Semiotics At Crowd: Feeld

We know today’s daters are tired of the ‘self-imposed pressure for conventional labels’ (Tinder, 2023) and many seek the freedom to define their own relationships. They are wanting an invitation to self exploration and freedom to seek out a bit more of what they fancy.

And this more intentional approach to romantic life is reshaping dating culture – and of course, dating apps. It can even be a direct antidote to the downsides of dating app culture (ie the 35 percent who experience unwanted sexual images, or the 80 percent exposed to emotional burnout, Pew 2020; Singles Report 2023). 

While it’s something that Tinder and Hinge have recognised by adding open relationships to profile options, dating app Feeld is leading the way (not least by referring to daters as ‘humans’). Below is our semiotic analysis of the Feeld brand to show what this reshaped dating culture looks and sounds like…

Heightened Intimacy 

Visuals of gentle skin-to-skin embrace suggests touch is used as a means of intimate discovery, and a level of trust and support. Warm colour palettes and references to physical softness (foliage and nature, hazy images) creates an approachable space. Meanwhile, imagery of people smiling and mutually embracing each other evokes a feeling of closeness and deep connection. By coding Feeld as facilitating intimate depth that goes beyond carnal lust, dating culture can explore the possibilities of more meaningful relationships.

Authentic Connections

Introducing a new wave of daters who are ‘experimental’, Feeld signals a dating culture that’s abandoning tradition. While other mainstream apps use the term ‘preferences’, that can often make dating feel like you’re headhunting a mate, Feeld instead uses the term ‘desires’ . This reestablishes the priority of pleasure and joy in dating. We’re also seeing unposed visuals of diverse couples passionately and full heartedly engaging with each other in private spaces, as well as documentation of personal stories, evoking a feeling of trust and honesty not only between connections, but among a like minded community. In all, Feeld is a safe place to explore an inclusive and authentic approach to dating.

Encouraged Exploration

The app positions itself as always in a “dialogue” with its users. It uses open language with a comforting tone of voice when addressing ‘taboo topics’, similar to a teacher-like quality of benevolent guidance, enlightening daters about the spectrum of intimacy. We also see visuals that evoke a feeling of being welcomed –  boards that encourage users to “come on in” resemble signage we’d see outside of spaces of hospitality, ensuring that there’s a place at the table for everyone to explore and to truly “Find Your People”.

Through very careful and thoughtful use of imagery and words, Feeld reveals a whole-hearted commitment to showing how using dating apps can be a safe, inclusive and most importantly, joyful, experience. In this light, it’s doing even more than reshaping dating culture, it’s showing how we can reshape how we connect as humans.

If you’d like to learn more about how we use semiotics to reach real cultural insights, get in touch at: hello@crowdDNA.com

Capturing The Love Of Travel

One of our most recent – and most impactful – projects was built for booking.com, who wanted help to get closer to the intense excitement their customers feel about holidays and trips. Simply put, folks don’t swipe right on travel brands, they’re swiping right on travel itself. And booking.com wanted to use that energy to fire up the brand even more. So we set out to discover how to authentically capture love for travel – and foster brand love in that journey.

At the Qual360 global conference 2024, Linda Koelemij, booking.com Manager Qualitative Research & Insights, and myself will talk about how we took the brand back to its origin of loving travel. Here are three of the key destination points we arrived at on this project… 

Not how they book, but why they book

We wanted to achieve an organisational and marcomms shift, and make employees and agency partners think differently and more diversely about holidays and trips. Rather than the purpose of travel being a function; to visit a city or to go to the beach – we looked at why people book. What role does a trip fulfil in their wider cultural/ or personal context? Through personal travel diaries, virtual visits, and IRL dream trip sessions, we learned that booking travel is about fundamental emotional jobs. Participants told us about  wanting to connect with their loved one – to experience joy, freedom, belonging, happiness, indulgence, and the list goes on and on. This is why they travel. This is the goal they want to achieve. This is their job to be done. And it’s definitely not functional.

Our journey to finding brand love for booking.com

It all starts with stories… 

We really enjoyed hearing stories like the German couple having loud s*x as they took a holiday without their young children. The amazing research stories revealed human truths… truths that were endearing, emotional and just very real and fun: Perfect food for creative partners to riff from and create more diverse and authentic campaigns. And these groups of truths led us to fundamental jobs to be done – learnings that were critical for marcomms, the marketing funnel and creative diversity but also for product teams to design new features around.

