Crowd Numbers

We're pleased to present a new look to our quant and analytics offer. Oh yeah, and a new director to run things, too!

Bringing new dimensions to our mission of creating culturally charged commercial advantage, we’re rebranding our quant and analytics offer as Crowd Numbers. This is about giving data and quantitative work a louder voice in our business. Additionally, under the new banner, as well as continuing to provide online survey solutions, we will venture further into areas such as passive tracking, data synthesis, social listening and machine learning.

We already have a first-rate team and high quality case studies to build on with Crowd Numbers. And now we also have an exciting new addition to our line up of directors to run this part of the business. David Power, formerly a director at RDSi and client side at Hachette and Future Publishing, joins in November.

He’ll be leading Crowd Number, with teams in London and Leeds, and directing all services that they provide across the Crowd DNA’s global offices.

“As a long term admirer of Crowd DNA, I am thrilled to be joining an agency at the forefront of understanding people, culture and the implications for brands,” says David. “Quantitative research is evolving rapidly – you need to be open to incorporating alternative data sources, telling engaging stories and embracing cultural context to drive change.”

We’re excited by this news and hope you are too. To find out more about Crowd Numbers, do get in touch.

Didn't make it to Glastonbury this year? Fear not - for the second instalment of our Listening In series, consultant Benji Long transports you to the fields of Worthy Farm (via social media) to uncover the festival's biggest talking points...

As won’t have escaped you, Glastonbury 2019 saw 200,000 revellers – a number equivalent to the population of Colchester –  descend on to Worthy Farm, Somerset.  To track the buzz as things unfolded, we set up a social listening monitor that gathered over 320,000 mentions online over seveb days. In that time, Glastonbury conversation surpassed chat about who will be the next British prime minister, and the even more British topic of the (hot) weather. So, what was all the fuss about at Glasto?

Stormzy makes history

There was one clear winner in generating the most online hype. London-based grime artist Stormzy took the largest slice of online mentions, with 61% of the top eight artists combined. His headline performance drew attention for a number of reasons. Firstly, that this was the first British black male to headline the festival in its 50 year existence – something he was not afraid to capitalise on. Characteristically, Stormzy took the opportunity to speak out about racial inequality in the UK and even sampled MP David Lammy’s influential interview on racial prejudice in the British criminal justice system. Continuing his political crusade, he orchestrated his liberal-leaning crowd to chant ‘f*?@ Boris,’ knowing it would be broadcast well beyond the farm fields to millions watching live via the BBC coverage.

Thiago Silva rap goes viral

You might suspect the most engaging post of the weekend to be about another of the weekend’s stars – Kylie’s come back perhaps, or Lewis Capaldi dressing as Noel Gallagher anyone? But no. Instead it was Alex (no surname required), die-hard fan of rapper Dave, who came on stage and perfectly recited the track ‘Thiago Silva’ during the rising star’s set, fittingly dressed in a PSG shirt with said footballer’s name on the back. Having been published on Saturday evening, one Twitter post about this stage-crashing went on to be retweeted 20,400 times and garner 119,000 comments. Looking at the virality map below, we can see how the initial tweet at 22:40 spread across the platform, before being picked up by BBC news which helped it to go stratospheric.

The greenest Glasto yet

In other festival news, Michael Eavis’s announcement that Glastonbury would ditch plastic bottles was praised on stage by 93-year-old David Attenborough in a deafeningly-cheered surprise appearance. “That is more than a million bottles of water that have not been drunk by you,” he told the audience from the Pyramid Stage, just before Kylie Minogue’s set.

However, Glastonbury’s environmental efforts were also met with backlash. While ‘Attenborough’ and ‘plastic-free’ dominated the positive conversation, there was negativity around the state of the site after the festival. ‘Rubbish’ and ‘tents’ highlight the waste that was left behind as festival-goers ‘desert[ed]’ the site.

The power of Glastonbury

Once again, Glastonbury makes a claim for being the world’s best festival (though we might be biased here in the London office, having waved a few of our own off to it last week). But this is also reflected in the festival-goers’ online conversation, making headlines for all the right reasons; supporting diverse and emerging talent and using the magnitude of the event as a vessel for wider societal change.

Social listening is a powerful tool for tracking events as they unfold, and analysing trends is part of how Crowd DNA provides culturally charged commercial advantage to brands all around the world. If you need to understand more about an event, category, theme or topic, and want to find out if social listening can get you to answers, contact us at


Benji Long from Crowd DNA’s Futures, Semiotics & Listening team kicks off the first post of our Listening In series - demonstrating how we get to cultural meaning through social data. First up, a look inside the fandom of K-pop superstars BTS...

