a smart algorithm enabling the camera to distinguish between people, cars and animals.

If anything, the latest CES shows us that 2016 will be a year of refinement, rather than brand new innovations. It will be the year that long promised tech, such as virtual reality, finally delivers – while the quest for an all-in-one wearable will be parked in favour of multiple devices, each focusing on one function. Drones, having finally become affordable in 2015, will continue their flight towards mass market adoption; meanwhile, our cars and homes are both gradually becoming smarter, promising to interact with each other and respond in ways previously only seen in science fiction.

Fandom On Film

Video outputs from our ESOMAR award-winning work for Twitter...

Among plenty of Crowd DNA highlights in 2015, a particular biggie was winning ‘best paper‘ at ESOMAR’s global conference in Paris, for our work with Twitter. ‘Future Fan’ explored the evolution of the music fan; also the meaning of fandom more generally; the relevance for brands and the role of social media.

One of the outputs from the project was a 12 minute documentary that we created, celebrating the energy of fandom and revealing exactly what makes fan communities tick. That video is currently outside of the public domain, used by the teams at Twitter, but we can show off this two minute edit, which focusses on how Twitter has reshaped the universe of music fandom.

Future Of Music Streaming

A few hastily assembled notes on the predictions offered at shesaid.so's very interesting roundtable on the future of streaming (sorry, it was early, didn’t catch the name of all of the roundtable guests)…

It’s not a battle. It’s time to stop thinking of physical product and digital/streaming in conflict with each other; the way forward will see more interesting ways of blending the two, and a greater understanding of how they can co-exist in a broader eco-system.

Playlists – they’re a big deal. Getting included on a Spotify ‘Your Morning Coffee’ playlist (or similar!) can have a previously unknown artist racking up plays at a supersonic rate. Playlists sustain track plays better than almost anything else. Bands, platforms and brands all need to be looking at new, increasingly innovative ways to make playlists stand out.

Niche services. Lots of predictions that people will be willing to pay, say, a fiver on top in future for more specialised streaming offerings – one dedicated to classical music, for instance – alongside their more standard monthly subscription.

Higher quality streams. While the offerings may not succeed (hello, Mr N Young) at the very least they spark new debate and keep the big players on their toes – as such, we need the outliers, those who can disrupt and challenge.

Direct from artist streaming services. It’s getting easier to do and the price of the tech is coming down. Expect to see some artists considering what they can do on their own.

Brands and streaming. Automobile and sports/fitness companies predicted to lead the way in terms of brands innovating in streaming-centric music partnerships.

Big challenge! Getting to a mindset where we cherish our playlists and saved tracks on streaming platforms in the way we once/still do cherish our record collections. Rather hard to picture but there’s people working on it…

Millennials & Amsterdam

Amsterdam scores high among millennials as a place to live, play and - even! - work. But what makes it so attractive to them? How do they socialise? Where do they go out? Crowd DNA exec Joey Zeelen shares a bit of first hand knowledge...

Living in Amsterdam

‘Venice of the west’ is what they call it, and everyone that visits Amsterdam agrees – it’s a city to fall in love with. Amsterdam – or A’dam for locals – the city of 17th century architecture, with canals that make your heart skip a beat, and as many bars and restaurants as there are places to park your bike. But what is it like to actually live in the tourist capital of the Netherlands?

The Dam’s stunning appearance and village feel give it a really pleasant combination of big city allure and small city comfort. ‘Gezelligheid,’ a word that only seems to exist in continental Europe is perfect for grasping the day-to-day city vibe of Amsterdam. Gezelligheid means a convivial, cosy, fun, quaint, or nice atmosphere, but can also connote time spent with loved ones; the act of seeing a friend after a long absence, or general togetherness that gives a warm feeling. All of which emphasises the vibe of living in Amsterdam and what makes it so attractive to millennials.

