Crowd DNA’s Joey Zeelen looks at the sobering-up of Gen Z through his own experience of teen drinking...

Growing up in Holland in the noughties, my use of alcohol – or drugs, we’re talking Holland here – wasn’t any different to others my age. I started drinking at 15 and, like most millennials, alcohol was a big part of life. It formed my identity; it was the centre of socialising and the entirety of my teenage fun.

Saying that, it’s sometimes surprising to read about the sobering-up of Gen Z. Most explanations (health consciousness, well-being) fall flat when I think of the importance of alcohol during my own teen years. To understand this shift, I sought out some explanations on an internal level. When looking at my own drivers for teen drinking, Gen Z’s rejection of alcohol starts to make a lot more sense…

Identity

As a teen, alcohol shaped my sense of self and influenced the people I looked up to. Liam Gallagher, Kate Moss, music from Nirvana and gabber house – they were all inseparable from alcohol (and drugs). Now, icons like Lil Yachty and Adwoa Aboah promote a new culture of abstinence where it’s okay to say no. Intoxication is no longer a requirement of ‘cool’.

Discovery

A big driver for teen drinking was experimentation. Alcohol made me feel different, brave; it enabled me to do things I’d not dare otherwise. But is this still relevant? When talking to Gen Z, it always strikes me how open they are to subjects that were once alien or embarrassing to me (unless drunk). Perhaps alcohol isn’t needed for experimentation anymore, and they are simply more capable of discovering on their own, sober, terms. It’s no doubt, too, that the online space has become a better and more efficient vehicle for discovery.

Social Connection

While socialising played out in the pub/club in my teen years, social connections now form in different spaces: usually in isolation, on social media or at home. Similarly, online entertainment and platforms now provide young people with the stimuli and experiences that would have once been gained by going out drinking with friends.

Enjoyment

Long-story-short, I enjoyed alcohol because it enabled me to ‘let go’. Now, young people are so focused on results and prospects (not surprising when you look at the societal pressures they face), which must influence their ability to go wild or be unproductive the next day. On top of that, when they do party, they’re image conscious – why become embarrassingly drunk when it might be immortalised on social media?

But I doubt the desire to ‘let go’ has gone for Gen Z; it’s just taken on different forms. New indulgences now exist, which are better suited to their needs. We only have to look at the growing Xanax culture – linked to rappers like Lil Xan or Lil Peep – to see how, from a cultural stance, it makes sense. The effects of these drugs are less noticeable (or embarrassing), and offer a potential way of dealing with the pressures and anxieties of modern teenage-hood.

Secondary sources can help inform insights, but to really get to know young people and understand their drinking habits, we need to deep dive into their actual lives, needs and daily motivations, too. Sobering-up then makes a lot more sense through the eyes of a boozy millennial – cheers!

Death Of The Teenager

Crowd DNA’s Andy Crysell asks whether the teen experience is in decline and, if so, what it means for self-identity and brands. To get a copy of our Death Of A Teenager cultural forecasting report, read on…

Hot on the heels of the widely reported scientific claims that adolescence now extends from 10 to 24, we thought it opportune to publish a revamped version of our Death Of A Teenager cultural forecasting report.

What would it mean to have never been a teenager, as we knew being a teenager? As grown-ups continue to avoid, er, growing up, and younger generations start connecting with culture – and even hitting puberty – at an earlier age, the previously well-defined ‘teenage years’ don’t make so much sense. A collective experience of ‘being a teenager’ seems to be coming to an end.

In this report we map out the driving forces behind this change and ask how it will impact self-identity formation. Also, given that the marketing communications industry has a habit (near obsession) with all things youth, we look at the relevance that this will no doubt have for brands.

For a copy of our shiny new report please email: DOTT@crowdDNA.com

Facebook asked us to find out what makes Canadian millennials tick. This is what we learnt...

We’re delighted to post some recent insights work for Facebook about Canadian millennials.

The research involved a road trip across Canada where we conducted in-depth interviews with generational experts and Canadians aged 18-34, as well as a quant survey.

We learned that millennials rely on mobile, find strength in online communities and take pride in their country’s multicultural identity. We also found that when it comes to defining success and spending money, they hold surprisingly different views than older generations.

Read more here.

Rise: Agelessness

Crowd DNA’s popular Rise breakfast events are back after a summer break. This time brand and communications expert Eleanor Sankey discusses how we can understand consumers in a world where age is just a number...

Date: September 14

Time: 8.15am-9am

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

Consumer trends show that Gen Z is growing up faster than previous generations, millennials are delaying adulthood and Gen X and Boomers are living more ‘youthfully’ than ever before. On top of this, we’re living longer, working past retirement age and achieving major milestones later. As a result, brands are increasingly looking beyond age-based definitions.

In this session, we’ll help marketers understand consumers without age restrictions, moving beyond demographics to explore new ways of segmenting, targeting and making recommendations about how to communicate agelessness.

