Crowd Shortcuts – a quick chat about something that’s caught our attention. This week, we're getting our teeth into cannibalism in culture and campaigns

What’s all this then? Last year was a cultural smorgasbord in cannibalism with films, TV shows and books having an appetite for flesh. British Vogue even crowned cannibalism: “The Defining Cultural Trope of 2022”. 

Hungry for more? Well, yes. Now cannibalism has been culturally accepted, the ad industry has begun to build it into campaigns. One particular success is using it to help sell fake meat products. 

Huh? Yes, so cannibalism is winning awards. 

Tell us all the gory details… Plant-based meat maker Oumph! won a silver prize at 2022 Cannes Lions Festival for its ad teasing a “human meat burger”. (No humans had actually been harmed). 

Meanwhile, Liquid Death ran a special Halloween promotion for their Vegan Cannibal Steakhouse delivery service featuring New Yorkerless Strip Steak, Guiltless Grilled Rack of Sam, and Manless Meatballs in Marinara.

As LOLA MullenLowe, the agency behind the Oumph! campaign explained, it was a way to convince meat-lovers that plant-based products could replicate the taste of any meat – even human.

We hear cannibalism is also helping save the planet? Very much so.

Bit of a stretch? No, the ‘Eat a Swede’ satire presented eating human meat as an option should we fail to act on the impact of the climate crisis on food supply. The Swedish Food Federation campaign won a Grand Prix at the Cannes Lion Festival.  Meanwhile, the “Ouroboros Steak” exhibit at London’s Design Museum imagined growing meat using our own cells and donated blood to also highlight the plight of the food industry…

Just to be clear then: Cannibalism no longer has us clutching our pearls? Yes, the cannibalism trope has been warmly embraced. 

TL;DR: Nihilsm rocks 2023. Or as put by Chelsea G Summers, the writer of A Certain Hunger about a female cannibalistic serial killer: “Cannibalism is the need to nourish yourself in a depriving, neglectful world.”

Cultural strategy executive Jasmine Lo reflects on her time spent during Crowd's Culture Club internship programme…

The start of a new year is always a good time to process experiences and jot down any learnings for the year ahead. Last summer, I joined Crowd’s Culture Club programme as a cultural strategy intern. The experience was a whirlwind in the best way possible. With time to reflect on it since becoming a permanent member of the team, I thought I’d write a bit of a note to self and share some things I’ve taken with me from the journey. 

1. Trust in the process of figuring it out

It is rarely a straight line to landing the right role and company. It certainly took me a while before I found Crowd. I don’t think I’ve ever completed an internship that felt as fulfilling as Culture Club. Being thrown straight in as a newbie is terrifying, but it’s the most effective way to learn, and Crowd has you shape-shifting and figuring it out from the get go.

2. There are so many ways in

It is always eye-opening to learn all the ways folks at Crowd made their way to the company. A non-linear career of funky job pivots or travelling across countries through the years is something we are united by. With such an array of experiences across industries and cultures, it’s no wonder Crowd does things a little differently. 

3. Confusion became my best pal, so, I will let it ground me

I have never been so pleased to have no idea what was going on than here at Crowd. Culture Club armed me with the openness to keep asking myself and others questions along the way. Every day was (and still is) totally different and it forces you to ask questions. Before joining Crowd, I had rarely seen research done with such creativity and empathy. The process itself is a source of endless inspiration.

4. Solidarity and support come in so many forms at Crowd

Who knows where little conversations here and there can lead to. One of the best pieces of advice I got when I first joined was: “it’s not about doing the most in order to prove yourself – that’s not what we’re about at Crowd – it’s about tuning in and being really present and talking to others”. As a newbie, that was invaluable to me. There is always someone at Crowd I feel able to reach out to and that’s really special and important to hold onto.

5. My cross-cultural chaos matters

This is cultural strategy after all. The more cultural nuance the better. I need to trust in the things I do know because they help me navigate a lot of what cultural strategy is. Our individual intuition to navigate conversations is everything. 

I’ve now joined the strategic insights team permanently, but I will always look back on my early months at Crowd with fondness. Culture Club is a prime example of what an internship should feel like – you should be able to walk away and into whatever role is next for you confident in the possibilities ahead. 

Curious about the Culture Club internship programme? Read all about it here.