From a fling to brand love

Ultimately all the human truths revealed ten fundamental jobs to be done. And it was through knowing about these – the quick escape from everyday life, the great annual reset, the pivotal life-changing trip – that we could strategise from fling to brand love. It’s this perspective on customers and travel that is now helping booking.com get closer to their wealth of customers and why they do the things they do. Helping with journeys, channels, marcomms and general audience understanding. It’s a great destination to have arrived at. We love booking.com and can’t wait for our next research date…

If you’d like to learn more about how cultural insights can help a brand ignite more brand love, get in touch: hello@crowdDNA.com

City Nights: Jakarta

Julius Kensan works at the heart of his city as Editor-in-Chief of lifestyle publication MANUAL and Creative Officer of the Zou agency.

“There’s a sense of orderly chaos during nightfall in Jakarta, be it indoors or outdoors.

The roads are usually jam-packed with cars and motorcycles, people braving the traffic to get home even if it takes them hours.

And there’s no one way to enjoy Jakarta during nightime.

Speakeasies, cocktail bars, eateries, and fine-dining restaurants have blossomed throughout the city.”

 

Post-pandemic, there has been a revival in the nightlife scene. 

“Office workers juggling business talks and leisure in the private room of a restaurant; college kids convening over street food by the roadside; the sports community winding down through group workouts; and the affluents enjoying drinks from a hotel bar, gazing at the traffic jam below forming slow-moving streams of rubies and topazes.”

In recent years, there has been a focus on crafted cocktails and local craft beer. 

“Even luxury hotels and restaurants regularly hold bar takeovers by mixologists from overseas. The Cocktail Club (No. 19 on Asia’s Top 50 Bars 2023) is constantly packed with people looking to wind down and socialise over cocktails. Cobe (previously named Coffeeberian) is a beer house that specialises in crafted beer from local breweries. Jakartans tend to keep to their own cliques, but here, it feels effortless to strike up conversations with strangers.”

The nightlife scene is one of the best ways to understand Jakarta. 

“Before the pandemic, a night out typically involved partying and heavy drinking. Back then, people regarded cocktails as a waste of money because it’s not good to get drunk fast. These days, more creative players are interpreting and expanding nuances of cocktails and craft beer, such as incorporating spices and indigenous ingredients, signifying how we are taking more pride in our own roots and cultures.”

In general, Indonesians are social creatures. 

“People enjoy being out and about. But that doesn’t mean Jakarta is a city that never sleeps. It’s rare to find establishments that open 24 hours.”

It’s a huge ecosystem where the classy, cool and dodgy co-exist together...

“…and you’ll find different tribes in each of these places. Don’t be surprised to find ride-hailing drivers chilling in warung (roadside stalls) downing special concoctions of coffee (with ingredients meant to increase virility) next to a club or expensive bar. If you come with an open mind, Jakarta’s nightlife is a unique ecosystem bursting with choices, tribes and offbeat characters.”

If I can describe Jakarta in three words, it’s ‘Never the same’. 

“Nightlife in Jakarta is dynamic and ever changing. You’ll find different types of nightlife depending on the regions of Jakarta you’re in, that range from laidback, hedonistic to the uber cool. Plus, people are always open to trying out new things.”

To delve into more city life read City Limits, our series of pieces exploring the urban experience here.

Elevating Semiotics With AI

Commercial Semiotics, like other industries, is experiencing trends toward automation – with similar hopes and trepidations. So when I was asked to speak at the MRS Semiotics and Cultural Insights Conference 2024, I wanted to focus on how we determine the optimal balance between human and AI involvement – the good signs, as it were. 

The three following themes here were my introduction at the event to how semiotics and AI can begin to unlock new dimensions in research, creativity, and – most crucially – customer understanding:

Leveraging AI: Enhancing our rigour and breadth of our Storytelling and Analysis

While commercial semiotics is an established and rigorous methodology, AI supported semiotics can provide added robustness to our approach. By increasing the amount of source material we analyse, it gives us hundreds of visual and textual evidence across categories – to further validate, enhance and innovate aspects of our storytelling and analysis for even richer insights. 

Demystifying AI: Bridging the Knowledge Gap and Establishing a Common Understanding 

In the market research industry in general, as with semiotics, there needs to be education on what AI is exactly to demystify it, as we don’t have a common understanding of it. We at Crowd DNA and the wider Strat7 Group have developed an AI working group where we provide cross agency show and tells and internal webinars to sensitise team members to what generative AI is, its capabilities and limitations. 

A partnership. Our Human Expertise and Technological innovation 

Semiotics can be enhanced with AI, but human creativity and insights is still very critical – especially when advising clients on business decisions and providing strategic and credible recommendations and outputs. 

Undoubtedly, AI is beginning to reshape how we work as Semioticians. And at Crowd DNA, it is part of our offering and we aspire to use it to give better, more scope to our outputs (whether that means strategists have time freed up for more creative tasks, or clients use it to analyse vast amounts of data efficiently). We know there’s lots of areas of integration between semiotics and AI that are just beginning to be explored…

The MRS Semiotics and Cultural Insights Conference 2024 is on 1st February 2024. For more information go to https://www.mrs.org.uk/.