Rent

However, as Johan Cruyff, Amsterdam’s most famous citizen, would say ‘elk voordeel heb zn nadeel’ – for every up there is a down. Over the last seven years, since the economic crisis, the rent in the Netherlands has remained very stable, an average square meter in Holland costing €12.49 a month. In Amsterdam, though, rent prices have seen a massive increase since 2008, with the average square meter costing €20.18 a month in 2014. In the third quarter of 2014, a 100m2 apartment in Amsterdam cost on average €1,931 a month, while one quarter later this same apartment would cost €2,018. Everyone can imagine what this means for millennials that want to buy property… they don’t.

But houses that were impossible for us to buy are now also impossible to rent. Extraordinary rent prices attract fast moving millennials that don’t have children, people that are not interested in a long-term responsibility with the city. Take that together with a relatively high amount of expats and you see why Amsterdam can be an expensive place for most of generation Y.

Gentrification

Gentrification is rife and, though it normally gets criticised, in Amsterdam it gives birth to a lot of life in the city. In the last decade it’s turned into a heaven for hipsters, yups, and yucs (young urban creatives). A’dam’s characteristic centre is complemented with artesian coffee, smoked meat and barbershops. Amsterdam is turning into a city that satisfies every basic need of a self-respecting yup or hipster. But is that a bad thing? Not really. It’s found a way to make styled boutiques and food markets work particularly well with working class fundamentals. Amsterdam seems to have hit the spot in combining what young and old want into a pleasant yet sometimes dodgy environment. Dubious coffeeshops go hand in hand with craft beer popups and they operate next to each other without compromising the city’s integrity… and millennials love it. It is this new ‘dodgy hipster mix’ that makes the city so interesting to my generation. This is also what makes more and more young parents stay in the city instead of moving to child-friendly cities like Haarlem or Amstelveen. It is safe to say that Amsterdam has become a safe haven for middle/upper class generation Ys to do/buy/experience what they crave for the most.

Going out

The influx of wealthy generation Ys has made the city the most vibrant it’s been in years. Going out, eating and drinking have become more diverse than ever. Brooklynese-raw, Berlin-hip, and Copenhagen-clean rule the scene and bring style into the traditionally uniform hospitality establishments. Organic and fair-trade food is bigger than ever. Trendy wining and dining, gin-tonics… a lot of gin-tonics, is what makes the millennial clock tick.

In the last decade A’dam’s music scene has risen to an absolute height, with electronics as a front-runner. There probably isn’t a city in the world that has so many music festivals in and around its centre (many even speak of a festival overload). Fuelled by millennials, organisations like Dekmantel and Digital, clubs like Studio80 and Trouw, have given Amsterdam’s contemporary electronic music scene serious international allure. Not since the Roxy and iT in the early nineties has Amsterdam competed so decisively with the likes of London and Berlin.

A’dam’s gentrification has pushed some millennials to Holland’s IT city, Rotterdam, where the rent is cheap and where people ride a car instead of a ‘bakfiets’ (carrier cycle, the ultimate A’dam yup symbol). However, Rotterdam will never compete with the consistency of Amsterdam’s music and arts scene, and the cultural richness that most millennials live for. A’dam can be financially tough and seem like a hipster Valhalla, but at heart it’s a city shaped by generation Ys, where ‘gezelligheid’ rules the day and the night is more exciting than ever.

The next instalment of our #TwitterMusic coverage discusses the changing relationship between brands and the music industry...

Our recent work for Twitter unearthed a treasure trove of insights about the changing nature of fandom and online interaction. Therefore it’s great to see Marketing pick up on one of the more exciting pieces of news for advertisers – that brand-band relationships have become accepted and even valued among music fans.

“… 89% of fans on Twitter like to see brands get involved with music. This is a notable shift from the days when credible musicians aligning themselves with corporations were treated with derision by many music aficionados, who would immediately cry “sellout” at the faintest whiff of brand/band collaboration”

Despite this positive news for marketers, the piece continues to outline that this relationship is governed by strict rules around the fit between the artists and the brands.