Last in our debunking-the-metaverse series, we present five things you can actually get your head around…

1. The metaverse does not exist yet 

We hate to burst the bubble, but current metaverse activations grabbing the headlines are actually just online experiences that have been around for ages. The total convergence of physical and digital life just isn’t technologically possible yet. Read more in our first post here.

2. When people say metaverse they mean gaming + digitalisation and a bit of crypto

The term ‘metaverse’ has a lot to answer for. At the moment, it’s an attention-grabbing buzzword for the world’s impending web3 reality. However, when you actually unpick what people are talking about, it’s just gaming innovations and crypto experiments.   

3. Don’t fool yourself, a lot of current activations are just fads 

Digital burgers? Love Island’s virtual getaway? Need we say more. 

4. Real world shifts are a precursor for how the metaverse will develop 

The clues of the metaverse lie in genuine human needs. Currently, however, the discourse is dominated by over-commercialised fast culture that responds to the needs of a few. To predict the direction that the metaverse will take, we need to inspect slow culture – those slower moving societal shifts within areas like family and work. Read more in our post here

5. Listen to people, join cultural conversations, show genuine interest, grow along alongside them 

If the goal, as a brand or business, is to use the metaverse to interact with consumers, don’t just jump on the bandwagon (a stance explored more in our post here). To become truly relevant to audiences, it’s vital we listen to what they actually need and want from the endless possibilities of our metaverse future. 

This blog is based on our recent Crowd DNA Amsterdam webinar, which you can read here and watch in full here

Crowd Shortcuts: Teddy bears

Crowd Shortcuts – a quick chat about something that’s caught our attention at Crowd. This week, teddy bears for grown-ups

 

What’s all this then? On the top of a cupboard, carefully stored away – maybe gifted on to a child – but adults don’t usually display their teddy bears. Until lately, that is. We’ve seen it from music’s most stylish Drake showing that he “only love my bed and my momma (oh, and my teddy bear)…” and Harry Style’s collaboration with Gucci featuring pouting pink bears. Plus there’s the ubiquitous teddy coats on the high street, the spike in TikTok searches for cockapoo#teddy#bear, and Thom Browne showing his A/W 2022 collection in front of an audience of 500 stuffed bears. 

Surely it’s all harmless though? Yes, if it’s for the Lidl 2022 Christmas campaign. But it’s not without risk. As Balenciaga catastrophically found out, there’s a problem with adults co-opting toys: they had to pull their Christmas 2022 campaign featuring teddy bears trussed up in bondage attire being modelled by children.

Ah. Let’s stay with bondage for a moment? No.

But is the teddy bear craze about security? Yes, of course being wrapped in a full length fleece is cosy. As is cuddling up to a soft toy or softy tufty doggy. And sitting next to a childhood toy rather than Anna Wintour on the front row is probably preferable if you are of a nervous disposition. But to be serious for a moment, it’s no surprise that the teddy bear is one of the items the Red Cross pack in their disaster kit.

So why are adult toys so popular now? As an item that can take us back to our childhood, evoking those secure memories, the teddy bear is standalone in its power. Adults are seeking out this comforter as part of a wider trend shift to calmness and serenity – as we also see in 2023 colour of the year, Digital Lavender. A teddy bear is a transitional object needed at a time when the Emoji of 2022 is the face holding back tears and the Collins Dictionary named ‘Permacrisis’ as Word of the Year 2022.

OK, now I need my teddy… It’s fine, go for it. And remember that cockapoos are hypo-allergenic, so that’s another bonus.

TL;DR: There’s no shame in needing a cuddle whether as an adult or a child, and if that means reaching for a teddy bear, then at least now you can tell the haters that it’s a fashion statement. 

 

The Metaverse In Numbers

As part of our debunking-the-metaverse series, we look at the big, small and out of this world numbers in its evolution…

As with any developing platform, there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors going on in the metaverse – some of which we’ve tried to clear a way through in this debunking series. We can also look at the numbers – the good, the bad and the salutary – and what they tell us about how the metaverse is being met by businesses, brands, consumers and communities today. So here are the numbers that reveal the now, next, and not ever of the metaverse.

The metaverse is older than you think… 

30 years

The word ‘metaverse’ was coined in the novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson in 1992. The metaverse was an online refuge from the dystopian meatspace.