If you’d like to learn more about how we use semiotics to reach real cultural insights, or more about our AI solutions – powered by strat7.ai – please get in touch: hello@crowdDNA.com

What’s all this then? People, we don’t have to take a clean, pristine and pure approach to life — dirt, grime, mess, and mud are being accepted as a new (likely to be rusty) gold standard.

Phew! No more wipeable sofa cushions! So where are messy aesthetics being celebrated? They’ve moved on from just a social media-fueled shock tactic as people have grown desensitised to yuckiness. Now mess and dirt are making an impact by appearing in everyday, big ticket pleasures. 

Tell me more… There’s a lot of mud being thrown in high fashion — think Elena Velez models and mud wrestles on the runway, or Kylie Jenner’s recent Acne Studios campaign clothed in thousand dollar garments and splatters of mud. We’ve also seen the return of the moto and rain boot, and also niche creations like Crocs’ new Shrek-themed shoes (“get out of my swamp!”-core).

How else is messy realities making an impact? Meanwhile, on social media you’ve probably noticed the dirty/messy trend. Think: glass tubs filled with paint being rolled down stairs for ASMR videos, or wine bottles being thrown into walls. And if you can bear to watch it, there’s the ‘is it cake’ trend’s viral older sister — the zit popping cake and the bloody cake smash trend.

Ok, give me the dirt on dirt – what’s really going on here? It’s way more than just surface level spillage. It’s a manifestation of our collective desire to embrace imperfections and chaos in an overly curated world. It’s how Kylie appears with a dirty double of herself in the Acne Studios advert, signalling that this aesthetic is an acknowledgement that we all – yes, even the supremely manufactured Kardashians – have a good and messy side…

So no more clean fun? The world is literally boiling and the clean movement just didn’t seem to capture the overall dirtiness of how people have been feeling. We’re living with dirty realities all around us, and there’s a collective sigh of relief in being honest about it.

TL;DR: As the earth boils and the ground muddifies, everyone and everything is welcome in this swamp! 

Colour Me

At Crowd, we use semiotics as one of our tools, showing where signs and symbols – like words, visual icons, packaging, or logos – are a shortcut for brands to reveal their message or impact behaviour. 

Colour of course carries plenty of meaning, but that changes (and often very fast) alongside lived experiences. In this new series, we take a look at the semiotics of colour, and where culture is flipping its use on its head. 

First up, what lies beneath the sunny, happy-go-lucky exterior of Gen Z yellow? We use semiotics to chart the evolution of a colour ascribed to Gen Z – a yellow that suits the brash, outspoken kids on the block – and how it mirrors what has mattered to this group during the last five years…

In Gen Z yellow, we explore: 

_How a generation refusing to be ignored and feeling an urgency tinged with optimism (eg climate activism) took ownership of a yellow tone that was just as loud and unmuted as them.

_How this colour mellowed after the pandemic to a gentle, sunny yellow as Gen Z shifted to  groundedness and simplicity?

_ Now a shade of yellow is emerging that reflects how Gen Z are reacting to the so-called global ‘permacrisis’ – one that has tranquil hues to tap into their seeking solace in spirituality and escapism. 

_And finally: we show how to leverage Gen Z yellow to your advantage.

Read the full report here.

Semiotic analysis can help brands understand culture and keep ahead of cultural change, and we hope our Colour Me series will help you in  choosing more impactful colours.

If you’d like to learn more about how we use semiotics to reach real cultural insights, please get in touch: hello@crowdDNA.com

Download Crowd Signals: Sports Fandom & Activewear here

We’ve used our Crowd Signals Platform to track real-time signals within sports conversations around fandom and activewear, and this report is what we found to be uppermost in the minds and behaviour of people who are engaging in sports right now. 

The Crowd Signals Platform has advanced NLP, AI and machine learning capabilities (powered by strat7.ai) to search social posts, forums, search engines, review sites, client sales and behavioural sets – and ultimately uncover meaningful stories of culture.

Read previous Crowd Signals: Psychedelic Heath here and Crowd Signals: Wellbeing Recharge here.

For this latest report, we looked at the data within the culture shifts of Finding Your Fandom and Fluid Expression – two of the nine macro subjects we track in real-time on the Crowd Signals Platform – and how the trends in these cultures linked to fan identity and activewear.

The big issues that are writ large are conversations about activism and women in sport, and how well-being and performance can work together.

