Channel 4 Tribes Road Trip

One month, two cameras, six cities… oh yes, and a couple of researchers. These were the ingredients for our latest UK Tribes venture. Insight and innovation exec Berny McManus reports...

For those of you who don’t know about UK Tribes, it’s a long-term project commissioned by Channel 4 and run by Crowd DNA. It takes a candid look at UK youth culture from the street up and has done for the last nine years.

Our aim? Exploring tribal identity among young people; evaluating the continued relevance of enduring tribes and the emergence of new ones.

How? A road trip (naturally).

The big questions? Have vloggers and bloggers changed the face of celebrity? Do they sit comfortably alongside the creatives? Have former Aspirant tribes moved into the Mainstream? And where have all the Hipsters gone?

So, the C4 Road Trip brand was born, contacts were made and the team were ready to hit the road.

Our road trip has seen us protest for free education with the Young Greens, (watch) beatboxing in Cardiff with local boy Jpegg, fly through the air with the Bristol Jets Cheerleading Squad and everything in between. Our approach was low-key but always inquisitive – our aim wasn’t to disrupt behaviour but to be a part of it. The outcome was the ‘uninstagrammed’ version of their lives.

This is the sort of project you get really excited about. It’s a totally immersive and fast-paced experience and makes you feel as if a part of every single tribe becomes clearer.

So having just returned from the final leg of our C4 Road Trip – what has stayed with me?

First off, someone give Kim Kardashian a medal because posting your every move on Twitter (follow us @C4 Road Trip) is a full time job. And it looks like ‘brand me’ isn’t just for the Kardashian clan…

Style has always been important to the tribes – that’s not new. What has shifted is the mentality around the power that comes with your choice of clothing. Previously, snapbacks and a pair of Jordans would have signalled that you were part of a certain tribe, that you listen to a certain type of music, and that you had a specific outlook on life. Brands and key items continue to do that but tribes have started to manipulate these items to create ‘brand me’. YouTube, Twitter, Instagram… Social media has created this need-state for the everyday 16 – 24 year old to package themselves as commodity that can work across a multitude of platforms.

It’s a challenge to get to the core of what makes a tribe when there is such self-censorship going on. But this is why UK Tribes works and will continue to work. Our totally immersive approach strips away that veneer, allowing us to pick up on the subtle cultural cues that we know may develop into seismic shifts.

To read more about our UK Tribes work, click here.

In the meantime, here’s a little glimpse into we’ve got up to over the past month…

The Bedroom

Youth culture gets played out in lots of different environments. On the streets and online, of course. But let's not forget the bedroom - a time-honoured safe space for experimentation, in which to let your identity take shape. These images are from a recent wave of our UK Tribes work for Channel 4. We can learn a lot from the codes and sentiment embedded in the images and items on display. Big thanks to all contributors...

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“I love all things 1950s, be it the pin ups of the era, the culture of the time, the clothing, the make up. And Audrey Hepburn is an ever-lasting lovely.” – Meg, 18


“I love free romantic blockbuster DVDs. I collect them. My room is full of them. I don’t know – is that weird?” – Rachel, 23


My wall is made up of my favourite people and my favourite memories. You put different things on your wall than you share on social media.” – Cait, 16


“€So when I’m playing my guitar I’m looking at these posters of bands and musicians. Seeking inspiration, I guess.” – Jordan, 18


“There’s a mixture of photos, tickets and stickers behind me. All to do with bands. Each has a specific memory attached to it. The Smiths and Morrissey feature most.” – Amber, 18


“My room is a build up of life! Everything I’ve collected is on display – well, mostly loose bits of paper I’ve ripped from magazines or found at the bottom of a bag.” – Sofia, 19


“There are a few massive influences here. I adore anything Oriental, as you can see. Ballet shoes – I danced ballet and modern from age five to 15. It was a major part of my upbringing.”€ – Laura, 22


“I collect things: candles, make up, cameras, perfumes, rocks! And I spend a lot of time outside taking photos, so my cameras really represent me.” – Olivia, 17


“My room is a calming place. I am also tidy, very organised. Technology has to take centre stage.” – Ian, 17


“I love my skis and I also try to incorporate art into my room. I’m aiming for an eclectic mix of furniture: Ikea, antique, thrift, anything that catches my eye.” – Olivia, 17


You can read more about the Channel 4 UK Tribes project here.