K-pop (that’s Korean pop music) is taking the West by storm. With precision-perfect choreography, EDM riffs and bubblegum melodies overlaid on Korean rap lyrics about mental health, there’s something distinctly novel about this phenomenon. K-pop support is also huge on social media: in the last year there were 541m tweets relating to the genre in the US, and 11m in the UK. Disconcertingly, it’s a hotter topic online than climate change…

In the UK and US, K-pop is provoking more conversation than global warming - and the volume keeps growing
In the UK and US, K-pop is provoking more conversation than global warming - and the volume keeps growing

Amid the wider conversation, one band totally dominates. BTS, aka Beyond The Scene, are a seven-piece boy band that have been drumming up wild support, including seeing their supporters win Best Fan Army at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards. But what is it, exactly, that has built up this fan-force, and why should we be paying attention? Faced with this extraordinary phenomenon, we decided to use social listening to dig a little deeper and understand more about what BTS represent.

First, The BTS hype

Fan love for BTS
Fan love for BTS

BTS have an intensely intimate relationship with their fans. While fan devotion of this kind is nothing new, their constant online conversation with the ‘army’ is staggering. There’s a real sense of religious fervour towards them. too: in the last six months, there have been 350,000 posts online containing BTS and ‘angel’.

Individual group members regularly come out with personal stories, connecting with their fans at every opportunity. From their rags to riches narrative – one that sets them apart from other groups in the K-pop industry – to their willingness to open up to their fans, BTS play strongly to themes of authenticity (whether engineered or not!). But it’s not just about keeping it real: they’re also provoking conversation and challenging norms in two areas:

1. Identity Fluidity

RM inspires young people to be themselves
RM inspires young people to be themselves

The band actively confront gender stereotypes by dressing in ‘feminine’ clothes and wearing make-up. They speak up for the need to be true to yourself. By normalising this, they are reaching out to a mainstream audience with a powerful message about being who you want to be; particularly resonant for those in their formative teen years or those feeling marginalised.

Their latest album, ‘Map Of The Soul: Persona’, is titled after a famous book about Jungian theories on identity by Dr Murray Stein. In the first song, member Kim Nam-joon (aka RM or Rap Monster) wonders: “‘Who am I?’ is the question I’ve had all my life / And I’ll probably never find the answer.” Joining BTS on this journey of self-discovery ranks highly in their appeal to fans.

Make way for feminist kings BTS who took lessons from Korean professors of feminism to write their lyrics and treat everyone equally regardless of their gender!” – Twitter user

2. Talking About Mental Health

The important stuff
The important stuff

Either through their music or sharing views in very public forums, BTS strongly encourage their fans to acknowledge mental health issues and to be more understanding of the emotional struggles we all face.  RM (that’s right – Rap Monster) spoke about mental health at the Unicef Love Myself fundraiser, encouraging young America to follow their dreams, and to ignore social and cultural obstacles.

More recently, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, BTS member Suga discussed how important it was for those who have a platform to use it to talk about mental health: “If they talk about it openly – if they talk about depression, for example, like it’s the common cold, then it becomes more and more accepted.” Their fanbase are responding. In the last six months, there have been 3.2 million social posts containing BTS and ‘thank you’ – and with 85% positive sentiment.

BTS are Asian men that are open about talking about mental health and stressing the importance of emotional intelligence. Let that sink in.” – Twitter user

The K-Wave Keeps Rolling

Thanks to their cultural impact, the BTS septet are credited with fuelling the number of Hallyu (or Korean Wave) advocates across the globe to almost 90 million – playing a lead role in the increase in popularity of South Korean culture since the 1990s. You might also have been enjoying more Korean cuisine of late (kimchi), drama (Netflix’s Okja) and even footballers (Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min).

Hallyu is a deliberate initiative started by former Korea president Kim Dae-jung, mobilising cultural resources to build up positive associations with the country. But beyond this official promotion, BTS has shown how powerful people-to-people diplomacy can be. The band has over 18 million followers on Twitter, and in 2017 had the most liked tweet worldwide.

It’s estimated that around 7% of all tourists visiting South Korea were motivated to do so by their love of BTS.