…but it could come about quickly 

25%

The percentage of people who will spend one hour a day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education, social, and/or entertainment by 2026 (Gartner, Inc).

How much? 

$13 trillion per year

The revenue that Citi and KPMG state the metaverse could generate by 2030. 

Metaverse platforms are bringing in the big bucks

$650,000 yacht

A luxury yacht with two helipads, several lounge areas, a jacuzzi and a DJ booth, sold as part of an exclusive luxury series developed for Sandbox (one of the largest gaming platforms). 

$4.3 million real estate 

On November 30 2021, metaverse investment company Republic Realm paid $4.3 million for land in The Sandbox metaverse to add to its 2,500 plots of digital land across 19 virtual worlds.

100 million log-ins

Nearly a hundred million people a day log onto Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite Creative platforms. 

Tech business is getting a slice of the meta-pie

1,100 regulatory filings

The US Securities And Exchange Commission reports that in the first six months of 2022, the word ‘metaverse’ appeared in regulatory filings more than 1,100 times. The previous year saw 260 mentions. 

$10 billion lost

In October 2021, Facebook changed its name to Meta and it now loses more than $10 billion each year on its metaverse initiatives.

$70 billion

In January, Microsoft announced the largest acquisition in Big Tech history, paying $70 billion for gaming giant Activision Blizzard, which would “provide building blocks for the metaverse.”

Culture has exploded into the metaverse

£10 million

The estimated value of paintings burned by artist Damien Hirst after 5,149 buyers chose instead to have an NFT of the artwork from his latest collection – aptly titled ‘The Commerce’. It is the most exciting project I have ever worked on by far,” says Hirst.

But there’s still a (very) long way to go…  

38

The very low number of “active users” in the community of Decentraland (DappRadar)

This blog is based on our recent Crowd DNA Amsterdam webinar, which you can read here and watch in full here

Next in our debunking-metaverse-myths series, we look at how to predict where it's going next… 

The metaverse is currently swamped by a lot of over-commercialised fast culture (see our previous post). To really understand the direction of the metaverse, we need to interrogate the real world – where real people with real problems live – by looking at slow culture. 

To recap: fast culture is made up of areas of society that change at pace, like food trends; slow culture is formed by areas that evolve over much slower periods of time, like family and work. The metaverse’s future doesn’t lie in gimmicky brand activations. It’s within slow culture that the real clues can be found. 

Crowd Signals 

At Crowd DNA, we work with nine cultural shifts that are at the foundation of societal and cultural change (see image below). We’ve devised these via our Crowd Signals hub, inspecting social data points to predict trends that ladder up to them. By using these shifts and translating them into a digital future, we can get a glimpse of the metaverse ahead.

Crowd Signals is structured around a bespoke taxonomy of nine fundamentals of modern life, each evidencing a cultural shift.
Crowd Signals is structured around a bespoke taxonomy of nine fundamentals of modern life, each evidencing a cultural shift.

Responsible Progress – Decentralised Fashion

There have been huge changes within the fashion industry over the past few years. Many of these have been as a result of its dark relationship with environmental waste, pollution and social injustice. Sustainable clothing is now available up and down the high street, and reusable or shared products are helping fight the war against fast fashion. 

But how is sustainable fashion playing out in the metaverse? Forward thinking businesses – such as digital fashion house, The Fabricant – are building decentralised platforms that give consumers control over their own designs and output. So, instead of producing physical samples, people can research and develop their own ideas in the metaverse – reducing environmental strain on garment creation in the process. This also puts more power into the hands of consumers, challenging fashion’s hierarchical structure in the process. 

The metaverse has enormous potential to research, design and test environmentally friendly methods of production. We’ll be able to try on clothing in virtual changing rooms, design our own digital samples and discover new community generated looks – all crucial in the attempt to slow down fashion and democratise the creative space once and for all. 

Wellbeing Recharge – Optimised And Ownable Health

Global uncertainty has forced people to tune into their mental, physical and social health more than ever before. New systems of care are emerging in response. The emphasis being on systems that integrate data and individual preferences, designed to empower us to take charge and become more conscious of our own health. 

