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.

Millennials & Money

Crowd DNA's business and strategy director, Sarah Brierley, on how the financial services industry can tune up its offering to meet Gen Y and Z demands...

Comprising nearly a quarter of the UK population, millennials are a significant part of the financial services market. Crowd DNA’s expertise comes from a wealth of experience researching this dynamic audience for the likes of Channel 4, Converse, MTV, Sony Music, Red Bull, Twitter and, recently, a huge global study for Facebook.

We get social media, too. Our work has seen us examining the changing way that young people are using social media all around the world. We’ve started to see how these evolving behaviours are affecting attitudes and behaviours around financial services – an impact that will be ignored at a finance brand’s peril.

Millennial disconnect

Financial independence is among the most important future goals of young people today – second only to being happy. In fact, millennials rank financial independence higher than being part of a loving family, having a close circle of friends and discovering their interests & skills.

Hand in hand with financial independence is of course the use of financial services. But it seems that financial services brands are struggling to connect with young people – a recent survey by BNY Mellon and the Saïd Business School found that 58% of UK millennials believe they haven’t seen products targeted at people like them; they’re also more likely to turn to their parents for financial advice (48%) than their bank (24%).

So where does this leave brands?

We’ve examined millennials’ changing social media habits and come up with five implications for financial services brands wishing to engage this young audience:

  1. Utility apps

There’s been a huge rise in simplified single-purpose apps in social media and beyond – in fact, many larger apps are breaking up their functionality into smaller single-purpose apps (think Facebook’s Messenger or Instagram’s Hyperlapse).

What single-purpose apps can your brand provide millennials? The key to success here is offering an incredibly useful function as simply and effectively as possible – so the app becomes a frequently-used ‘must-have’.

  1. Everything is gamified

Being ‘always on’ breeds a culture of instant gratification among millennials, and products like Facebook and Candy Crush go a step further, using a clever system to hook users into habit-forming behaviours. The theme here is reward: millennials have grown to expect rewards – whether implicit or explicit – for everything they do.

How can your brand make millennials feel rewarded? – for engaging with you, for desirable behaviours (eg saving), for loyalty, and so on.

  1. Selective sharing

Millennials have become selective in their sharing, using simple, single-purpose apps to communicate with carefully-curated groups. They will follow/friend/speak to some brands on social media – but not all of them, and financial services brands in particular need to be careful how they engage with millennials on social platforms.

But despite the caution required, social media is a vital platform for financial services brands targeting millennials: it’s where friends share experiences (good and bad), advice and recommendations for anything and everything. Millennials can be powerful advocates but formidable detractors too. Brands need to do their best to ensure they’re being discussed positively online.

How can your brand identify and leverage its millennial advocates online? How can you best communicate directly and indirectly with millennials online?

  1. Meet the parents

Millennials turn to different ‘experts’ for different problems and decisions.

Unlike for many categories, such as fashion, where friends and social media rule, parents are a key influencer for young people making personal finance decisions.

So in addition to communicating to millennials, financial service brands should find ways to help parents advise their children. Ask yourself two questions:

  • What messages do millennials need to hear from your brand?
  • How you can best equip parents of millennials to guide their children to your brand?

Visual vocab

Communication among millennials is shifting to a vocabulary that relies on imagery over text. Using images to communicate is speedier, easier, more impactful and ideal for the mobile phone screen; images cross language barriers, they are more likely to get positive responses on social media and they’re easier than words to ‘get right’. The rise of Instagram, selfies, emojis, Snapchat and Vine all reflect this trend.

So young people now think in terms of showing, not describing. How can your brand adapt to millennials’ communication preferences? How can you tell your brand’s story visually and in a mobile-friendly way?

The baby boomer generation might be getting older but that doesn't mean they're becoming predictable, says Crowd DNA senior consultant Laura Warby. Brands are slowly but surely changing the way they communicate with this cohort, and here's why...

The week before last I bumped into a family friend in the Westfield shopping centre. She was laden down with bags from The North Face and Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports. When I asked her about what’s in them she told me excitedly that she was off to Costa Rica in a few weeks to go white water rafting, a celebratory trip to mark her retirement from 34 years as a teacher.