Notes On Gen Zs

From bouncing balls to using Minecraft as a research tool, Crowd DNA managing director Andy Crysell jots down assorted notes from the MRS Gen Z conference...

With presentations offering a mixed bag of the interesting and, to be honest, rather prosaic, the MRS Gen Z conference in London saw a range of client and agency-side folk wrestling with what makes this cohort tick, how brands should engage with them and the challenges of researching them. Here’s a few notes captured from the event.

+ The MRS previewed some well considered new deliverables (short films and PDFs) designed to make their guidelines on researching youth/kids more easily digestible.

+ Back in the same room: whereas families were at once stage drifting to different rooms in the house, drawn to their own TV/entertainment preferences, the proliferation of handheld devices (kids in the UK have access to eight devices on average, and own 3.4 -Viacom/Nickelodeon research) is bringing them back into shared spaces – if doing different things while there. The scope to deliver shared experiences, albeit of a more future facing kind, thus is increasing.

+ Also from Nickelodeon, they’ve deployed facial coding to explore the appeal of advertising against five emotional traits and to demonstrate the value of advertising in the right media environment. While a method that is hotly debated in terms of its true credibility, it points to the increase in use of observational research techniques.

+ New(er) methods: there was a panel discussion on these, with references to using Gen Zs as trendspotters (we liked the idea of turning this into an online detective game); co-creation to tap into the notion that this generation are all inventors at heart; wearable cameras (good with specific tasks/issues of recall in mind, logistical hell if used without proper purpose!); grappling with quant (gamification is talked about more than used, but there’s plenty of scope to improve how visuals and copy are applied – we call this story-fying rather than gamifying; and thinking about the behind the scenes parts – ie, using trade off techniques – rather than just how shiny your interface is). Crowd DNA are well versed in all of these areas/challenges. What’s of course key is making sure the methods used are fit for purpose, accepting there will always be compromises and that perfection through one method alone is near impossible to come by!

+ The BBC’s Children’s Audiences team mixed up the presentation style by popping a ball into the audience and asking that we throw it between us. If you caught it you got to choose a number on the screen, about which the BBC team them revealed some data-derived insight. A nice stab at making the delivery of the work more interactive and therefore more memorable.

+ “We’ve all been children but not in this time”: one of those remarks that’s as obvious as it is nonetheless easy to overlook when designing and analysing work. Gen Z really are squaring up to a unique range of opportunities and challenges, and it would be lazy in the extreme to let our own experiences of childhood shape our interpretations of this cohort.

+ Risk averse: a term that came up a lot on the day. A risk averse generation with risk averse parents. An interesting area to explore further as there’s no doubt more nuances to it than that – perhaps the old cultural codes of what constitutes risk no longer apply.

+ Futurist Yesmin Kunter provided an interesting run through play and development. We got to see where hacking culture meets kids toys in the shape of new robots coming to the market; where eco consciousness meets toys in the form of the Kosmos wind turbine and 3D printing of Hot Wheels. She also, intriguingly, talked about using Minecraft as a research technique/platform with Gen Zs – definitely an idea worth exploring further.

+ John Conlon, VP of research at Viacom International Media Networks UK, offered some interesting perspective on how insight is being re-cast. Less about what’s happening and more about what will be happening. Less talking to consumers; more talking to experts and more observational techniques (from semiotics to smartphone video diaries).

+ It’s a few years old, but there was a well placed nudge to revisit education/creativity specialist Sir Ken Robinson’s RSA talk on changing education paradigms. It’s definitely worth a watch, both for the ideas discussed and the lovely delivery of them in this adaption of his speech.

+ Oh yes, and while we have you, we recommend you take a look at our own videos exploring the differences between Gens X, Y and Z. We love them, and hope you do, too.

Nice to see our Bauer Media Millennials work getting shared with the trade audience. This one involved a number of phases over 12 months, and lots of collaborating on themes and story telling, resulting in some crystal clear insights...