Fan Purpose For Brands

BTS x Converse collab - as seen in 'Fake Love' video
BTS x Converse collab - as seen in 'Fake Love' video

Fan purpose is a powerful form of currency for young people, especially when they can connect through shared experiences across cultural divides to promote positive values and ideas. BTS make a case for not being afraid to stand up for what you believe in – and fans can join the cause by showing their allegiance. While brands might not have the dance routines or rap rhymes, BTS show the value in representing issues and themes that maintain relevance across borders.

Measuring and analysing social trends is part of how Crowd DNA provides culturally charged commercial advantage to brands all around the world. If you need to understand more about a category, theme or topic, and want to find out if social listening can get you to answers, contact us at

When Social Meets Semiotics

Crowd DNA social listener, Benjamin Long, and semiotician, Roberta Graham, discuss the power of combining two distinct methodologies to bring online conversations into real life strategy…

As the world, replete with all of its complexities, continues to be uploaded online, social media platforms are vital for keeping up with fast-moving trends and the conversations that happen around them. But, as cultural analysts, how can we effectively and structurally make sense of all of the noise (and emojis)?

At Crowd DNA, we believe that fusing two methods together is usually better than just one. With understanding online culture, for example, applying a semiotic lens to the analysis of social data helps us make concrete sense of trends in real life, in real time.

Using semiotics in this manner provides current cultural context, which can help to validate or disprove the social listening insights. Here’s how we go about it:

Start With A Solid Question

The huge sample sizes generated through social listening are both a blessing and a curse. It can sometimes feel like finding a needle in a haystack. Having a solid question in mind is the best way to ensure that the insights you surface actually align with your original business objectives. Starting with wider cultural research can also help find more nuanced or emergent ways to target the demographic that you want.

Branch Out

While being specific is essential, analysing how other categories play out on social media can also provide new perspectives as, when different themes collide, unique trends can be formed. Semiotics helps this exploration by casting an analytical eye across broader culture and making stylistic or attitudinal connections to suggest relevant shifts within your own market or category.

Context Is Everything

While some cultural phenomenon exist only online – such as memes or Instagram flop accounts – most do not. Here is where the blend of social listening with semiotics really comes into play. It’s vital to combine social data insights with a broader analysis of the cultural landscape that they operate within to gain a rich understanding of the interplay between digital and physical worlds.

What They Say Isn’t Always What They Mean

As in real life, what people say (or do) online is not necessarily reflective of how they behave in their everyday lives. To crack through this contradiction, we often look beyond the words that people use and conduct a semiotic analysis for greater understanding. This type of exploration can be key to unlocking the hidden insights within a post’s imagery, semantics, or lineup of emojis!

Not Everyone Talks

Remember that public social data will likely be skewed to those more confident in voicing their opinions, which is obviously problematic. Meanwhile, the quiet majority who use the internet to absorb information and inspiration (rather than shout their opinions) are more likely to engage with posts by liking, sharing and commenting on them. Looking to engagement data is therefore as important as the post itself and can help provide a valuable measurement of the many – not the few.

If you’d like to learn more about how we fuse social listening with semiotics to reach real cultural insights, please get in touch:

The rise of family cinema-going looks to be about more than just the 'Frozen effect', says Crowd DNA director, Euan Mackay, as he explores the latest FAME data (while trying to get a certain song out of his head)...

We have been fortunate enough to work alongside Digital Cinema Media for the last three years on the cinema industry currency research project (FAME). This week, I went along to speak at the launch of this year’s findings, talking through some of the more interesting themes to have emerged.

The survey covers a multitude of topics, so provides a mountain of data on cinema-goers, particularly when the option to multibase/fuse to TGI is taken into account. Here are some key takeouts for you:

– Cinema remains an important leisure pursuit in the UK with 48% of the population having been to the movies in the last month

– Cinema admissions seem to be somewhat Netflix-proof as admissions remain as strong as the last two years; though the impact is being felt in terms of movie rentals – both physical and digital are down from last year

– Cinema instills positive energising emotions compared to other media. It’s more likely to make people feel excited, happy and stimulated

– Cinema creates buzz and talkability. 67% say that watching a film in the cinema gives them something to chat about

– It’s still a great advertising vehicle. 87% having seen advertising before the main film

One interesting dynamic in the data relates to the rise and rise of family viewing at the cinema. As someone who is still laden with a Bear Necessities earworm after taking my five-year-old daughter to see the Jungle Book (Bill Murray and Christopher Walken are excellent), this struck a chord with me.