If you’d like to join us for coffee and croissants while discussing the secret of eternal youth marketing, please contact Jason Wolfe. And feel free to pass the invite onto colleagues of all ages.

Watch the trailer below:

Norwegian youth drama SKAM’s fourth series just finished, but its fan base keeps on growing. Head of insight & innovation Dr Matilda Andersson explores the role audience insights played in its success...

Those of you who thought TV is dead, think again. The fourth series of SKAM, a teen drama made by NRK (Norway’s BBC) has just ended, leaving its global following wanting more. From Stavanger to San Francisco, SKAM’s success has been fuelled by fans sharing images on Tumblr, distributing translated transcripts via Google Drive and making subtitled videos available on YouTube. With unprecedented high ratings and a cult following that’s seen fans invading the set, stalking characters and learning Norwegian, what’s the secret of its success?

SKAM, or SHAME in English, captures the everyday lives of teens in an average Norwegian high school, giving a raw and up-close view of love and friendship today (date rape, coming out and cyberbullying are just some of the topics covered). The series is digital first, with episodes released online (at NRK.NO) scene by scene throughout the week, to create the impression that events are happening live. The stars of the show come to life through their social media presence, each character has an Instagram account, updated when something interesting happens in the series. Even though the digital storytelling contributes to the show’s success, it’s the extraordinary realism capturing young people’s lives and relationships that has created waves reaching far beyond its suburban Oslo setting.

At the 2017 YLE Media Digital Summit, SKAM producer Marianne Furevold-Boland talks about using the NABC Method to get under the skin of Gen Zs. NABC originates from Stanford and stands for Need, Approach, Benefit and Competition. A familiar approach to us here at Crowd DNA, this audience-centric model focuses on needs first and then helps build value propositions to fulfill them. The team at NRK conducted surveys, content analysis of Instagram and Snapchat stories and visited schools to make sure they really listened to their audience. The producers of SKAM realized that if the consumers are willing to tell you their stories, there’s no point making things up.

A British broadcaster has yet to pick up the series, though Simon Fuller has bought the rights to produce an English language version for US and Canada. In the meantime, you can watch a subtitled trailer here.

At Crowd DNA we’re very proud to have contributed a young audience needs model to help future proof broadcasting, presented at the MRS Impact conference earlier this year. As their path to adulthood becomes less predictable, it’s even more important to take time to listen to young people today. Youth brands can learn a lot from SKAM’s strong audience needs proposition, innovative execution and digital first distribution.

We're recruiting people to take part in a global lifestyle community...

Crowd DNA are looking for people to take part in a one-year community about city life for a global lifestyle brand. The community will explore people’s experience of living in a city as well as their behaviour and ideas around areas such as innovation, sustainability and retail.

We’re looking for 20-35 year-olds with good quality written/spoken English skills who live in one the following cities (and have been resident in the country for 10 years or more):

London, Mumbai, San Francisco, Shanghai, Stockholm, Tokyo

What do you need to do?

Over the course of a year, you’re asked to complete fortnightly ‘quick-fire tasks’ (e.g. polls, written responses, taking pictures) and one ‘major task’ every two months (e.g. interviewing friends, diaries). Topics will vary for every task.

What’s in it for you?

We offer remuneration in the form of Amazon vouchers for tasks completed, as well as prize draws for the best response, general engagement and overall contribution.

If you’re interested, please fill in this questionnaire:

Know someone who’s a perfect fit? Then feel free to share this post.

Thanks.

Child’s Play

Hot on the heels of awesome work on a couple of seriously weighty kids and families project (one very global, one getting into the nitty-gritty of need-states), Crowd DNA’s Berny McManus shares thoughts on best practice...

Nothing stands still with kids and families. For as many years as Crowd DNA have been researching them, we’re continually surprised by how they evolve in line with cultural influences, societal expectations and technological developments. We’ve become pretty adept at getting to the heart of what makes kids and parents tick, so we thought that we’d put a spotlight on a few of things learnt along the way.

Being authentic is key – don’t try to be ‘one of them’

As a former primary school teacher, I’ve seen many people (myself included) fall into this trap. Despite the fact that we’ve all been children, we lose touch with what it’s like to actually be a kid. We forget how we like to be spoken to by adults. So here’s a quick reminder: kids, especially tweens, really don’t like it when you try to be ‘one of them’. It usually results in one (or more) of the following: confusion, mockery, loss of respect, eye-rolling or – worst case scenario for a researcher – they just tune you out. Focus on being you; they will respect you so much more for that.