The full report features what the 2023 data can reveal about: 

_ Playful dressing of sports brands, and the pairing of wellbeing and activewear

_ Activewear trends on TikTok 

_Female fandom’s impact on inclusivity and body positivity 

_What e-sports players most care about

_Brands who are staying relevant as fandom conventions change rapidly

So on your marks, get set, and go read Crowd Signals: Sports Fandom & Activewear.

Download Crowd Signals: Sports Fandom & Activewear here

Get in touch to find out more about how our Crowd Signals platform can help client challenges. Our AI powered and bespoke offering can be tailored to uncover culture shifts, trends and future opportunities from unstructured data.

City Limits: Top 10

A look back at our favourite picks from Crowd DNA’s City Limits series – now celebrating its 10th issue – and the cultural insights that are still playing out in urban life…

It’s a truism that cities move at a uniquely fast pace. For our ongoing City Limits reports about what’s happening in urban scenes around the world, our writers, videographers and researchers report on those fast-moving moments in (almost) real time.

The Crowd DNA team has produced these reports since 2018, bringing data to life with cultural stories, infographics, trends features, video and case studies. We’ve done issues focused on themes like mobility, the night economy, and small cities, and our tenth report has just been released on the LA sports scene ahead of two major sporting events in the city.

City Limits LA Sports download it here.

The video launch of the City Limits series in 2018

It’s a great time to look back on the City Limits series, to jump off from the stories and think about where the trends, passion points and emerging cultures are moving next. After all, some have become even bigger than we might have expected. Here’s our top ten articles from over the years…

 

1.Our first issue in November 2018 put the spotlight on how brands can combat urban loneliness. Research was showing that people experienced it more living in cities – and still do. We looked at how we are Living Alone, Together and where the urban empty spaces are being used as a backdrop to tell stories about the contemporary human experience in entertainment and branding.

 

2.We took a ride into the future of urban mobility for our second issue (Dec, 2018). Nearly five years later, and cities have really embraced multimodality. We have so many ways of getting from A to B today – with e-scooters, e-bikes, e-mopeds, and car-sharing. The issue also included an exploration of migration and urban movement, and how culture and brands are telling this story, from mapping diversity to social healing.

 

3.Our City Limits reports are also an opportunity to look backwards, as we did in an article in our third issue on Youth (March, 2019). Subcultures & The City chronicled where and how youth culture has claimed space over five decades, in swimming pools or whole districts. We also talk to young people in London and New York about their everyday – and how it might look in their tomorrows…

 

4.There are subjects that we feel compelled to return to, too. Our fourth City Limits about Solutions for a better future explored the divisive issues that impact on city culture – and still do. We analysed five cities around the world and what they are doing to reduce the damage done by the negative effects of gentrification: sustainable, affordable and community-led initiatives.

 

5.And of course we talk to people. Lots of people. In 2019, we interviewed Millennial Volunteers to find out what the new generation of volunteers care about, and what motivates them to give up their time: like Courtnee – who gives her time to the Hackney Night Shelter and speaks to a resurgence in volunteering in the UK – and who lives by the motto, ‘be the change you want to see’.

 



 

6.Our cities have seen a lot of change since we began the series – no more so than the last three following the pandemic. Yet research for our sixth issue on Retail Therapy in 2021 led us to heartening stories. One of this was how local has become so important, so we spoke to retailers in cities across APAC to hear what lessons ‘big’ brands can learn from the ‘little’ guys.

 

7.The City Limits series is made with input from all our specialisms. In the fifth issue about the City At Night, our semiotics team looked at how a city cloaked in darkness provides a whole new world of signs and symbols for brands to play with, and the team decoded the semiotics of the night – mythical adventures, heightened senses and the cloak of darkness – used in campaigns.

 

8.We know that music is the cultural life blood of cities – but there is nuance to that. Back in 2021, the seventh issue explored how second tier cities create music scenes in Durban, Hobart and China’s ancient city of Xi’an – highlighting the challenger spirit of smaller cities, and how it’s where a new sound can size contributes to the way it can embed itself quickly.

 

9.In the eighth issue on Destination Cities (May 2021), we felt ready to take some stock on city experiences during the pandemic. One of our stories was about a brief window in the summer of 2021, when city dwellers found themselves ambling through the empty rooms of world-class galleries that normally pack in thousands of tourists a day. We asked: what are the lasting effects of this eerie interlude?

 

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Cities are continually recreated by the people who live in them, and our ninth issue on Super Food told this through looking at how urban diasporas use the culture of food to create their home from home. And what drinks reveal about the spirit of cities around the world – from Cologne to La Crosse.

 

Thanks for reading, we’ve certainly enjoyed making these reports. And are excited to see where we’ll end up next…

Our outputs and stories are made to inspire and invite. It’s just one of the ways we create culturally charged commercial advantage. Contact hello@crowdDNA.com to learn more.