I shouldn’t really have been surprised. Work we completed for Global Radio showed how alike the older and younger age groups can be. Within families these groups communicate more than ever and it seems that all the facets of ‘starting out’ happen again post-family.

Fewer and fewer people are retiring in the way we used to. A study by UCL last last year showed that many 65 year olds perceive themselves as 10 years younger than their actual age and as life expectancy increases, calls to reassess what is defined as old age are gaining traction. It seems that the innovative world of advertising is lagging behind on this one, dismissing this consumer group far too readily.

Closer inspection suggests an underestimation of this cohort.

65 year olds tend to perceive themselves as 10 years younger than their actual age
65 year olds tend to perceive themselves as 10 years younger than their actual age

ONS figures show that they’re more likely to get divorced than any other age group. Our own data says they’re as eager to seek out new experience as anyone and are much more confident in their ability to do so.

As children fly the nest, mortgages are paid (particularly for those Boomers who’ve ridden the housing wave) and the pressure to work dissipates, the amount of responsibility carried around on their shoulders starts to subside, and with it comes a reassessment of what their life can mean.

More disposable income and improved health compared to 50 years ago has led this group to actively seek more exciting, experience-led lifestyles; more travel, new activities, new adventures… new partners (which may go some way to explain the huge growth in the number of people aged 60 plus going under the cosmetic surgeon’s knife, according to Spire Healthcare), all indicate that this is not a generation stuck in their ways.

That is not to say that all those over 65 are now carefree and hedonistic; on the contrary, many still find themselves with a significant number of years left to work, or still supporting adult children who have been affected in some way by the recession.

But that just goes to reinforce the point – this group isn’t homogenous and is actually starting to create new conventions.

Just as we have identified the tribes that exist within our millennials, so too should we take the time to understand the complexities that exist within older consumers too. When you consider that Euromonitor have predicted a global spending power of £10tn amongst the baby boomer generation, it feels like we’d be missing a trick if we don’t.

Purpose & Cynicism

It's cool to care, for sure, and we like our brands to care as well. But, asks Crowd DNA consultant Milly Derbyshire, could our cynicism be building?

It’s undeniable – activism is having a moment. From Emma Watson’s HeForShe speech to the ‘aesthete activism’ of the Marc by Marc Jacobs AW 2015 collection, and here at Crowd DNA, even a new tribe of activists joining the leading edge of our Tribes UK framework; these days it’s cool to care.

Brands are capitalising on this age of action by pushing their purpose-led credentials. From banks to booze, brands claim to be fighting our corner, in any manner of social, economic and political causes. But with more brands jumping on the band-wagon, it makes us wonder whether the tide will turn from optimism to cynicism.

Take Dove, the beauty brand that has been championing women’s self-esteem and recently released a new advert aiming to show how women all over the world are devaluing their beauty. The advert, and its predecessors, are undoubtedly very shareable, and have proved incredibly successful for the brand.

But how long are consumers going to (literally) buy the idea that a beauty brand can overcome societal ideologies of beauty? Yes consumers are looking for more purpose in brands, but these higher expectations means they need to live by their purpose, not pay lip service to it. It may not be long before people fail to see empowerment in a body cream.

In the words of Douglas Holt’s cultural strategy theory, we wonder whether a cultural orthodoxy is beginning to emerge, as more and more brands take on the charge of social, environmental and political purposes to sell their wares. With consumers more savvy than ever, it’s uncertain how long those brands that fail to back up words with actions will continue to thrive, leaving a space for brands that are frank about the fact that they are in the business of, well, business! Selling things that you need, and not curing social ills.

The Dollar Shave Club, an American subscription service that mails replacement razor heads for a fraction of the cost of leading razor brands, is a great case in point. With the strapline ‘a great shave for a few bucks a month’ it’s clear that the only purpose they’re championing is saving you money. And how do they achieve it? Presumably by avoiding the huge amounts of money spent on marketing to convince you of an ethical purpose behind the brand.

We don’t doubt that purpose-led brands will continue to rise in popularity (in fact, it’s one of our five trends for 2015) but as the bar is being raised even higher, half-hearted attempts to follow suit will appear hollow to ever more savvy consumers.