You can read/view more about the work via this nice collaboration with The Drum that Bauer Media have put together. The findings take in detailed exploration of media habits, new typologies and some well honed pointers for advertisers.

Here's the methods we used
Here's the methods we used

And here’s some video material from the work…

Our innovation knowledge leader, Aurelie Jamard, reports that Gens Y and Z haven't lost their enthusiasm for cars. They're just hungry to see a greater push for innovation and for understanding how needs are changing. Green light, let's go...

In a recent report published by Ford, the brand decided to focus their research on Gen Z (young people born after 1993, according to Ford’s definition). Interesting stuff, but while it’s important to understand the digital lifestyle and aspirations of the youngest among us, the broader Millennials set shouldn’t be left out of the equation as they’ve pioneered the changes and trends that now increasingly characterise their Gen Z peers in Western economies. Most Millennials, when hit by the recession, started to review luxury codes and perceptions of status, but also blur the boundaries between owning and renting or sharing.

However, an important factor is that this generation still seems open to the idea of owning cars. Will it be the same for Gen Z as they reach the legal driving age? Gen Z are the true digital natives – they were born with smartphones in their hands; they know how to navigate the web and use it to their advantage. They’re socially active, defend the environment and their community, and they are at the heart of the sharing economy (think AirBnB, Uber, SupperKing, etc). Looking ahead to 2015 and beyond, many of the key trends listed below were conceived and shaped by Millennials, but it’s Gen Z that will really drive them forwards.


Re-Booting TV For Youth

How does TV adapt to fit the expectations and needs of modern youth? Crowd DNA insight and innovation exec, Cathy Pearson, went in search of answers at Channel 4's Youth Audience event...

It’s no secret that 16-34s have always watched less TV than their elders. More than ever, they’re busy adapting to life’s transitions and adopting viewing habits to suit their lifestyles. This is why Leonie Hodge, head of audience research and insight at Channel 4, and speaking at the channel’s Youth Audiences event, believes reflecting young people’s influences, aspirations and experiences is a big part of getting programming right. Young people are aware of social issues, they want to discover new things and they’re willing to challenge their own preconceptions, so TV’s ability to influence is huge — but only if broadcasters get it right.

Driving the best TV experience for young people is increasingly about tapping into social and cultural trends, and employing these across new content as well as the genres they love. This means socially purposeful and authentic content with a commercial reach. Topical themes encourage wider conversation and have social cache among young people, but can also deepen their relationship with a particular show or channel in a crowded television landscape. The shows with heritage are those that allow them to resonate with a character, narrative or issue, and gain commitment from young audiences as they continue to use them as social markers.

Young people are looking to programmes first before heading to the channel with that content and if the audience are moving quickly, channel brands need to follow. Technology has been the biggest driver of growth in TV viewing among 16-24s with an increasing number of platforms and destinations for them to seek out TV content. Their digital engagement increases the TV viewing time of young people by an extra half an hour each day on both VOD and DVD, and the success of early digital initiatives that make content widely available speak largely about audience loyalty to seek out content above and beyond TV, according to Victoria Lucas, Channel 4’s series content producer on Hollyoaks.

TV’s once simpler role to entertain a passive audience has been thrown out. 16-34s are active in following their favourite shows and ditching those that don’t cut it. Channels must do more to reach them and reposition their programmes to become the content of choice. The biggest challenges are around producing and distributing content that connects — TV must not just entertain but capture the stories and issues that matter, and tell them from a young perspective. Harnessing this will require broadcasters and creative heads to remain much closer to their young audiences.


Social Media + Travel

From the benefits derived to the platforms favoured, young people are using social media in an explosive mix of new ways. But what does this mean for travel? Here's some thought starters...

Crowd DNA get youth. And we get social media, too. Our experience comes from researching millennials for the likes of Channel 4, Converse, MTV, Sony Music, Red Bull, Twitter and, most recently, conducting a huge global study for Facebook (check out our Three Phases Of Growing Up and Coming Of Age On Screens on the Facebook IQ insights blog).

Millennials are an incredibly valuable part of the travel market. The UN estimates that 20% of all international tourists are young people, and that they generate more than $180 billion in annual tourism revenue (30% up on 2007). And young people continue to spend while they travel – an average of €50 a day (The World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation). Of course, they are also a strong indicator of future trends; of how travel-related needs and expectations may shape up for broader audiences in the years ahead.