We see that family viewing has increased again for the third year running, suggesting more of an on-going trend than simply a ‘Frozen-effect’. Going to the movies is a real considered activity for families, who are more likely to plan their trip in advance. They are also more likely to consider a trip to the movies as a great way to spend quality time with others. And talking of spending, families go beyond the bare necessities when it comes to splashing out in the foyer – with an average spend of £17.30 compared to £12.90 for the average cinema-goer.

Now, altogether… Look for the Bear Necessities…

Colourful Numbers

Last week, we served pastries, coffee and crisp thoughts on how to get culturally attuned through data. Charlotte Burt, consultant in the quant and analytics team summarises the key take-outs...

Most people have at some point thought about what superpower they would most like to have. Invisibility? The ability to fly? How about the power to read people’s minds? What if we told you, we could grant you the power to know what people are thinking just from the use of numbers? That’s exactly what Syann and Claire, director and associate director respectively in our quant and analytics team, shared with some early risers at Crowd’s most recent breakfast session.

Using data to tell stories with context: whilst qual techniques are often the go-to method for providing a deep understanding of behaviour, the beauty of quant research is that it can place findings in a more representative context and really broaden our understanding of a particular topic. How do we do this?

1. Think about the outputs – it’s no use thinking about what outputs you want once the research is completed. This needs to happen in the early stages and it’s important to ask yourself: what will the outputs look like? Where can numbers give me the most value? And what data will really help bring the story to life?

2. Use methods tactically – qual and quant often go hand in hand so think about the best ways the different methods can complement each other and give you the best insights.

3. Layer your questions – asking the same question in a number of different ways will really tap into the nuances in people’s opinions. Be implicit. Explicit. And everything in between.

Getting beyond claimed behaviour: there is often a misconception that you can’t truly find out what makes someone do the things they do just by asking them. Wrong. There are ways of gathering and interrogating data that allow us to explore the thought process people go through, and statistics are at the heart of Crowd’s approach. So how can this be done?

1. Trade-offs – presenting people with ‘trade-off’ scenarios (or choice based conjoint analysis, if you’re feeling fancy) can help you analyse the paths people take in their decision making and isolate what factors are the most important to them.

2. Segmentation – grouping people on their attitudes and behaviours (rather than their demographics) is a great way to understand how people differ in their opinions.

3. Key drivers – if you want to find out the relationship between different attributes and what is really making people do the things they do then key drivers analysis is the way to go!

Questionnaire design to gain cultural understanding: everyone has biases. Some we know and some are hidden deep in the depths of our subconscious. The key to great questionnaire design is to recognise what biases might be at play – both in our own minds and in the minds of others when they are responding. This can be tricky, but the following tips can help:

1. Know your audience – think about the type of language that your desired audience are familiar with. Set the right tone and make sure that the look and feel of the survey is relevant.

2. Use frameworks – being mindful of behavioural science and cultural strategy is crucial. Every question you ask should have a purpose and it’s important to consider how each question will be interpreted.

3. Lay the foundations – never approach quant research cold. Whether it’s undertaking up front qual, desk research, speaking to experts or simply reflecting on your own thoughts and opinions, always come armed with information before designing a questionnaire.

As the morning drew to a close and the final croissants and coffees were snapped up, the real question now is… what to do with these new found super powers?

Rise: Colourful Numbers

Come along to our next breakfast session for thoughts and ideas on bringing culture to quantitative research...

Date: February 25, 2016

Time: 8.15-9am

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

Roll up for our second Rise breakfast session. Titled ‘Colourful Numbers’, this time we’ll be focusing on ways to ensure quantitative data provides a culturally relevant understanding of consumer behaviours and motivations, with Syann Cox and Claire Moon from our quant and analytics team discussing how a more sophisticated approach to outputs helps data to tell stories with more context, how statistical methods can get us beyond claimed behaviours, and how an informed, trends-aware approach to questionnaire design enables a richer exploration of audiences and occasions.

This is perfect for those who are looking for new ways to understand consumer behaviours, those with an interest in decision making processes… and those who want more from quant work than bar charts. It’ll be quick, to the point – and there’s pastries, coffee and stuff too.

Contact Jason Wolfe if you and/or colleagues would like to attend.

Big + Beautiful Data

Here's a data oriented double act, with associate director Claire Moon on author/broadcaster Tim Harford's Google Firestarters presentation, and Eric Shapiro, our creative delivery knowledge leader, reviewing David McCandless' talk at a Guardian Live event. Let's go...

In the first of our two reports, author, broadcaster and FT columnist Tim Harford gave two TED-style talks – one titled ‘Big Mistakes With Big Data’ and the second on ‘How To Tell The Future’. Here’s four relevant insights from his presentations.