Translated into the metaverse, digital healthcare has lots of possibilities. Virtual clinics are being set up to combat geographical barriers to healthcare. A specialist can be stationed anywhere in the world, but still be able to view a patient’s scans and tests done at local facilities. While this responds to healthcare’s accessibility, digital twins are paving the way for more holistic and user-centric treatment plans. Q Bio Gemini, for example, uses patient data to create simulations of anatomy. These twins can then be shared with medical professionals, giving them a live, always-on window into a patient’s health. People will also be able to see – and ‘own’ – their own health status, as well as receive more personalised treatment plans. It seems that healthcare in the metaverse could empower people to take charge of their own wellbeing and measure it in the most complete sense.

As we can see, the metaverse is unlikely to remain as a playground for virtual yacht parties and celebrity avatars. The more we inspect slow culture, the more we can see what it will be. That is, a world powered by real humans with real human needs ­– who are not driven by consuming NFTs or eating digital burgers (or at least, not all the time). 

This blog is based on our recent Crowd DNA Amsterdam webinar, which you can read here and watch in full here

Roughly 14 years and five months in the making, finally we've got round to writing our book. How We Work With Culture tells our story - the important stuff and the weird bits and pieces. But why bother? CEO and founder Andy Crysell explains...

First up, an admission. Probably should’ve written this a long time ago. Not now, almost 15 years into the Crowd DNA story.

So why now? Well, better late than never. Also because, as we grow, as we become more global, communicating what we stand for becomes ever more important to get right. We can’t just hope that this will all drift through the ether, like we perhaps could when Crowd DNA was a handful of people sitting around the same table. Now we’re not even sitting in the same timezone.

Prior to creating How We Work With Culture, what’s in here had never all been put down on paper in the one place. It had been talked about in instalments. Shared in various presentations, workshops and company get-togethers. It had existed in the heads of various people (much of it in mine). It often ended up hidden away in the mysterious depths of our Google Drive.

What do we hope to achieve with this? To give our team, particularly new arrivals, a stronger sense of what we’re about. The confidence to dive into the wonderful messiness of working with culture. And if there are people outside of the business who are also interested in what we’re about, that’s great, too.

We hope it will demonstrate that, despite all of the aforementioned messiness, Crowd DNA has craft to it – something we can call… a way. We want to be seen as a unique proposition, and to define and inspire a next generation of cultural strategists. We think How We Work With Culture has a big role to play here, too.

But then in some ways it’s just nice to have the opportunity to tell our story. All of the things we chat about. The stuff we try to make sense of, and somewhat obsess over. The big strategic things, but then also all of the weird bits and pieces that make up our narrative. All of it, in its own way, is important.

With thanks to the entire Crowd DNA team, whose creativity and energy never fails to amaze. Special applause for Chloe Swayne for all of the fabulous design work (and perseverance) that went into creating How We Work With Culture. And to our group managing director, Dr Matilda Andersson, for her contributions here, but more so, for her commitment to Crowd DNA itself.

Andy Crysell, founder and CEO

In the latest issue of Crowd Signals, we step into the world of Wellbeing Recharge and analyse online conversation around Psychedelic Health...

In times when our resilience is tested, we turn to ways to bolster our mental and physical health – we call this shift in focus Wellbeing Recharge. Our Crowd Signals series reports on the trends in Wellbeing Recharge, and focuses on the potent developments in Psychedelic Health. 

The hard stop of the global pandemic gave many of us an opportunity to pause and reconsider the balance in our lives, while notions of collective – including global health – are now being confronted. This connection with ourselves and those around us is now a multi-layered endeavour as we explore spiritualism, tech-enabled optimisation, new-wave ingestibles and alternative healing therapies. 

Our third edition of Crowd Signals is now live and available to download here. This is informed by our regular exploration of unstructured data using our trends platform Crowd Signals, designed to identify real-time cultural change and future opportunities with advanced NLP, AI and machine learning capabilities. 

Using our Crowd Signals Hub we have identified seven trends within this shift to Wellbeing Recharge. This edition of Crowd Signals looks into one of them: Psychedelic Health. The full report features: 

– innovation in health technology with start-ups in micro-dosing

– insight into how knowledge about psychedelics is shared online

– trend analysis of psychedelic use from underground to mainstream

– our emotions tracking tool illustrates the role played by trust in conversations around psychedelics.

So turn on, tune in, but don’t drop out – and read here to open your mind to all the potential. 

Contact us to find out more about the seven trends in the Wellbeing Recharge culture shift, or to talk more about our Crowd Signals platform.