Our Facebook work saw us examining the changing way that young people around the world (we researched 13 markets) are using social media. We started to evidence how these evolving behaviours are affecting attitudes and behaviours around travel – an impact that will be ignored at a travel brand’s peril.

Here’s some thought starters on how youth’s changing social media habits might be affecting your audience:



Travelling has always been about life experiences – a rite of passage into adulthood or a bonding experience with friends. But today’s youth are increasingly swapping standard holidays for extended, meaningful experiences. And these hold major social caché.

Young people have strict social etiquettes around posting on social media: thumbs down to sharing wealth and/or purchases, thumbs up to sharing experiences. This is driving the appetite for unique, inspirational adventurous experiences.

“Experiences mean you have more to talk about. For example, I taught English in Sri Lanka during my gap year – I can say a lot more about that than a skirt I bought” – Amy, 28, UK

Expedia has already used this insight in its award-winning ‘Travel Yourself Interesting’ campaign. How can your brand leverage the social caché of travel stories in comms or help young people build their very own ‘adventure identity’?



Through social media – from Facebook & Twitter, to Instagram & Pinterest, to everything in between – young people discover the lives of far-flung people. Indeed, two thirds agree social media helps them stay up to date with what’s going on across the globe. This is broadening their world outlook with almost two in three 13-24 year olds feeling concerned about global issues and more than seven in ten harbouring a desire to learn about other countries and cultures.

“I feel like the world is getting smaller – things like Facebook and Twitter have broken down boundaries between countries and ethnicities – then, at the same time, it’s getting bigger with the more discoveries we make” – Joshua, 20, UK

But travel is about work as well as play:

a) Many young people are using travel to improve their employment prospects through gaining cultural, educational and work experience

b) Some are using travel to take a break from dispiriting job searching and re-evaluate what to do next

c) Others happily combine work and play, adding personal days to business trips – three of five travellers under 30 have extended work trips into vacations (Expedia & Egencia)

How can your brand serve young people’s desire to use travel to learn, progress and better themselves?



Being friends via social media is a vital, free and easy way to nurture loose connections and maintain friendships made on trips – be this through tagging photos of their adventures or arranging meet-ups at home. This contact with distant friends is resulting in a heightened sense of community among young people, with almost two thirds saying they feel part of a wider community as a direct result of using Facebook.

“Networks are good to keep up with social contacts in foreign countries. I took part in a student exchange and made friends who live in Israel and Denmark and we keep in contact through social networks.” – Haija, 17, Germany

This community is instrumental in helping young people plan their next trip – from finding inspiration in friends’ posts/photo albums/Pinterest boards/Instagram feeds, to checking peers’ opinions & reviews via Whatsapp, to collectively organising their trip via a Facebook group.

“The ability to share experiences seems to be what is driving them more than ever before.” – Antony S, 28, UK

Recent research by ABTA tells us that almost half (44%) of 16-24 year olds in the UK have used social media to research and plan travel, more than double the proportion of all internet users (18%). What’s more, millennials are more likely to use Facebook and Twitter for travel tips than they are an actual travel agent or guidebook. So social media often plays a crucial role in the travel purchase journeys of young people and this is likely only to increase.

Social media is often the crucial influencer of young people’s travel decisions. How can your brand harness the power of peer-to-peer recommendations?

To find out how Crowd DNA can explore this topic for your brand, please contact

Generations X, Y, Z

How do you summarise a generation in 90 seconds? In the name of producing powerful, thought provoking stimulus material for events, workshops and suchlike, that's the challenge we set ourselves...

We wanted to pull apart the differences between Generations X, Y and Z in a clear and simple fashion; in a manner which acts as a springboard for lively conversation, sharp strategic thinking and, ultimately, genuine action. Ok, yes, we’ve had to generalise in places. And generational experiences are of course bound to vary based on personal circumstances (location, upbringing, personal interests etc). But nonetheless we’re very pleased with what we’ve cooked up. We hope you like too.

Generation X (born: 1966-1976)

Generation Y (born: 1977-1994)

Generation Z (born: 1995-)