  1. Data can’t always speak for itself

At first glance, big data promises to render traditional methods of sampling obsolete (because we now have the data for ‘n=all’), and does away with the need for theories and hypotheses because we can simply ‘listen’ to the data by running algorithms to analyse it.

However, the rise and fall of Google Flu Trends – the poster child for big data – highlights the importance of ‘old-fashioned, boring lessons around how we behave with data’ and the enduring importance of human intelligence at all stages of analysis.

Despite working well at the start, the success rate of the predictions made by Google Flu Trends began to fall spectacularly – and because Google didn’t have a theory for why it worked in the first place, it was impossible to work out why it had gone wrong.

  1. The importance of being human

Despite calling himself a huge fan of big data, Tim advocated human intuition over computer learning and algorithms, and explained why speaking to ‘n=all that matter’ is still a far better approach than attempting to listen to ‘n=all’.

As the volume of ‘found data’ increases, big data is becoming increasingly good at telling us what is happening and identifying correlations, but it can’t tell you why it’s happening and if a correlation actually represents causation – you still need to speak to real humans for that!

  1. Be self-critical

Tim’s final lesson was around prediction, and the importance of being open minded. He spoke at length about a research programme set up by psychologist Philip Tetlock that aggregated a large number (20,000) of quantifiable forecasts made by a broad variety of people. Through this experiment, Tetlock found that the success of predictions lie in correcting biases, working in teams, and in practicing ‘actively open-minded thinking’.

In short, the best way to ensure accuracy when carrying out research and looking to the future is to continually challenge what you find and be prepared to change your mind when new information arises.

  1. Research isn’t always about finding answers

During the Q&A session after Tim’s talks, he was asked about his work for the Scenario Planning division at Shell. Tim’s description of it as ‘science fiction’ got a few laughs, but his point was a serious one – research shouldn’t always be about finding answers. Instead, research should be about stimulating thinking.

(If you want a more detailed account of the event and Tim’s talks, check out Neil Perkin’s great write-up here)


In the second of our reports, we heard Mr Information Is Beautiful (more commonly known as David McCandless) discuss his new book Knowledge Is Beautiful, where he spoke not only of the art of data visualisation, but more deeply on the dividing line between ‘data’ and ‘knowledge’.

Psychology tells us seven pieces of knowledge is about the most information a person can hold, so here’s three things to remember from David’s speech to add to the four from Tim’s.

Knowledge is joined up data

Bored with drawing up immaculate and fascinating data representations, McCandless sought to understand and illustrate knowledge in his new book. He came to the realisation that single data sets only tell you so much. If you want to find something new and genuinely interesting, you need to join up different banks of data to paint a clearer representation. For example, if you want to know who’s top dog, you need to look at a huge range of factors, including vet records, dog genealogies and popularity to reach your goal. It’s the same with insights. To find something new, you need to join up different data types and studies, and view them as one.

3/4 of our brain is vision

Astonishingly, three quarters of our neurons are dedicated to the visual system. We’re incredibly sensitive to beautiful things, but we’re equally aware of ugly things. Even more fascinatingly, we have trust in the former, and are suspicious of the latter. It’s why we describe companies with older or more simple websites as ‘dodgy’, and equally why we forgive glamorous celebrities for just about anything (nice corn rows, Justin…). This means no matter how great, relevant, or life changing a piece of knowledge is, we won’t trust it unless it’s packaged in something beautiful that earns our trust. Equally, we need to be conscious of not presenting something incorrect beautifully, encouraging the wrong sort of knowledge – which means data integrity still matters.

Up wide, crash zoom, to the side

Finally, we learned how in order to extract the best information from data, you need to examine it from all angles. That means looking at the whole picture, exploring the tiny details within, and changing the angle of approach. Take the world of cash crops. From afar, wheat is the most planted, sugar cane the most fecund and most popular, and cannabis yields the highest revenue. That last one’s interesting, no? Well, if we zoom in, you can see that cannabis generates £47,660,000 per square kilometer. And if we look at it from another angle, we see in a state where cannabis is now legal, Colorado, that it reels in more tax revenue than Alcohol. The insight? Cannabis is more lucrative than you might have thought.

Rather than point you towards the illegal drug trade, we reckon this is a lesson in analysis: specifically the importance of using frameworks to view data through different lenses and extract the best and most interesting bits.

(You can see more of David’s beautiful works here, and he’d probably want this blog to link to the Amazon page for his new book – we’ll acquiesce and do this here.)