Help them express themselves

Kids have fantastic imaginations but they understand and communicate in different ways to us. Some decipher the world by reading, while others digest more information via images or sounds. It’s so important to give them a number of ways to engage and communicate with us. We run sessions that include drawing, role play, using apps on tablets – the list goes on. Our research with kids throughout the years has shown that characters from books, TV programmes and games play a huge part in helping the youngest ones practice relationships and experiences in a safe environment through play. Role-play is an easy way for kids to express themselves, so we’re big fans of working this into our projects. We actually recommend this as a strategy to content producers who we work with; albeit for slightly different reasons. We’ve found kids imaginative play to be a great litmus test for how successful a piece of content, TV, book or game is going to be. If they adopt them in their role play, then the characters are likely to be influential and liked. Ultimately, if you want to unlock their innermost thoughts, then you have to be prepared to use an array of strategies. The results can be thought-provoking; the kids enjoy it – and we get to spend working hours pretending to be spacemen/cowboys/the Prime Minister.

From my perspective

Unsurprisingly, it’s kids’ subconscious behaviours that can be the most revealing, especially when it comes to uncovering their real motivations or emotions. We’re strong fans of using GoPros to evidence their behaviours and actions. They allow us to completely immerse ourselves in their world and of course see the world through their eyes. (It’s also often startling seeing things from their ‘perspective'; adults are giants and the supermarket is still a wall of treats and distractions).

Give them ownership

It’s also important to give kids ownership of the session. There are a number of ways to achieve this. The younger children can be given mini-jobs to do such as, ‘You’re responsible for giving everyone a sticker’; while slightly older kids see value in being the declared ‘expert’ on a particular topic (I’ve had many walk-through demonstrations of Minecraft and I’ve learnt something every time!). My favourite is co-creation as an approach. I’ve seen some very insightful outputs from short sessions, such as the conceptualisation of a new gaming app within an hour… and this was with eight year olds. Giving kids ownership of the session makes them feel valued and results in a far more engaged and enthusiastic participants.

From co-creation to GoPro footage, working with kids is always fascinating. Give them the right tools to express their thoughts and creativity, and the insights are pure magic. We’ll be running one of our Rise breakfast events on the subject of kids research shortly – stay tuned.

As the concept of luxury becomes increasingly intangible in the networked age, brands are experimenting with digital to attract Generation Z says creative delivery exec, Elizabeth Holdsworth...

In the post-recession age of discreet anti-bling (think Kinfolk: rustic, white-filtered and highly Instagram-able lifestyle scenes), the idea of luxury is becoming ever more abstracted, and brands are experimenting with ways to position themselves as aspirational within the digital realm. How do you engage with a generation that has grown up online, visually fluent teens who are skilful digital strategists on Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr? Add to the equation that, until recently, this generation neither expected – or have ever had to pay for – online content.

Burberry’s Snapchat campaigns were an early stride in conquering the ethereal world of teen luxury. Since then Snapchat has morphed into the new catwalk. Meanwhile on Instagram, Calvin Klein’s #MyCalvins campaign rolls around in bed with a flawless Kendall Jenner and takes to the skate park with an open-shirted Justin Bieber. Because Facebook’s biggest growing demographic is 55+, teens are seeking refuge away from older generations on platforms that are exclusive to them. Snapchat has over 100 million daily active users, 71% of which are under the age of 25.[1]

Originally released only on Tidal, Kanye West’s seventh studio album, ‘The Life Of Pablo’, is a haphazard attempt to bring luxury consumerism to the digital world of teens, the Gen Z demographic who are less interested in glitzy material possessions than the allure of new technology and services. Fans could only listen to’The Life Of Pablo’ by signing up to the premium streaming service.

Launched in October 2014, Perez Hilton labeled Tidal as ‘the streaming service for millionaires’, where the music itself takes on the flavour of a luxury status symbol. This sense of exclusivity comes from the subscription fee itself and also from the service’s options and respective price points — differences in audio quality that will only be perceptible to those already owning high-end sound systems. Any difference between Tidal’s so-called Premium and HiFi services will go unnoticed by consumers who are most likely to be streaming on smartphones and listening though headphones.

Tidal’s subscriber numbers reportedly doubled in the two weeks following the release of ‘The Life Of Pablo’, but it seems the tide of exclusive streaming is yet to turn. The platform is still dwarfed by services like Spotify, and has also failed to keep pace with Apple Music, which emerged around the same time. Retracting the original plan of Tidal-only exclusivity, ‘The Life Of Pablo’ has since emerged on other music services, achieving much greater impact. However Tidal’s subscriptions look set to explode following the release of Beyoncé’s video album Lemonade, available to view by subscription only.

This isn’t about luxury sound. Teens don’t care about lossless, hi-fi audio. They care about what’s trending, being part of the peer conversation, keeping up with the world’s biggest artists. This is about aspiration, of belonging, selling a more abstract idea of luxury than ever before — a dreamy Instagram still of the Kardashian Klan reclining in white Calvins. If luxury brands want to connect with Generation Z, they need to learn a life lesson from Pablo and continue to communicate these moments digitally, while constantly being aware of the limitations – though growing potential – of the paywall.

[1] DMR, By the Numbers: 60 Amazing Snapchat Statistics.