“…this doesn’t mean that brands can get trigger-happy by targeting any hot pop star of the moment. It still has to make sense: artist, brand and fan values must align to ensure a solid strategic move… This desire for brand involvement, but not to the detriment of authenticity, is also borne out in the research: 80% of fans think it’s highly important for brands to share the values of the event or artist with which they partner.” 

Marketing cite an ill-judged partnership between Microsoft and Clean Bandit as evidence that it’s still very easy to get it wrong. Nevertheless, it’s an exciting development for the music industry, which has enjoyed a bumper 2015 with the streaming service race hotting up, and artists creating more news than ever (meme warfare, anyone?).

So how should brands ride this wave of positivity? Marketing argue -and we’d agree – that it’s first about targeting the right tribes of fans. Appeal to the right groups and you’ll have “a ready-made group of marketers tweeting on [your] behalf”. Second, it’s about tapping into fan altruism. Brands seen to be genuinely supportive of music will reap the rewards in the long run.

Back at Crowd DNA, we’re looking forward to more insights being shared from the work.

New Era Luxury

Crowd DNA senior trends consultant, Rebecca Coleman, shares some notes from Shoreditch House's recent Rising Minds' New Era Luxury briefing...

The luxury labels succeeding in today’s crowded marketplace are those that think of their customers as fans, providing a brand encounter that parallels membership of an exclusive club. From ritualising the shopper journey to co-creation and ultra limited product runs, luxury is entering an age where access and experience trump pure acquisition and display.

These were some key insights touched upon by Katie Baron, head of retail at innovation advisory firm Stylus, during a talk entitled New Era Luxury at Shoreditch House. Part of the Rising Minds series of inspirational talks, the session focused on examples from major players getting it right in the world of high-end retail and branding.

Here’s a rundown of the top takeaways:

“Fans before consumers, interests over age”

Katie echoed sentiments from Crowd DNA’s 2015 trend Flat Society Consumerism by saying that now, more than ever, demographics play a limited role in assessing consumer needs and desires. The rise of social media and increasingly connected lives, as well as aging populations and healthier lifestyles, has made traditional models of grouping people by life stage, income or location much less relevant. Instead the luxury brands that are winning are the ones thinking about their customers as fan tribes, united by interests, attitude and behaviour.

She cited Dunhill’s houses (in various locations across the world) as an example. These “stores” encompass a holistic lifestyle offer with humidors, bars and barbers sitting alongside more conventional fashion retail space.

“Co-creation is essential”

Brand Me is a much discussed trend – especially in relation (though not limited) to the youth market – as a generation grows up increasingly selfie-obsessed. One could argue that this trend towards narcissism is nowhere more applicable than in the realm of the luxury brand.

For this reason, retail experiences that invite co-creation and customisation are ever more popular. High levels of personalisation also increase shareability of products and thus heighten brand awareness. Anya Hindmarch’s bespoke handbag monogramming service was mentioned as an example here, as was her 2014 campaign, pictured in our header image, in which she enabled consumers to virtually customise accessories with emoji-emblazoned leather “stickers” online.

“Build anticipation and use delay to inject desire”

In our modern world of instant gratification, delayed, staggered or fleeting experiences are prized. Luxury brands are using these tactics to heighten consumer lust. Katie’s top example here was Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons’ 2014 collaboration with US artist Sterling Ruby. Their collection was sold via a dedicated online portal, which stocked just one outfit per week, creating buzz and frenzied buying with each new release.

Into the future…

Katie also touched on more future facing concepts, forecasting how the luxury market might jump on burgeoning tech to enhance the customer journey in the next five to 30 years. Innovations in the area of haptics were highlighted – by allowing consumers to virtually touch fabrics, they have the potential to significantly shift the online shopping experience. For similar reasons, VR also featured as a powerful tool for altering the luxury retail landscape.

Revisit Flat Society Consumerism, among Crowd DNA’s other trends for 2015, here.