Photo credit: Kate Owen (Marc by Marc Jacobs’ aesthete activism)

Changing Identities

Crowd DNA exec Cathy Pearson reports on how the rise of interest in feminism also opens up conversation on the shifting role of gender as a defining feature of identity...

International Women’s Day (IWD), which took place on March 8, is a reflection of the growing awareness of – and support for – gender equality. People are no longer willing to sit back and allow gender to be a deciding factor in quality of life. As a cultural issue that is so important to the global population, it is pertinent time for brands and companies to voice their support.

Many of the prevalent global issues discussed during IWD – domestic violence, FGM and equal pay – have never been so highly recognised and debated than in 2015. All this talk of feminist matters has not only served to make significant impact in its own sphere, but also opened up wider discussions about the shifting role of gender as a defining feature of identity.

Gender has long formed social identities (think women as mothers, men as bread winners) and socially constructed gender remains dominant, but it’s no longer the case that just boys play football, while just girls go shopping. Gender expectations and stereotypes are being rejected and personal influences are transcending male/female boundaries. There is an overwhelming cry for acceptance of people based on who they want to be and what they want to do, regardless of the reproductive organs they were born with. Argentina now allows its citizens to choose from a long list of gender options, including transgender, for inclusion on official documents. And Facebook has followed suit by extending its gender options.

Growing acceptance of diversity in gender identity means interests and aspirations are experiencing huge shifts. People no longer want to follow stereotypical paths set by archaic societal views and instead want to be active in areas they’re personally passionate about. Previously male dominated hobbies are now opening up to become more inclusive of female genders, and life goals shaped around the home aren’t just yielding female interest; there’s fluidity in how gender is progressing and it needs recognition.

There’s a long way to go for gender-influenced legislation, but in a complex landscape you have to celebrate the communities forming around these issues. Offline, LGBT groups are advocates for diversity in sexuality and celebrity ambassadors are growing by the day to eradicate sexism. Online, social media has been extremely powerful for campaigns on gender equality. It’s encouraged conversations around uncomfortable topics, such as rape. Campaigns like #HeForShe – the UN initiative that “brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half” – has achieved viral success with the backing of popular celebrities, such as official spokesperson Emma Watson. However, it has also led people to question the other side of the coin making #SheForHe also go viral.

Brands should look to show their openness to shifting expectations and how gender can seriously affect people’s sense of identity. As outlined in the Crowd DNA 2015 trend The Purpose Revolution, modern consumers demand a clearly defined reason for being from every brand they interact with. Gender equality needs to become part of every brand purpose – however, it must only be used in authentic and meaningful ways and always backed up with actions as well as words.

The Alternative Elder

With a generation of left field creatives hitting their 60s, cultural permission is being created for old(er) guys to copycat a new set of style codes. Crowd DNA managing director Andy Crysell advises retailers to get set for different slants on sexagenarian-plus male fashion sense, in yet another example of tribal identity extending far beyond the confines of youth culture...

On recent travels across Europe and the US, we’ve noted a rise in guys aged 60 plus dressing, well, differently. We’ll resist calling it hipster-like, but it’s definitely alternative, and it points to new cultural factors that previously did not exist for older men. A generation of left field creatives are reaching their sexagenarian years but rejecting a switch to more accepted style codes. Think David Lynch (69) and David Byrne (62) – both possessing a look which makes clear that good fashion sense for 60 plus guys extends beyond the sartorial mainstays of the stuffy ‘classic’/’suave’ look.

It’s long been said that men are more likely to copy fashion looks that appeal to them, rather than actively seek advice (ie, men are less likely than women to ask where an item was purchased) and thus this new breed of older style gent provides a fresh set of reference points, granting permission for others to follow suit. It’s a marker of a shift in cultural orthodoxy, of changing societal expectations, and we expect it to evince itself more forcibly as acceptance grows. How will this play out on the high street? We don’t anticipate Marks & Spencer dropping the comfy cardigans just yet, but a gradual adoption within more mainstream environs is bound to happen. 

It tallies with boomer generation work we conducted for a media client last year, in which we identified a wider spectrum of mindsets, interests and viewpoints among older people than previously noted (also a softening of the generation gap). Cultural tribalism, in essence, has now reached the boomers, with the Alternative Elder just one manifestation to bear in mind.